It’s not just what you eat - it’s when, how and whyNov 19, 2023
The last few weeks, I've been highlighting some effective steps for Fixing Your Sleep.
- Turn all screens off by 8 pm (LINK)
- Find ways to manage stress - including Breathwork (LINK)
- Pay attention when your body is tired, and turn in before 10pm (LINK)
- Wake up and move your body! (LINK)
And the fifth step is all about food!
By now you’ve heard me talk extensively about the health and healing power when we Just Eat Real Food, and do our best to avoid processed food and any “food products” that are usually full of additives such as sugar, chemicals and others.
But what is just as important as what we eat is when, how and why we eat.
Eat your largest meal at noon
For most of us, this is not our practice!
If anything we are liable to eat a small lunch just to tide us over until dinner, and eat that as the main meal of the day. Or we might get busy and skip lunch altogether!
There are of course several reasons for this (including habit and societal norms), especially when we’re busy during the day and may have a bit more time later in the day. However often what happens is we end up eating our largest meal sometime later in the evening. And this may disturb our sleep! Either we’re still digesting it when it’s time for sleep, or we stay up later to complete our evening activities.
Ayurveda recommends that we eat our largest meal of the day at noon, during the Pitta time period, as this is when our digestive fire, or Agni, is the most powerful just as the sun is strongest at this time of day.
And sit quietly for five minutes after eating, then walk for five to fifteen minutes to aid digestion.
Eat an Earlier, Lighter Dinner
Then when it comes to dinner time–around 6 pm, at the transition time between Vata and Kapha–it can be a lighter meal such as a stew, a curry, soup or perhaps salad in the warmer weather.
And you’ll notice that the aim is to have it earlier than you may be used to, finishing by 6:30 or 7pm, so that you have at least 3 hours to digest this last meal of the day before bedtime. And that means no after dinner snacking!
This will take some getting used to and some planning. One hint is to be aware of your hunger, as well as your body’s feelings of satiety, and notice that if you eat a fulfilling lunch, you won't be as hungry later in the day when your activity is starting to wind down.
The aim is to avoid going to bed with a full stomach because this interferes with sleep and your body’s nocturnal detoxification processes.
When we eat with awareness of our food, body, and sensations, we can extract the most nourishment—and enjoyment—from our meal.
Eating consciously helps us to optimize our digestion and overall well-being.
Here are the principles of mindful eating:
- Eat in a quiet, settled, comfortable environment. Eating food in a distracting environment diminishes your body’s ability to digest what you have eaten. It also may lead you to overeat. So, during your meals, turn off the TV, cell phone, and other screens, and put away reading material. Let yourself enjoy your meals and have a full-sensory experience.
- As we were growing up, many of us learned that we should eat our meals at specific times; however, eating when you are not hungry is like trying to fill your car with gas when it is already full.
- Always sit down to eat. Eating while you are driving in your car doesn’t count. When you sit down to eat, you put your attention on the act of eating rather than dividing it among other activities.
- Take a moment to be grateful for all of the human beings and elements of nature that have contributed to the meal on your plate.
- Take your time. Eat at a pace that allows you to savour your meals and lets your body know when you’ve eaten enough. Slowing down and chewing your food well allows the first stage of digestion to occur with the teeth and salivary enzymes.
- Avoid ice-cold foods and beverages with meals. Our digestive system evolved over millions of years and is designed to process foods best at body temperature. The taste buds become numb when we drink or eat ice cold food, making us less discriminating about what goes into our mouths. It also dilutes our digestive acids. Try taking small sips of warm water instead of a glass of ice-cold water.
- Be aware of where your food came from and how it was treated before it got to your plate. Minimize food that has been treated with chemicals, hormones, antibiotics, or eating animals that were not ethically treated. This is all part of mindful eating.
- Wait until one meal is fully digested before eating the next. It takes approximately six hours for food to be digested.
The Appetite Scale
- Think of your appetite as a fuel gauge with a scale of 1−10, where 1 means that you are famished, 2−3 means that you are hungry, 4−6 means that you are satisfied or comfortable, 7−9 means that you are uncomfortably full, and 10 is a totally stuffed state. Eat only when you reach a level of 2 to 3 on the appetite gauge and stop eating when you reach a level of 6 to 7. This requires being sensitive to your body. If you have a feeling of lightness and no longer taste or feel the effects of your last meal, the chances are you are genuinely hungry.
- Leave one third of your stomach empty to aid digestion. If you’ve ever stuffed your washing machine so tightly with clothes that it had trouble doing its job, you know what your stomach feels like when you overeat. The stomach liquefies the food through a churning action that requires space to function.
- Sit quietly for a few minutes after finishing your meal. Focus your attention on the sensations in your body, and then take a short walk.
Following are things to keep in mind:
Food is fuel - Food is central to our health and our sleep because what we put into our bodies ultimately builds our tissues and provides the fuel for life. For this reason, we should prioritize the “super foods” that are full of vital life energy, or prana. These foods include vibrant organic fruits and vegetables, high-quality grains and oils, and other whole foods.
The Body Knows - We need to learn how to pay attention to our body’s signals and notice which foods make us feel healthy and alive, and which foods make us feel unhealthy, tired, or out of sorts. And which foods and eating style helps promote restful sleep so that we wake up each morning with lots of energy and ready to enjoy the day.
We are what we DIGEST - As Ayurveda teaches, we are not what we eat—we are what we are able to digest. When we eat when digestive fire is strong, we are able to completely digest everything we ingest, creating physical and emotional health. But when our digestion is weak, the undigested residue lodges in our cells and tissues, leading to imbalance and illness
The Doshic Clock - When we eat can be as important as what we eat. We need to eat our biggest meal at noon, when our digestion is strongest. Then in the evening when our body is preparing for rest and rejuvenation, a light meal is best.
So What's Next?
Here’s a Sneak Peak of the new
15 days, Five habits, 1 goal
· Education, Coaching
· Accountability, Empowerment
· Five Habits that make a difference
· Coaching and accountability to keep you on track
· Change is possible!
Great Sleep is only 2 weeks away
· Together, we can do this!
For more info on this and other natural health topics:
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