Eating food is a sacred act. When you eat you are connecting with the universe and with the earth. What if we stopped obsessing over what we are eating and started focusing on how we are eating? You have probably figured out by now that there is no one size fits all diet, and that, due to various factors, no diet continues to work forever. For generally healthy people with no food restrictions, eat whole, organic, and local as much as possible, avoid processed foods, excessive sugars, and fats. If you are on a particular eating plan that works for you, apply the same principles. Pay attention to how food feels in your body as you eat and observe how you feel after eating as your body goes through the digestion process…. and follow the 15 food guidelines!
These guidelines are adaptable for anyone to use.
1: It is important to eat in a relaxed environment
As I was preparing a meal today I began to reflect on how different this looks for me now. I used to be only concerned with what I was eating. Where I was eating was always wherever I could squeeze a meal into my busy schedule. Sometimes in the car, sometimes in a busy lunchroom at work, sometimes in front of my computer or TV. Sitting down for a nice relaxing meal seemed like a luxury I could only do on occasion. When I started to have many digestive issues this was the last thing I thought about, however, it is one of the most important things to consider when eating. If you know anything about the living wisdom of Ayurveda, you probably know food is a huge topic! The reason for that has everything to do with digestion. You can eat the most beautiful healthy meal, but if you can’t digest it, it turns to toxins in your body. Over and over again working with people I have heard them say that they have a great diet and can’t understand why they don’t digest their food properly, sometimes they never sit down to a meal, preferring to graze and snack all day, never taking the time for a proper meal.
There is a lot to unpack about this, but today we will focus on eating in a relaxed environment: Why? Because the environment affects digestion in so many ways! For the best digestion, eat-in calm, peaceful, visually pleasing environment. Outside listening to the sounds of nature is great when weather permits. Use your nice dishes and accessories, cloth napkins, fresh flowers. Treat yourself as you would a guest. Why is this important for your soul purpose? Because, when you eat on the go it is stressful to your nervous system and your digestive system, causing your food to digest in an irregular way. You may feel a heaviness or nausea, you may feel indigestion and burning or you may feel bloated and gassy. You may also feel stressed because not feeling well is stressful. This can result in you being less efficient in whatever it is you are trying to do. If you are trying to live your soul purpose this is going to slow you down a lot! Think about it, how much time do you spend not feeling well after eating?
When you eat in a calm environment you allow your body to relax and really feel nourished. This is a self-care ritual that you can do 2-3 times a day. If you think you don’t have time for it, think about how much time you spend with an uncomfortable gut after you eat. It is well worth the effort to plan a meal in a calm environment and to relax while eating. If you are eating with others keep the conversation light and pleasant. Obviously, there will be times it is not possible to eat this way. I invite you to just try it a few times this week and Notice how your body feels different. Take a moment to enjoy the taste of the food, close your eyes and notice how your body accepts the love and nourishment you are giving. You deserve to feel this way every day! And, the happy side effects you will enjoy are totally worth the effort!
2: Eat food prepared with love
When you prepare food with love, love is transferred to the food. Food that is prepared with love is going to digest and absorb with ease. If you are lucky enough to have a loved one cook for you, you have definitely felt this! They make your favorite things taste so yummy and your belly so happy! It makes sense that the opposite is true when a food prep environment is toxic, the toxins are transferred to the food. You could be using the finest healthiest ingredients and still cause a toxic effect if you are upset while prepping. It kinda makes you look at eating out a little differently! It is helpful to pray or meditate before cooking to get your mindset. Listening to uplifting, peaceful music or sounds helps keep you in the flow. This is basically foreplay for your digestive system. To make food prep a sensual ritual create a kitchen alter, this will bring a sense of reverence, you could include herbal plants that you feel connected to and want to add to your diet, along with a few other tokens from nature, beautiful plates or utensils that you love will create a sacred space of connection when you enter your kitchen… let the alchemy begin!
3: Have A Moment Of Grace Before Meals
This may be a prayer or a short affirmation or a moment of silence where you internally express gratitude for your food. Whatever resonates with you and best represents your beliefs. When this is done with awareness, you will enter the sacred space to receive your meal, to absorb and digest with greater ease.
4: Minimize Distractions
If you are eating alone try turning off the computer or other devices. Focusing on eating allows for better absorption and digestion. Play soft instrumental music or enjoy the silence and just be with your food in the environment you have created. If you are eating with others keep the conversation light and pleasant. Either way, try to savor each bite!
5: Mindset is Everything
Having a peaceful mind when eating is crucial to digestion. If you have ever seen a baby eat or breastfeed it will not be hard for you to conjure a visual image of what this looks like. They are in bliss while eating and the whole world disappears for them, they are 100 percent focused on that food and you know when they are satisfied because they stop eating and move on to the next thing, like smearing the leftovers into their hair! Never eat while you are angry or upset. This will cause the food to be indigestible creating toxins in the body. If you find yourself upset at mealtime, meditate to get yourself into a better mindset and/or delay the meal.
6: Chew each bite thoroughly
The slower you chew the less you eat, and the easier the digestion and absorption of nutrients. This is a pretty painless way to maintain weight or support weight loss. Swallowing chunks of food causes them to enter the stomach irregularly and compromise digestion. One of the main reasons for this is eating in a hurry, so chew until your food is the consistency of a smoothie. Remember, digestion begins in the mouth and that is the place to break it down. Stomachs don’t have teeth! And it’s hard to enjoy a meal in a hurry!
