Simple Ways to Eat Better (Without Changing What you Eat): Part Three

Number 3: Just like WHEN and HOW you eat, WHERE you eat affects digestion, and overall health and well being. Sit down while eating.

HOW you eat makes a difference, and within that, you’ll notice WHERE you eat is important. Without making time to sit down and eat, you’re liable to gobble the food wherever you are; standing, driving, or on the subway. Although I now live in San Diego, I still use my half century as a New Yorker for reference. If we’re not sitting and eating, we’re in fight or flight mode, period, and healthy digestion is impossible. Creating an optimal space WHERE you eat may require planning, but it’s a simple, (albeitnot easy), habit to improve your overall health and well being.

For most of us, eating while at the computer or TV, reading, or scrolling through social media is the norm, just like the woman pictured below. As I wrote in the HOW of eating, if we're not focused on the food, our body doesn't receive the message it's being nourished, and cannot digest, absorb and assimilate optimally. We'll often feel hungry soon after eating.

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Do you give yourself permission to take the time to eat or is the rushing self imposed?

By prioritizing meals and slowing down, we feel better, which ultimately CREATES more time. But

WHERE

you eat will often dictate

HOW

you eat. 

It's best to avoid eating in the same spot you're usually doing something else,

because we're reminded we need to get back to the task at hand. This bad habit is one I've struggled with since moving into my new apartment in La Jolla. I prefer working at the table in my main living space, because of the light. Since it's also near the kitchen, I began to eat there too, and found myself rushing. It's an ongoing process, but I now enjoy more of my meals at a table outside, which I'm lucky enough to be able to do most of the time!

Be creative and make small, simple shifts:

  • Swivel your chair around so you're facing away from the desk and computer.
  • Make a plan with a friend or colleague for a meal away from the office.
  • Eat outside, weather permitting, or inside at a community space or cafeteria.
  • Eat while seated, at a table. You'll naturally slow down and be more present to the HOW of eating.
  • Avoid eating while driving. If you're pressed for time, at least stop the car. 
  • Give yourself the time to eat and focus on the food. Chewing and swallowing is essential to create the environment the body needs to absorb and assimilate food.

Remember, it’s NOT what we do occasionally that matters as much as what we do most of the time that affects our health and well being.  

It's Heating Up. How to Keep Your Cool This Summer

In June, the sun in the Northern hemisphere sits high in the sky as the solstice approaches, along with the official arrival of summer. The early sunrise rapidly warms the atmosphere, and the sun is still shining brightly in early evening at which time it's often the highest temperature of the day.
 
Consider the teachings of Ayurveda, yoga's wellness branch, as summer approaches. Ayurveda utilizes the five elements (Space, Air, Fire, Water and Earth) to help manage summer's heat so we don't burn out. Fire is transformational and life supporting, but too much throws us off balance, which can lead to irritability, sunburn, hot headedness, and digestive upset. In order to feel cool as a cucumber rather than hot, sweaty and annoyed, follow these simple tips.
  
 
Fire is hot, penetrating, and transforming, and ignites powerful change. Think about this change in terms of food; with a bit of heat, something raw and inedible can become a nutritious and enjoyable meal. (I highly recommend Michael Pollan's food documentary Cooked, on Netflix. The titles of each of the four episodes are Fire, Water Air, and Earth) Adding too much heat, however, will make that same food burned. To balance summer's fire, add water, air and space, elements that are cool, mobile and expansive.
  
1. Drink plenty of cool, not cold water. Instead of placing ice cubes in water, add sprigs of fresh mint and cool, sliced cucumbers. This tasty combo will cool you from inside out. You can also add a squeeze of lime, another cooling fruit.
  
2. Rethink ice entirely. According to Ayurveda, cold, iced drinks, especially with meals, quell the body's digestion, which depends on heat to transform food so it can be optimally absorbed and assimilated. This may seem counter intuitive, but cold temperatures shock the digestive system; without enough fire, the body must work harder to optimize this essential process. When one of my students learned this, she stopped drinking iced drinks with meals and her frequent GI issues lessened considerably.
  
  

3. Skip the hot spices and peppers, which create too much heat in the digestive tract. In summer, stick with cooling raw vegetables and fruits which naturally have a high water content, especially cucumbers and melons.

  
4. Eat three meals a day, rather than frequently snacking. Consider that every time you eat, the digestive system must go to work. This requires the body to generate more heat. Before I began following the Ayurvedic tradition of eating three real meals a day with little or no snacking, I would feel overheated, and not just in the summer. Once I stopped grazing all day, there was a surprising benefit: I began to feel less hot. It's also important to make more space between eating dinner and going to sleep; you'll be able to digest on a deeper level, and feel cooler overall.
  

5. Bring on the greens. Focus on eating and juicing plenty of leafy greens including spinach, kale, Swiss Chard, parsley, cilantro, bok choy and wild greens like dandelion, nettles, lambs quarters and purslane. Leafy greens have cooling properties, which help the body stay balanced. When in doubt, stick with what's available at the local farmer's market. Nature always provides what's needed for the seasonal weather to help our body prepare for what's ahead.
  
It's easy to discover your dosha, or Ayurvedic constitution via this online quiz. But it's also possible to think about what season you prefer, and if you'd rather be skiing in the snow or swimming at the beach. Do you love to stay at home, or to travel? These are all clues to what elements are predominant in our life, and how we can stay in balance.
 
A version of this post originally appeared on Yoga Smoga's Rangoli platform.