Column: It's My Health!
The Art of Eating
by Gerald Lopez, LLB; Dip.Ayurvedic Medicine
There is a wealth of information on what we should eat to stay healthy Today, I shall talk about a subject that goes unmentioned in the health circles: How we eat, and how our eating habits affect our health.
Have you ever wondered why some people may eat all the "right" food but still get sick? Whilst some eat "wrong" food but remain healthy?
Eat food that is warm and unctuous
Warm, unctuous food is appetising and delicious, and thus stimulates digestion. Hippocrates (Charaka's Greek contemporary) said, "It is better to have worse food that is palatable; than better food which is unpalatable." Research recently found that eating unctuous foods (i.e. foods containing fats) helped obese people lose weight. It satisfied them sooner than when they ate fat-free foods – and so they ate less.
Eat food in proper quantities
Charaka said that food taken in the right quantity "promotes the life-span, easily passes down to anus, does not disturb the digestive fire, and gets digested without discomfort." Modern research has found that over-eating significantly reduces life-span. How do you know what is the right quantity? By eating with more awareness (your body will tell you). A good rule of thumb is to eat until half full Charaka said to leave 1/4 for fluids to moisten the food, and 1/4 empty for the digestive "fire" to work!
Eat only when previous food has been digested
Piling new food onto partly-digested food messes things up Would you add fresh pasta to a pot of already half-cooked pasta? The best signal of completed digestion is your hunger – usually 3 to 6 hours after the last meal. Learn to differentiate real hunger from emotional need for food.
Eat in a favourable place
A pleasant environment is relaxing, and medical texbooks tell us this activates our digestive function. Avoid eating in noisy, messy places; in cars; in front of the television. Instead, create a beautiful table setting and celebrate your meal!
Eat at a moderate pace
Eating too fast doesn't allow proper chewing and digestion, and disrupts our awareness, concentration and full enjoyment of the food. We also tend to overeat, as the body's signals of sufficient food take time to register. On the other hand, slow, long-drawn meals encourage us to overeat as well – think Christmas lunch!
Avoid excessive talking and distractions while eating
Modern medical textbooks talk about the "Cephalic Phase" of eating, i.e. how the sight, smell and taste of food stimulates the brain, which then stimulates digestion. This phase, plus proper chewing, prepare the food so it can be easily digested in the stomach. So give the food all your attention for ultimate digestion.
Relax into your meal before, during, and after
Digestion is a major process, which uses up a lot of energy. When you are involved in work, study and travel, your body is in active ("Fight or Flight") mode and shuts down digestion. When you allow your mind and body to enter relaxation mode, the digestive function is re-activated. Calm your mind, take some slow deep breaths, bless the food Choose your method to enter relaxation mode, and try to maintain it for at least half-an-hour after the meal.
Digestion is no longer given its due importance today. We eat to fill a hole, and to keep going through the day. We eat on the run. We feel guilty about what we eat. Preparing and eating food is an inconvenience which needs to be got out of the way as easily, cheaply and speedily as possible. We imagine that some scientifically-calculated "balanced" formula of dietary chemicals can keep us healthy.
I hope this article reminds you that the nourishment comes not only from WHAT we eat, but also from HOW we eat; from actively and mindfully receiving the gift of food. By shifting our attitude to our food and to the process of eating, our body will respond differently, more positively Eating then becomes a relationship with the world, a meditative ritual, an opportunity for intuitively knowing what our body really needs to stay healthy.
I shall return later with unique angles on the fascinating topic of food But in the next issue, I will talk about daily health routines, again derived from the ancient textbooks of Ayurveda.
About It's My Life! content: All content on It's My Life! belongs exclusively to eMasters and may not be reproduced or reprinted in any manner without permission from eMasters. If you wish to use any of our content, please contact us.
Free Lifestyle Ezine
Want to Contribute