A teacher and practitioner of Ayurveda, Dr. Marc Halpern once told me and a class full of students, “I would rather see a patient eat a Big Mac properly than a bowl of kitchari (Ayurveda’s king of healthy food) improperly”. Hang on, don’t rush out to your local McD’s just yet. Fresh, healthy, well prepared food like kitchari is the foundation of good health. Rather, his point was the importance of mindful eating. What we eat is incredibly important, but equally important is how we eat it. Whether you are eating a bowl of kitchari or indulging in a burger, here are five ways to eat with Ayurvedic ease.
1) Environment. Where you eat matters. Move away from your desk, hop out of the car and find a place beautiful to gnosh. Go somewhere you actually want to be. Make a date with your greenest park or coziest cafe. If you’re at home set the table, light a candle, get fancy with yourself. A soothing environment will encourage you to eat slowly, mindfully and truly savor your meal.
2) Company. Gather your gals and pals, and enjoy a meal together. Leave people that drain your energy out of your sandwich session. Being around a Debbie Downer can make eating feel rushed or like a chore. Instead, use your precious energy and attention to taste, digest and enjoy your food. If you are eating solo, be ok with it! More often than not I see solo diners constantly distract themselves with email and social media. Unplug, and spend quality time with that beautiful burrito.
3) Grace. Religious or not take a moment to be grateful for your tasty treats. I use a 3 breath rule. Before chowing down I take three deep breaths.
One deep breath to visually take in the food.
A second breath to consider where my food came from or who prepared it.
And a third breath to remember that I am pretty darn lucky to have healthy food in front of me.
Deep breathing will also signal your nervous system to relax. This transitions the body from fight or flight to rest and digest.
4) Chew. Take the time to grind. Thoroughly chewing your food has a host of benefits such as improved satiety, better nutrient absorption and digestion, and may decrease acid reflux symptoms and heartburn. Check out JustChewIt for more facts on the magic powers of chewing.
5) Rest. Spend the last 10 minutes of lunch chilling with friends, going for a leisurely walk or reading. “Failure to rest means that the body’s physiology will switch away from digestion and toward the activity of the muscles of the body.”- Dr. Halpern. Our central nervous system has two modes; fight or flight (sympathetic nervous system) and rest and digest (parasympathetic nervous system). In general we spend far too much time in the fight/flight mode, which leaves little time for digestion. It takes patience, but before jetting back to work or doing dishes… rest.
Mindful eating is not always easy, but full of rewards. Try not to let the time and effort of mindfulness overshadow its goal. Eating the Ayurvedic way is designed to allow body and mind feel healthy, happy and satisfied. Now dig in!
Karly Railsback is a certified massage therapist, registered yoga teacher and student of Ayurveda who lives, works and plays in San Francisco. She offers massage therapy and teaches yoga and meditation in public, private and corporate settings. Book sessions or learn more here.