Did you know you can learn how to eat for better health? Whaaaat?
Let’s start with that pesky conventional wisdom. What are you eating these days? Are you adhering to a specific plan? Are you a paleo princess, or a keto kitten, or maybe you follow the Atkin’s Diet? (Is that even still a thing??)
Let’s face it–there is so much confusion in the world of food surrounding what to eat.
It can be completely overwhelming and frankly, confusion sells.
And women-of-our-certain-age are extremely susceptible to falling down the rabbit hole of what to eat. Our bodies shape-shifted when we went through puberty–remember that? And they’re probably going to shape-shift again as you hit this second puberty in your 50’s. Seemingly overnight there’s a little too much cushion around your midline. When the hell did that show up?
So when the celebrity du jour appears on our screen squealing about the promised benefits of the sauerkraut diet, we are all ears.
Let’s put all the diet and meal plans on the back burner for a hot minute and instead of asking what you should be eating, ask yourself “How should I be eating?”
Ayurvedic medicine teaches us that how we eat is every bit as important–if not more–as what we are eating. In fact, there’s a common joke among practitioners: ‘I’d rather you eat McDonald’s if you’ll bring it home and put it on a plate and eat it slowly, than to hear you’re eating your organic homemade kitchari behind the wheel of your car.”
In other words, it’s not what that truly matters, but how.
We have compiled a list of eight “food rules” to bring your meals to another level of nourishment. But instead of hard and fast rules, we’d like you to consider them guidelines to establish healthy eating habits. In today’s blog post, we’re offering you, our #podsquad, four of those guidelines. They’re simple … but not necessarily easy. And there’s gonna be homework involved.
Guidelines for Healthy Eating and Conscious Consumption
Healthy eating guideline #1: Set a pretty table
This is typically the first recommendation Lisa makes to those of you who eat at their desk or on the run. You know who you are–you’re out there changing the world. Your schedule is packed with meetings, social events, and family obligations. Food is usually an afterthought, something you need to fuel you through the next board meeting. Consider this: Ayurvedic philosophy teaches that we are all part of the Divine fabric; yoga philosophy encourages us to view our bodies as a temple; and Christianity instills in us that we are all children of God. Wherever you fall on that spectrum, consider for just a moment that your ancestry.com report shows you come from a long line of royalty. In fact, say these words: I have royal DNA coursing through my blood.
How does that feel?
Now, we urge all y’all to treat yourselves and eat in a way that reflects that statement. Set a pretty table for at least one meal each week–clear your table of mail, bills, laundry, and laptops. Create an environment suitable for true digestion. If you’ve got kids in the house, get them involved. Maybe they can pick flowers (or weeds) from the yard for their contribution to the tablescape.
Dining solo? We got you! Just call it a date night with yourself. Dust off the fine china you got in the divorce, grab a linen napkin, and cue up some classical music or bossa nova. Set and setting. It matters.
Healthy Eating Guideline #2 :Sit down
This comes directly after #1.
There is a saying in India that when we eat standing up, “death looks over our shoulder.” So now that you’ve set the table, sit. And stay. When we stand while we are eating, we’re sending a signal to our body that we are still on the move, which places us in the “fight or flight” (sympathetic nervous system) zone. When our sympathetic nervous system is running the show, optimal digestion is simply not going to happen.
But let’s take that a step further and get a little esoteric here. Emotionally, when we stand to eat, perhaps we’re also sending a signal to our mind that we’re not worth the time to sit and nourish ourselves. When we eat stand up, I believe we are making a conscious decision to live on someone else’s agenda (our boss, our kids, our addictions). And just how codependent is that?
Set, setting, sit.
Healthy Eating Guideline #3: Eat Without Distraction
Before we dive into these last two guidelines, let’s discuss your homework assignment.
I’m asking you, our ever-faithful #podsquad for whom we are incredibly grateful, to pick just one of these four food rules and implement it over the next two weeks. Seriously-just pick one. Remember there are four more to come in a future episode. Once you’ve successfully incorporated one of these for two weeks, then bite off another one (pun intended).
And now back to Healthy Eating Guideline #3…
We have two words for you: “Secondary Eating.”
Yes, it’s a thing. According to the USDA, secondary eating is defined as “eating while engaged in another activity.” Dr John Douillard has a short and sweet piece about it that you can read here.
This looks like eating while you work, drive, fold laundry, study, watch NetFlix, stand at the fridge, walk to the car… you get the picture
Can you think of other activities we do while we eat?
How about texting, or checking email, or scrolling social media?
If secondary eating is mindless and distracted, primary eating is mindful and deliberate. When we eat mindfully, we’re less likely to overindulge and more likely to hear the cues of our body and stop when we are satiated. And for you vixens out there who are concerned about the added weight that often shows up with the menopausal transition, the studies are few and far between but the links are there–primary eating helps us maintain a normal weight while secondary eating is a setup for not tasting our food as well as weight gain.
It circles us back to the first concept of setting a pretty table, sitting down to eat, and allowing ourselves to eat like the royal beings we are. This attention and intention allows us to be more fully nourished by what’s on our plate, regardless of whether that happens to be takeout from the local BBQ joint or a beautifully crafted vegetarian holiday meal with your loved ones. And yes, we can also be nourished by who is at our table.
Healthy Eating Guideline #4: Chew Your Food
Are you an inhaler? Nah, we’re not talking about that kind (we’ll cover that in a future episode), but an inhaler of your food? We can assure you this is not conducive to conscious consumption, but rather it’s a sure-fire way to keep your body in the fight-or-flight zone, disrupting your digestion and elimination.
Chewing your food thoroughly can result in consuming fewer calories. Chewing your food thoroughly increases satisfaction, slows you down enough to hear the cue of satiety, and you are less likely to snack between meals.
There’s a saying in Ayurveda: “Drink your food and chew your drinks.” In other words, slow down. Savor your drinks so every taste bud gets a chance to participate in the party on your tongue, and chew your food thoroughly when eating so it’s liquified before you swallow it.
There is no magic number of how many times you should chew–that depends on what you’re eating. Beef will require more chewing than bisque. Try this: simply put your fork down between each bite. Avoid picking it up again until you’ve completely liquified and swallowed the previous bite. Take a breath, then prepare your next bite. This is another food rule that can be fun with kids or grandkids–fork down, hands down!
You’ll find that as you eat with more attention and intention, you’ll digest with more ease, eat less, and enjoy what’s on your plate–and who’s at your table–much, much more.
Like this post? Sign up for our newsletter to get notified of new episodes and more!