Nourishment comes from What we eat and How we eat… from actively & mindfully receiving the Gift of Food.

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?

Part of the solution may be due to HOW they eat.

Our eating habits have changed drastically over the last 50 years:

Where we used to sit at the family table and say Grace, we now eat on the run or in front of the television. Where we used to feel grateful for a successful hunt or harvest, we now take pre-packed, processed foods for granted. Where we used to eat heartily, we now feel guilty about our many little indiscretions.

The Indian ayurvedic author Charaka offered a number of eating rules around 2,500 years ago — See for yourself if they still make sense today…

  • 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.

Next time: 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.

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GERALD LOPEZ gained a law degree in London, and has been a photographer, writer, natural health practitioner, yoga & aikido instructor, and digital media consultant.  His passions are photographing the beauty of New Zealand, and explaining how the Blockchain, Decentralised Finance and Web 3.0 could offer wealth and freedom for every human.


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