Every cell in our body depends on the energy that comes from the breakdown of nutrients in our food. To achieve a state of perfect health and harmony throughout the body cells, a proper functioning digestive system is key. To improve the functioning of our digestive process, practice conscious eating habits.
The Conscious Eating Practices of Ayurveda:
Only eat when hungry. Hunger is a physical signal from the body to the brain and back to the body that says, “I am prepared now to eat.” Otherwise, the body and digestive system is not prepared to handle the intake of food, and will not be able to digest what is eaten. Often people eat to feel nurtured in response to emotions like anger, stress, sadness, or even boredom, and this should be avoided.
Stop eating 1-2 bites before feeling “full.” This allows the body the space it needs in the stomach to properly digest the food you consume, and also assists weight loss. Undigested food is stored as ama (toxins), that contributes to weight gain and/or disease or illness.
Eat sitting down. Then wait at least 5 minutes before getting up from the table. (This includes hopping up from the table in the middle of the meal and returning to your seat.) Anything that creates an upward flow of movement will disrupt the downward flow of digestion.
Focus solely on food while eating. Turn off or put away all electronics, and don’t read while eating. Give the mind a place to attend to by practicing gratitude and sending the food loving, positive energy. Visualize the energy from the food going to all the body cells, filling them with joy and vitality.
Eat in a calm environment. Help the body absorb only good things by avoiding stressful, noisy environments while eating (this may mean eating more, home-cooked meals). Eat in silence whenever possible or listen to peaceful music in the background. Stay in good company, keeping a pleasant, light (gossip-free) conversation. Avoid stressful thoughts or excessive worrying while eating. Don’t eat when feeling emotional.
Carefully chew the food. Give important digestive enzymes the time to function properly so that ama will not be produced.
Lunch should be the main meal of the day. This is when your digestive system (or agni, digestive fire) is strongest. Not eating heavily in the evenings gives the body time to rejuvenate and repair, and allows the body to release stored ama (helping with weight loss).
Putting Conscious Eating into Practice:
Print this handout as a reminder. Place it in a place where you often eat, or in more than one place, to remind you to be mindful of conscious eating habits.
Start incorporating one or two new conscious eating practices at a time. Focus on one or two at first, then once you are consistent with those practices, add in an additional practice one at a time. You may never have a perfect practice, but keep affirming your ability to succeed. Be accepting of exposure to certain circumstances that may interfere with your practice, but try to plan ahead whenever possible to minimize these effects. Remember that proper digestion is the key to health.
Keep a food journal. Research has proven that record-keeping reminds you of your commitment and will make you more successful. Record all the food you eat throughout the day, how much, where you were, and how you were feeling. These notes will help you see what is or is not helping you eat more consciously.
You can also incorporate a hunger scale (1-starving to 10-full), taking note of the number on the scale for how hungry you were at the beginning of the meal and the end. Retrain the brain to be mindful of the body’s natural signals and to listen to them appropriately.
Share the commitment with others. Social support will help increase your success, especially if you have friends or family members at home with you, reminding one another of conscious eating habits. Being in an environment where other people are supportive of your positive changes is always a wonderful gift.
Stay determined. You may face resistance and old patterns that want to keep you from changing yourself for the better.Develop the willpower needed to overcome that negative force and continue to affirm success.
See the body as a temple. Treat it with care and kindness. Be gentle to it by not overeating or eating too fast.
“Slow and steady wins the race.” Be patient and stay focused. Short-cuts don’t provide lasting effects because you never learn to change the habits that have led to your current health status in the first place. Conscious eating is a tool for creating a lifelong, balanced practice for health.
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