I am lucky enough to live in the mountains of North Carolina, but it gives us surprises during the cold winter months. Some days you feel like snuggling under the covers all day, and the next day, your Hawaiian shirt is back on and you’re strolling down Main Street shopping like it’s springtime. Our bodies can really be thrown out of whack! This inconsistency is hard enough on our bodies on top of it being “winter” and our bellies overflowing like muffin tops. But, what if I said you can stay healthy by connecting yourself to food?
I recently went to an Ayurvedic workshop in Hendersonville, North Carolina at Yoga and Massage to figure out how connecting to food helps us maintain good health.
Ayurveda, Sanskrit for “Life Knowledge”, is a 5000-year-old Eastern health practice that focuses on the individual rather than a population. In other words, what may work for others may not work for you; we are all genetically different after all. It acts on a holistic level which means all of the dimensions of health, like emotional, physical, environmental, occupational, spiritual, social, and intellectual, are connected for you to be able to achieve a happy and healthy life.
Jessica Vellela, who is a licensed Ayurvedic physician and owner of Ayurvillage, taught the workshop. She emphasized that people tend to ignore their bodies, and this is why people struggle with their health especially during the winter.
Can you think about how your daily routine affects your health? During winter, we get really wrapped up with having too much food, the weather, pleasing others and stress, and we all know we can get thrown off. When it’s supposed to be a time for our bodies to rest, we tend to do the opposite.
“Your body is in perfect health,” according to Vellela, “when it is working at its best naturally with no internal or external factors negatively affecting it. We need to maintain this homeostasis during the changing seasons. Just like plants, our bodies break down and repair themselves.”
Vellela says we need to SLOW DOWN and let our minds connect to everything by practicing mindfulness.
When it’s mealtime, try eating slower, take smaller bites, and really enjoy the flavor. Also notice the size of your plate, your portion size, the quality of the food or beverage. Only eat to satisfy your hunger. According to the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, July 2, 2013, “Eating more slowly leads to improved satiety (feeling fuller).” This will help keep the extra weight off, which can result in a better mindset of feeling happy and healthy.
You like beer? Try drinking a better quality beer, like a microbrew, and notice how different it is from commercial beer.
Vellela says, “Our brains our connected with our gastrointestinal system. When you’re distracted, your gut can’t work to its fullest capacity. Eat away from the phone, computer, TV, and never eat when emotional. Connect with your food and notice the difference.”
One thing people should do on a regular basis for good digestive health is to incorporate ginger root. It’s usually about $1 to $2 for a whole ginger root, which lasts a week or two refrigerated. Just take the skin off, finely chop it and put it in your food. Goes great with most smoothies, shrimp, fish, Asian dishes, soups, or just make a tea out of it by boiling water and letting it steep for a few minutes. You can get ginger root at almost every food market.
People ask me all of the time about healthy tips for grocery shopping. I tell them to become connected to the food with their senses. In the produce section, you can grab an apple, a bunch of carrots, a sweet potato, or a handful of pecans and smell them. You can’t do that with packaged products. Do you feel differently about the quality of the food when you can smell it in its purest form? You are going to get more nutrients from whole foods hands down and feel a lot better.
Having this healthy relationship with food doesn’t have to stop here. Being mindful and learning to savor the flavor are powerful tools you can do every single day to connect yourself to the choices you make in order to be happy and healthy. Winter is the time to be connected to yourself so you can fully rejuvenate.
For more information on Ayurveda, visit http://www.ayurvillage.us/.