The Mindful Art of Eating
Meals present each of us with 2-3 times a day we can be present and mindful. Slow down and drop in to your body. What are you hungry for? Is your belly empty and you are in need of nourishment to get through the next few hours or start your day? Are you just craving a sweet or salty snacks? Or do you feel stressed out, lonely, unwanted or unappreciated and are emotionally eating? Is the hunger in your belly, mouth or heart? Regardless of what or where, be aware. Ideally eat when you are hungry. Eat what your body is requesting, even if its sweets or a carb bomb, and watch how you feel during and after. Are you satiated, or still feel the emptiness?
Slow down and check in with your body. Sit comfortably, close your eyes, and take some deep breathes. Notice any tension, emotions, or thoughts? Now check again about the what or where of that hunger. Prepare a quiet space to eat. Turn off the ringer on your phone and your computer screen. Move away from your work space to a dedicated dinner table or break room. If this isn’t possible, then clear off your desk or table of clutter. Put down books or e-readers, newspapers or magazines, especially work papers and files. Avoid eating when feeling stressed. If you suffer from indigestion or bloating, constipation, diarrhea or loose stools, or have an IBD or IBS, this can help alleviate these problems. “Although psychological problems like anxiety don’t cause the digestive disorder, people with IBS may be more sensitive to emotional troubles…IBS may be triggered by the immune system, which is affected by stress.”*
Chew slowly and thoroughly. Take a bite, put down your fork, spoon, or chopsticks, or set the sandwich down, and really chew your food, at least 25-30 times for each mouthful. Chewing is the first step to good digestion, essential for the saliva to start breaking down starches; notice how grains or bread become sweeter with chewing as the saliva mixes with each bite. Chewing allows cold food to warm up, and raw food to be broken down to small pieces, opening up the cell walls of plant fibers to allow nutrients out. As you chew you will “drink your food” as it mixes with saliva. And chew your liquids (like smoothies and soups) to encourage saliva to mix.
How does your body feel with each bite? Is your belly welcoming what your are swallowing, or is it tightening up, or feeling queasy (signs of stress, or improper or inappropriate food choices)? Notice when you are starting to fill up, and maybe stop before you are full, setting aside leftovers for a later meal or an afternoon snack. Overeating taxes the body’s ability to digest properly, and leaves one tired and bloated, leads to poor digestion, and contributes to unwanted weight gain.
If during the work week is difficult, practice on weekends. If you have a hectic home life with kids, then do this at lunch time at work. Busy work schedule when you can’t guarantee a quiet lunch, then set the tone of your day with breakfast, or use dinner to unwind into the evening. Regardless of when, pick at least one meal a week, and develop a practice by creating a healthy new habit, Mindful Eating.
Relief from smoke and dry air
The fires burning out of control around California are taking a vast toll on many right now. My thoughts and prayers to those who have been directly affected, and to those who are giving aid and support. Even those of us living way down here in San Francisco are dealing with some of the worst air quality on record. Here are a few simple remedies to deal with the minor physical aspects from the smoke and dry air currently pervading the area.
Ju hua (chrysanthemum flowers). This herb disperses wind, and clears heat from the surface, and is good for red, itching or irritated eyes Pour boiling water over about 5 or 6 flowers (about a heaping tablespoon), and steep for 3-5 minutes. When cooled the tea can also be used to dampen a cloth and used as a compress over the eyes.
Gou qi zi (goji berries). This herb brightens the eyes, and moistens the lungs. It can be added to the ju hua tea to sweeten the drink (about 10 berries), yet not good if intending to use as a compress, as it is sweet and sticky.
A pear. This seasonal fruit is ideally suited to moisten the lungs, and is also good to help with the general dryness of the fall season that may affect the skin, or contribute to constipation.
Remember, these are just simple home remedies to help alleviate minor symptoms. If the smoke is affecting breathing, a face mask can help, yet those with breathing related illness are advised to stay indoors, and seek medical attention if major symptoms worsen.
In english its called Chinese New Year, and in pinyin (anglicized Chinese) Chūn Jié, the literal meaning being “spring festival”. While the cold and rain make it feel like its still very much winter, signs of spring are apparent if you observe closely. Already the days are getting longer with the sun rising higher in the sky. In the next couple of weeks, the trees will start to bud, and shoots will begin to come up out of the ground. So if you missed or didn’t start some of your New Years health goals back at the beginning of January, this is an excellent and even more appropriate time to plan on revisiting them, as the body is ready and willing to shed excess and be renewed.
Sitting between the winter solstice and the spring equinox, we move from the yin of cold and dark to the yang of warmth and light. In the TCM five element system we are coming to the end of winter, which is the water element, and about to enter spring, the wood element. Those heavy, rich, and salty foods we ate all winter put on extra pounds, bring us inward, kept us warm, and nourished us through the winter are no longer appropriate at this time of year, and may even be detrimental. They congest the body, contribute to mental and emotional stagnation, and exacerbate mental and mood disorders like anxiety, depression, or insomnia. The wood element is associated with the liver and gallbladder, the emotion anger, and its energy is ascending and expanding. The liver’s job is to cleanse the body. When we modify the diet it assists this process, and is essential to harmonize us with the season.
The spring is announced by growth, as seen in plants sprouting shoots and buds. Sweet and pungent foods have a rising quality, and trigger the body to respond in kind. At the farmers market one can find lots of fresh, young spring crops: beets, carrots, lettuce, and other vegetables thinned from the crop. Pungent herbs such as basil, fennel, rosemary, dill, onions and garlic (best raw if tolerated) cleanse the liver. The bitter and sour flavors, encourage the liver to reduce the excess stored in the body from the heavy winter diet.; crops like spring grasses of rye and wheat, romain lettuce, asparagus, alfalfa, radish, and greens like dandelion, lightly dressed with the bitter and sour flavor of vinegar promote this activity in the body, making us feel lighter, energized, and rejuvenated.
Lighter and smaller meals are also advised. Start your morning with chamomile or mint tea. Eat some raw or sprouted foods, thin soups made quickly with fresh ingredients, and lightly sauté food with small amounts of fresh oils. Eat less animal protein (3-4 ounces per serving), switch to fish or lean chicken, or eliminate meats, eggs, and dairy entirely for a week or two. Adding these foods, while reducing salty, sugary, fatty, and oily foods, will assist the body to cleanse and shed those extra winter pounds.
For further information and recipe’s for the season, check out Healing With Whole Foods by Paul Pitchford. Wonder if you may be suffering from more than just spring fever? To get an individualized assessment of your health, and to recommend best dietary practices for your constitution, book an appointment and consult with me soon.
Jordan Lowy uses food as medicine, and believes its healing properties go beyond the physical, with the potential to address and treat socio-economic and environmental challenges facing humanity in the 21st century.