On intuitively eating well

It’s that time of year when we aspire to eat more healthfully. Maybe you want to improve your digestion, manage your weight, or just increase your vitality.

Instead of looking to the latest health craze on what’s best to eat, here’s a concept to mull: try looking inward. Learning to listen to your body’s cues can help point you to a more balanced way of eating that’s right for YOU. Slowing down and tuning in to all 5 senses can help you develop an approach to eating that supports your well-being,

This means paying attention to how a specific food or way of eating makes you feel and discerning your body’s messages.

So. Instead of starting a new diet plan, why not practice observing and listening to your body? Here’s a tip (or five):

Slow down and savour. This is a fundamental principle of eating with conscious awareness. Relax your pace. Put down your fork between bites. Chew. Did you know that in Ayurveda, the practice is 32 chews for each bite? Thirty-two may seem like a lofty goal, but why not aim for 20? Slowing down and consciously chewing your food improves digestion, reduces mindless munching, and gives you the opportunity to observe your reactions – both physical, emotional and mental.

Get to know your hunger. This is a tough one for some of us. Hunger is a biological urge with attendant physical sensations (e.g. stomach rumbles, energy dips, may get irritable). But it is easy to lose touch with what hunger feels like if you’re in the habit of eating when bored or stressed, for example. Reconnecting with hunger is an important element of eating with conscious awareness. Try asking yourself, before you reach for a snack: am I famished? Am I moderately hungry? Am I bored, nervous at this party or frustrated after my workday? This initiates a body-based inquiry that puts you in touch with what your body is telling you it needs.

Trust your cravings with compassion. As you slow down and begin to pay more attention to what and when you eat, it will be easier to differentiate a craving from a message your body sends to tell you “This is a supportive food” or “This food may or may not work as well.” Rather than classifying a craving as good or bad, healthy or unhealthy, you can choose to see it as another opportunity for compassionate self-observation. Listen to your craving without judgment. Should you find yourself in a situation when you’re overeating, it’s an opportunity to step back and say, “Oh, aren’t I a fascinating being? Look at what I’m doing. I wonder what that’s about.” Approach the episode not as a failure or bad, but just as Here’s another fascinating facet of my being to explore…

Find the middle ground. Western culture offers few guidelines to eating moderately. Experiment with what it’s like to eat moderately by leaving a little food on your plate. Practicing eating until gently sated can help you learn how much food is enough and give you common sense tools on choosing which foods to make a part of your regular diet.

Make food an offering – to yourself. When eating consciously, just as important as the awareness you bring to the process of eating a meal, is the care and attention you give to preparing it. Appreciate each ingredient with each of your 5 senses and think about the honour you’re doing both the food and yourself with your attention. When you make food an offering to yourself, the effects of that care benefit your body. When you think about food as a carrier of Prana, or life force, then the intention with which you prepare food is an essential element of its being healthful.

Use your hands as tools when making your meal – for adding the ingredient of love! I rolled up my sleeves and dove my hands into this bowl of sweet kale, massaging olive oil and sea salt into the leaves. I like to think it tasted that much better, with all that lovey-dovey added!

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It’s really just a Simple Kale Salad. Into the big mixing bowl: torn curly kale leaves (stems removed), a good glug of extra virgin olive oil, and a few cracks of Himalayan pink salt. After softening these tough leaves with a good massage, I added a melange of veggie so-and-so’s from the fridge bin – alfalfa sprouts, packaged broccoli slaw, half a chunked avocado, grape tomatoes, and chopped cremini mushrooms. And for a protein boost, a good smattering of heart- and brain-healthy hemp hearts. I had a small bowl of left-over roasted sweet potato cubes – and threw ’em in for good measure! A good toss and ‘press’ (I use my tongs to toss the salad, and then press/mush the avocado into the lovely mess to make it all the creamier).

Et voila! Love in a bowl!

PS I must add that, for the second time, I whipped up this superb Flax Loaf from Elana’s Pantry. It is so dense and moist…and a hefty slab was perfect company to my salad!

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