Though we are extremely particular about the flavor and aroma of our favorite dishes, we have cared the least about how we eat them! Let us look at where we need to improvise for an enhanced culinary experience!

We get immensely motivated when we hear words like ‘I am in total control of my life’ or ‘my life my rules’. But ‘life’ does not happen if our bodies fail to function. And talking about bodies, we yet again target just the external self and keep the best foot forward.

Most often we tend to ignore what happens inside our bodies, or maybe we do not get enough time for it. But right now when ‘time’ is all we’ve got, we might as well direct our energies to what goes inside and how.

Just as the Ayurvedic concepts of ‘bala’ and ‘ojas’ relates to the immunological concepts, the food, and dietary regulations play a key role in building the body’s natural resistance. The modern world can relate these principles to areas like biomedicine and its allied branches.

The food we eat is what builds the body. Thus it can be built in a bad way or a good way based on what we eat and most importantly how we eat. The nutritive indices of all sorts of food are widely accessible so that ‘what we eat’ needs no elaboration. In Ayurveda, the ‘how we eat’ is as important as the content of the food. And for that, we just need to listen to our bodies. Most often we ignore this step and dive right in. When was the last time in your schedule that you had the time to quietly eat and enjoy the food? We rant over and over again about the importance of focus and attention in our jobs, studies, art, and every other thing. But we often neglect focus on the activity of eating food, which is the driving force of everything else.

Manas or simply the mind is one of the complex entities of our body. And it functions in perfect unison with our sense organs. Whatever be the object or activity that we wish to indulge in, it is always with the help of one or a combination of sense organs. But in the absence of the involvement of our mind, the activity becomes futile. And the act of eating is no exception. The science of Ayurveda is rich in advocating about healthy regimens and food habits, which ultimately brings about ‘svāsthyaṃ’ or good health. In such contexts, various rules of eating including the amount, processing, nature, and the wholesomeness of the food are being advised. But the point of utmost relevance in the millennial society is the mental state of the person.

Most of us are glued to ‘screens’ while we eat. Distracted eating takes the mind off from the process of digestion and assimilation. It pushes us to eat more than our satiety or less than adequate. We neglect the purpose of eating which is ultimately to build the body.

The emotional disturbances also take a toll on digestion. Eating while being anxious or angry or depressed takes away the attention of bodily functions towards the process of digestion. The functioning of ‘flight hormones’ is a great example to show how our body shuts down the digestive processes as per the hormonal reactions, in times of emotional emergencies.

In simpler terms, when taking our attention away from the act of eating, we are directing our brain centers to boost functions elsewhere. Not just being on the phone, but talking, laughing or just being distracted, ends up in improper digestion. And this creates a gradual build-up of disharmony in our gut called ‘āma’ which is the root pathology of most diseases in Ayurveda.

Lots of studies have been made on the gut-mind relationship and ‘mindful eating’  but this was a concept followed and practiced in Ayurveda since ages. Healthy gut = healthier body is the ultimate motto of Ayurveda! As they say ‘we are what we eat’ but ‘we are also what we digest’. Hence the distracted eating may be attributed to the drop in immunity levels of the present-day society, simply due to lack of proper digestion.

Apart from these, eating patterns have also become bizarre. Binge eating is now officially a thing more than a disease. During quarantine days we tend to snack more, but we should be able to draw that line. This can only be achieved with a good presence of mind while eating!

Since we have a lot of time in hand make sure the food you eat gets to your body. A calm mind, clean hands, a body free from natural urges, a well-digested previous meal, and the right amount of hunger — this should be a checklist every time you think of eating a meal! We are well versed in multitasking, but make sure to set those skills aside while eating because it is the least we can do to protect our bodies.

Like the famous saying by an American writer M.F.K.Fisher ‘First we eat, then we do everything else’.   Make sure you appreciate the food you eat, the odor, the flavor, and everything about it so that it becomes an enjoyable experience. Also, know when to stop! This could be hard but over time we can develop the skill to listen to our gut’s satiety. Because we don’t want the feeling of fullness or bloating take over the pleasant feeling after a meal!

To summarize, citing one of the most important verses in the medicinal texts of Ayurveda:

āhāra sambhavaṃ vastu rogaśca āhāra sambhavaḥ

hitāhita viśeṣaśca viśeṣaḥ sukhaduḥkhayoḥ

It simply means that the body or disease originates from what we eat. So the responsibility is vested upon each one of us to build it in the best way possible. So make sure you become the officer in charge of your body. Eat to impress than dress to impress, because good food and a happy gut give you a natural flush and glow which is irreplaceable!

About author

Dr. Shilpa Thengil, BAMS

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