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diet

A Zen Approach to Healthy & Mindful Eating

Knowing when and what to eat can be confusing, so here is my zen approach to healthy and mindful eating in an attempt to simplify the art of keeping the digestive fire burning bright and feel energized all day long. 

 

Don't eat too little. Don't eat too much. 

Don't eat too early. Don't eat too late.

Don't eat in a hurry. Don't eat when filled with worry. 

Don't follow diets that are trendy. Don't eat foods that may be deadly. 

Don't eat around the clock. Don't eat just to fit in with the flock. 

Love the food you eat, yourself, and one another, too. 

Your body is a temple, take great care of it, and tune into YOU. 

 

Now I will break each line down: 

Don't eat too little. Don't eat too much. 

An adult stomach is about 10-12 inches long and about 6 inches wide. When we eat the stomach fills and the nerves send messages to the brain that it is getting full. The hunger hormone, ghrelin, decreases and you begin to feel satiated.

Overeating distends the stomach, causes discomfort, leads to weight gain, and can disrupt natural breathing patterns since a distended stomach can press upon the diaphragm. Not eating enough or not eating a balanced diet causes brain fog, fatigue, and can decrease immune function. Consistently eating a very low calorie diet can impede metabolism and lead to a decrease in calorie burning lean muscle mass. 

Tip: Find out how many calories you should be eating per day here. 

Don't eat too early. Don't eat too late.

Avoid heavy meals late at night or very early in the morning.  According to Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine, digestive power is strongest when the sun's energy is the strongest. Therefore, your biggest meal should be at lunch time between 11-2PM. 

Tip: Have a set eating schedule. The body loves routines as runs on circadian rhythms. Eating at approximately the same times each day helps to speed up metabolism and helps you avoid cravings.  

Don't eat in a hurry. Don't eat when filled with worry. 

We don't just digest food, we also must digest emotions and thoughts. If you are stressed out or feeling worrisome it is best to take some soothing tea or something very light and easy to digest such as fruit or boiled rice and try to relax before eating a meal. When in fight or flight mode your body shifts blood flow to the muscles and away from the digestive system so you would not digest the food properly.

Tip: Digest the emotions first. Take at least 10 minutes to sit, breathe, and come back to neutral. 

Don't eat food or follow diets that are trendy. Don't eat foods that may be deadly. 

Many fad diets out there are highly restrictive full of rules like- only raw food, nothing cooked over 120 degrees or only animal proteins and lots of fat. Any diet that goes towards the extremes and away from balance is pulling your body and mind out of harmony. Diets may work in the short-term, but they can do more harm than good in the long run. Some diets recommend bars and supplements loaded with ingredients you can't pronounce. Always do your research and check in with your physician and your internal guidance system before ingesting something that may be toxic for your system and individual constitution. 

Another thing to keep in mind is that certain food combinations can be toxic for the body. There's many digestive aids on the market today for good reason- poor food combining and low digestive fire! 

Food is a science. The body is not a garbage disposal it's a chemistry lab.

Foods have their own unique qualities in terms of taste, strength aka ability to heat or cool the body, and post-digestive effect as well as a unique effect on one's individual constitution. Not all foods, even healthy food is right for everyone all the time. 

According to Ayurveda, a 5,000 year old health system, some foods that do not play well in the stomach together are eggs with fruit, meat, or cheese. Melons mixed with ANY other food, beans with cheese and yogurt/cream (skip the chili with shredded cheese and sour cream on top!) Fruit should ideally be eaten solo. Avoid drinking cold drinks or drinking too much fluid with meals. 

Herbs and spices are like mediators that help make foods more compatible and brings out the nourishing qualities. An example is cooling cilantro with a spicy dish or cooking anti-inflammatory turmeric with black pepper and oil or ghee to bring out the healing benefits. 

Tip: Always seek balance in your diet and pay attention to the properties of foods and food combinations you eat as well as the post-digestive effect. If you feel fatigued, get a runny nose, begin sneezing, have gas or bloating, mucus and phlegm in the throat, it's an indication that the science experiment going on in your stomach may not be a successful one. 

