Have you ever said or felt, "I eat healthy, I don't know why I can't lose this weight" or "I eat super healthy but I always feel exhausted" or "I can't understand why I have this anemia even though I eat plenty green vegetables and red meat."
Is so, you are not alone! Over the years in clinic, I have come to realize that diet talk is a very sensitive topic for most people especially when people are eating "healthy". There is a general feeling of overwhelm with the newest diet and food trends, weight loss packages, and just deciding whether something is heathy or not because it seems to be for some people and not for others.? It's like there are just too many perspectives leading us almost to the point of paralysis and then poor decisions.
The reality is that diet is about more than just eating. I am not here to preach what is healthy and not healthy but I do want to share how brilliant Chinese dietary therapy can on be on influencing the 2 most important aspects of diet, your choice of foods AND eating habits.
The Chinese medical approach to diet is not fixed and adapts to what you need at any given moment. For example, it understands that the diet you ingest after giving birth may be different than what you eat on a camping trip and that not one is better or worse than the other. After all, our diet is crucial to our health and equally a core contributor to dis-ease and illness in our body.Our choice of foods can become unbalanced in the following 4 ways:
Eating excessive amounts of cold food like raw fruits and vegetables, cold drinks including things like smoothies (even if they are packed full of goodness) injures the spleen, stomach and pancreas and can lead to internal cold conditions in the body presenting symptoms such as:
Eating excessive amounts of hot foods such as red meat, onions, garlic, and spicy food can cause heat and inflammation in the internal organs presenting symptoms such as:
Eating excessive amounts of greasy foods extends beyond your typical foods cooked in animal fats, fried or deep-fried foods. In Chinese medicine, dairy, bananas, peanuts, sugar, pork, and juices especially orange and tomato juice are also considered greasy in nature.Excessive consumption of greasy foods causes dampness (mucus) or phlegm or both in the internal organs, particularly the spleen, stomach and pancreas presenting symptoms such as:
Eating excessive amounts of one flavor (ie. Sweet, salty, etc) will weaken particular organs. For example, excessive consumption of sweet foods will weaken your spleen, stomach and pancreas.
Excessive consumption of salty foods will impair optimal kidney functioning, leaving the body with possible higher occurrences of UTI's (urinary tract infections) and kidney, even gallbladder stones, not to mention possible unexplained low back pain, knee pain, low libido, etc. Chinese medicine places a lot of emphasis on not only the kind of food we eat but the way in which we eat it is equally important. Even if we eat a varied diet with all flavours and colors and fresh ingredients and then have less than optimal eating habits, we can still create dis-ease in the body.
Our eating habits can become unbalanced in the following 6 ways:
Not eating in regular intervals means having extended time between meals and snacks and then sometimes overeating in one sitting. Perhaps one day you go out for a large business lunch and because you overate, the next day you skip lunch altogether. Done frequently, this can lead to all or any of the following symptoms:
Not eating enough can be from dieting with the aim to slim down or from just not taking the time to eat due to an overly busy schedule. Often young people, particularly girls and women, will experiment with vegetarianism, without having a good knowledge of sustainable dietary requirements. A diet limited to eating cold salads, cheese and bread can lead to spleen, stomach and pancreas weakness and then even dampness presenting symptoms such as:
Overeating in one sitting is also an inevitable way to overwhelm and weaken the spleen, stomach and pancreas' ability to transform and transport food appropriately so that it can be assimilated optimally. Done in any kind of regular fashion inevitably causes weight gain as well.
How many times a week do you eat in a hurry in order to rush off to something? Eating on the fly and in a hurry also impairs the transformation, transportation function of the spleen, stomach and pancreas, which over time affects our entire digestion. If we continually over schedule ourselves, eating just to fill a hole, over time leaves us feeling unnourished, weak, tired, drained and unmotivated.
Eating at our desk while working and thinking, sometimes even nervous, anxious, worried, stressed, is a tall order to ask of our digestive system. All these emotions directly impair the digestive process. This is fine every once in a while but as a regular practice, not recommended.Mealtime is a great time to focus on and be grateful for our food. This can also be the time we meditate daily.
Remember the knot you’d get in your stomach when getting in trouble at the dinner table? Again, worry, anxiety, rumination are all emotions that impair our digestion. If you want you and your family's food to be optimally digested and assimilated, eating is not the time for having heated or difficult conversations. Nor is it the time for doling out punishments and consequences.
Habitually eating late at night directly impairs our digestive system as well. The spleen, stomach, pancreas, large intestine and small intestine are the strongest between 5 and 11am and at their weakest 12 hours later so eating late at night, especially heavy greasy food, is especially challenging on the digestive system and affects the flow of the entire body leading to things like obesity, weight gain, acid reflux, insomnia and so much more. Learn more about late night eating and the body's circadian rhythms HERE.Going forward do your present and future self a big favor by worrying less about convincing yourself that you are eating 'healthy' and put more consideration towards your food choices and equally your eating habits. The way we feed our bodies greatly influences the quality of our blood, our flow, our health, our clarity, our natural ability to detoxify, our capacity to love, our motivation, and ultimately our potential to live our best life.