March 14, 2012

What, When, and Where to Put Things in Your Mouth. ~ Nicole Maniez

Eating 101.

Eating, the process can be joyous; your taste buds are alive, your body is being nourished and sustained. Most people have some forms of joyous eating, followed by days of indecision.

Stress and hurried lifestyle lead to a sad tummy, sad taste buds, and interesting bathroom visits.

The yoga community is especially good at creating stress around meals: What should I be eating? What will cure my energy dips, my irritability, my frequent flatulence? Chia seeds this week, kombucha was so two years ago, but now I can get them combined. Do I even want them combined?

If we look to traditional cultures, be it my great grandmother in France or studying Chinese Medicine, we see common, sensible themes. Be aware that you are indeed eating, eat at regular times so your body can maintain a rhythm, and eat a wide variety of foods.

You can be like grandma, in three simple steps:

1. Eat regular meals in a relaxed, aware state.

Acknowledge what you are putting in your mouth. Ask, “is this actually food?” If it comes in a package, read the label. As the brilliant Micheal Pollan tells us, “Don’t eat anything incapable of rotting.”

In Chinese Medicine we use the meridian system, which is an interconnected pathway throughout the body where our energy or “qi” runs. Twelve of these specific pathways connect internally to our organ systems.

Chinese Medicine believes that the qi peaks in each meridian at a certain time each day. From 7 A.M. to 11 A.M. the stomach and spleen meridians get this qi boost. This is a really important time to eat. You want to nourish your stomach and spleen meridians with high quality foods. Breakfast, once again, is the most important meal of the day.

Plan your life around your meals. Who does this? Not many, or maybe only for special occasions. But doesn’t this make sense? Isn’t what we are putting into our bodies a main contributor to our health and happiness today and in the future? Try it.

Maybe it makes more sense to skip that yoga class and eat food that is worthy of ingestion.

2. Eat warming foods.

Great Grandmere Paulette and Sun Si-Mao agree that all these iced beverages, massive salads, and the raw revolution are a bit overwhelming for our sweet little bellies.

The common American breakfast of iced, sugary coffee, a big glass of orange juice, and cold cereal with mucous-producing milk typifies what not to eat. Even the blended fruit smoothie with organic protein powder is thought to be too cold.

When we consistently place cold foods into the body, we shut down the digestive fires that keep our metabolism and gut working properly.

What makes food cold? Two things. The actual temperature of food (iced water, ice cream), and the nature of food. Most raw vegetables and fruits have a cold nature. Meats tend to be warm.

Many spices can be added to foods to warm them up. Add cinnamon and ginger to your smoothie or yogurt. Eat small salads within the context of a larger meal. Eat seasonally. Large salads and fruit are more appropriate in the summer months, warming soups in the winter.

Oh, the stress of eating once again makes your jaw clench shut. How can you keep your digestion running smoothly? What can you eat for breakfast? There is no one-size-fits-all answer, but there are some basic guidelines.

Some suggestions include hot mixed grain cereals, whole eggs (fat included), sprouted grain breads with butter. When you first wake, try some warm water with lemon. See how your body responds.

Your body and digestion are your experiment. You are the master researcher with the most important data-collecting tool: how you feel.

3. Eat a variety of foods.

Eat a rainbow of colors everyday. I’m not talking pink Nerds and yellow Peeps. I’m talking a rainbow of whole foods.

Think red chard, purple kale, blueberries, yellow peppers, red apples, brown quinoa, green spinach, and black sesame seeds. When you eat all these vegetables, remember to warm them up with a light steaming or stir-frying.

I have clients tell me how they eat really healthy: a yogurt for breakfast with green tea, a protein bar for lunch with an apple, and every night, rice and lean chicken.

In the grand scheme of things, this diet isn’t so bad, but you need some variety. Mix it up. Maybe your body isn’t the best at digesting a particular “healthy” food. If you are regularly mixing it up, your body has multiple chances to absorb the nutrients it needs.

When you choose to eat meals that follow these three easy, common sense guidelines, your body will reward you. Your mind will be pleased by the free time found from no longer fretting over meals, and your taste buds will delight in the subtle flavors of a whole rainbow of foods.

So try it out and let me know how it goes.

And lastly, enjoy your food.

“He showed the words “chocolate cake” to a group of Americans and recorded their word associations. “Guilt” was the top response. If that strikes you as unexceptional, consider the response of French eaters to the same prompt: “celebration.” ~ Michael Pollan

Editor: Jennifer Cusano

Nicole Maniez is an acupuncturist, herbalist, yoga teacher and childbirth educator in the Boston area.  She is lucky to get to combine multiple loves into one sweet career, doing what she loves and helping people move closer to health and wholeness.  She is also a momma, an art maker, and an out-of-tune music maker.  Hoping that she will never lose the ability to laugh at her follies (and yours), she cultivates her curiosity in an attempt to keep life entertaining.  She loves mail.  Send her something inspiring. Follow her on FB and Twitter.

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