Don't eat around the clock. Don't eat just to fit in with the flock. 

It takes approximately 2 hours for food to leave the stomach and 4-6 hours for food to be fully digested. Give your digestive system a break by spreading out your meals throughout the day. If you are at a social gathering and YOU KNOW a food or food combination does not agree with you or if you're simply not hungry it's okay to refuse food. 

Tip: Eat small meals every 3-4 hours to keep blood sugar levels steady and fully digest the previous meal. If you prefer three larger meals per day or intermittent fasting aim to stick to an eating schedule that works for you and allow 4-6 hours between meals for adequate digestion. 

Love the food you eat, yourself, and one another, too. Your body is a temple, follow the basics, and listen to YOU. 

Everything is energy. The food you eat is energy and the energy you put into every step of the process from shopping or growing your food, preparing a meal, eating, the company you eat with, and digesting the meal plays a role in how you feel. Your body is always giving you feedback. Tune in and listen to the signs. To reiterate a tip from above...if you get a runny nose immediately after a meal, feel bloated, extremely tired, or begin sneezing it's your body saying that something is off and your digestive fire isn't burning brightly. Be aware of sensations and signs of compatability and disharmony. 

Tip: Write your meals down and track how you feel in the Daily Tracker to observe patterns and reactions. 

BOTTOM LINE: MODERATION IS THE KEY TO HEALTH & LONGEVITY

Before You Start a New Diet Read This

Over the years I have probably gotten more questions about diet and what to eat than any other wellness topic. 

Well, here's my favorite answer...."it's complicated." 

Without knowing one's history including current and past health issues, lifestyle, allergies, how they handle stress and how that impacts their digestion, their core values and beliefs about food (includes how their family regarded food), cultural upbringing and religious observances surrounding food, emotional eating habits, etc it is impossible and would be highly irresponsible to just toss out advice. 

What works for someone may not be right for another. I say this all the time, not just because I like you, but because it's the truth. You are unique. There is no one on this earth that is made just like you. This is science.

You are a collection of cells. Your cells are made up of atoms. Atoms are 99.999% empty space. You take in information based on internal factors like thoughts and emotions which send an influx of neurotransmitters and hormones throughout your body and external factors such as environment and interactions.  Your cells have been replicating based on this information since you came into existence. The food you have eaten throughout your life span, the food you eat most habitually, and your eating habits play a massive role in regards to your health. 

From this point I can go into a variety of views on what constitutes a healthy diet. Considering you are still reading/listening to this blog post I will not take up your time with that, if you're interested in diving deep into any of the bazillion diets and views on what healthy eating is there's a surplus of information to be found through our friend Google. 

Before you start deep diving here's what to be aware of on the expedition: 

1. If anyone is saying "this is the best/only way" they are bullshitting you.

It may be the best way for them, but it's not the best for everyone and it's definitely not the only way.

It may be good for some of the people some of the time, but it's not good for all the people all the time. 

2. Don't let your healthy diet be derived from someone else's medical history. 

Many of the fad diets and some of books out there are a result of

A) a person who was once ill, overweight, or unhappy making lifestyle and dietary changes and having great results.

B) Medical treatment for a disorder now used as weight loss strategy. (Example: The ketogenic diet is a longstanding medical treatment for epilepsy

You can learn a lot from their story and path and incorporate some of the lifestyle and dietary tweaks and take it for a test run, but do not turn off your intuitive reasoning and neglect clear signs from your body such as constipation, breakouts, or fatigue and think the diet is going to miraculously start working for you just as it did for them. Pay attention to your own medical history and what your body is telling you first and foremost. 

3. Nourish Your Body. Don't Punish It. 

The body does not care for negative self-opinions and if you try to starve it to make it fit your mind's ideal it will backfire and you will be going to war. The key is balance and always always always treat your body with love and respect. 

BOTTOM LINE:

When it comes to the right diet and workout...It may be good for some of the people some of the time, but it's not good for all the people all the time.