7: Eat Warm Food
Warm food digests easier than cold food so if you have any kind of digestion issues you may want to consider this. Cold food turns down the heat of our digestive fire and can slow digestion down to the point of turning food into toxins. Ayurveda is not against raw food, at least not the way I learned it. Ayurveda is not anti any food! Ayurveda is for digestion because you are not what you eat, what you really are depends on what your body can digest
8: Make it Unctuous Baby!
Foods that are wet and contain an appropriate amount of healthy fat, such as Ghee, Coconut oil or Olive oil, digest very efficiently and support the downward movement of Vata known as Apana. This adds suppleness to the tissues and radiance to the skin bringing out natural beauty. It also improves satiety allowing for feelings of ultimate nourishment, satisfaction, and happiness. Dry food is very hard to digest and eliminate.
9: Combine Foods Properly
Avoid taking foods together that have opposing qualities, for example, eating hot and cold food together may result in difficult digestion and uneven absorption of nutrients. Food combining can get complicated, however, it is important to remember to keep it simple and listen to your body.
If you’ve ever tried to lose weight you’ve probably heard that drinking a big glass of water before a meal helps fill you up so you eat less, This is also something parents are usually mindful of, letting kiddos fill up on fruit juice or water before eating gives them that false sense of being full and they just won’t eat, but to be sure they will be hungry right after you clean up the kitchen!!! Drinking too much before or with a meal can put out your digestive fire and it is true, you just won’t feel as hungry… that might sound like a good idea, but it’s just a hack, and not in a good way! We want to keep our digestive fire strong so that everything we eat is burned efficiently for fuel in our bodies. Our bodies know what to do with food! We are perfectly designed to digest! When we feel hungry that means our fire is high and ripe to digest a meal, then we dump a big glass of water on it and then we eat! Now the body struggles to digest and the food sits there creating discomfort and toxins! If you are eating a meal that is on the dry side, try ½ cup of water with the meal. With soups, no additional water is needed. If you must hydrate with a big glass of water before a meal, wait 30 minutes to eat or until you feel your internal fire stoking again. Wait 30 minutes after a meal to have more water, so your body has the chance to get going on digestion.
11: Avoid Cold Drinks
Cold drinks put out the digestive fire! Soooo, the liquids you are taking with your meal (refer to guideline 10) need to be room temperature or warmer. In general, it is best to make this a rule with all drinks all the time. You might start by not adding ice to your drinks and slowly build up to room temp. This is the perfect time of year to begin exploring the possibility that maybe ice cold isn’t best all the time! Ask for a cup of hot water instead of ice water next time you eat out. Sipping hot water is an excellent way to help your body detox. And… there are many lovely teas to explore! Yes, I still enjoy an ice-cold drink in the summer on a very hot day, that’s pretty much the only time it makes sense and yes, it has made a huge difference.
12: Feel Good About Your Food!
Whatever you are choosing to eat enjoy it to the fullest! Even when you are off your plan whatever that might be, make sure to have fun! It’s no good to judge yourself for eating a slice of delicious cake! When we eat with confidence we send a message to our digestive system that this is ok to digest. When we eat with fear of gaining weight or some other fear we send a message that this is not good for us and the body responds by not digesting the food properly and turning it to toxins! Yikes! So please, eat with confidence!!!
13: Stop Eating When You Are 75% Full
Being mindful of how much we eat is a game-changer. Overeating suppresses the digestive fire, causing stagnation, which causes toxins to build up. This is tricky for many people because we often don’t feel full when our bodies are satisfied. A good way to tell is to pay attention to your first burp. This is usually a very small subtle burp that you don’t even notice, but if you’re listening for it, you will, it may take a while to adapt especially if you are used to a more full feeling. Just remember, this subtle burp is your body telling you it is satisfied and you can stop eating. Burps get a little more intense after that. One of my Ayurveda teachers, Mary Thompson, said: “A yogi stops at the first burp, a Bogi stops at the second and a Rogi waits until the third”! By the third, you know you have overeaten! To begin to listen for that first subtle burp, notice how your body feels, notice the difference between satisfaction and overly full.
14: Rest After Eating
Eating is a big production for your body! A lot of things get put into action during digestion, so it is wise to take a little rest afterward. Going right back to your busy day will hinder digestion. This rest is not necessarily taking a nap, rather a more active rest, such as a slow-paced walk in calm surroundings, or reading a peaceful book. Avoid too much mental or physical activity for at least 20 minutes and ideally up to an hour if possible. This will allow your body to go through the first stage of digestion.
15: Wait At Least Three Hours Between Meals
This is the minimal amount of time needed to fully digest a meal. More if you have eaten something heavy or have sluggish digestion. Begin to notice this in your body. How long until your appetite returns? Often we are doing so much snacking and mindless eating that we never allow a full digestive process to complete. This can be hard on the body as every time we snack the process begins again without having finished digesting the previous meal, and most likely will cause digestive issues.
I hope this review of the15 Ayurvedic Food Guidelines has been helpful. I truly believe that this, followed along with a diet of fresh seasonal whole foods is the magical eating formula we have all been seeking! Very often bringing awareness to the way we are doing something is all that is needed to bring the desired result. If you are following this plan and still having digestive issues, or want to learn more about how to implement this plan into your life, contact me for an Ayurvedic consultation.