Hello friends! I am slowly coming back to reality after my monthlong yoga teacher training retreat. There’s much to share, but in two words: so good. (Oh, and so funny. My abs are still thanking me for the laughs I shared with my new pals.)
I know some of you have been considering doing a TTC program, and I couldn’t recommend it more. I did mine at The Sivananda Yoga Farm in Grass Valley, which is an absolutely amazing place as long as you’re someone who can get with being told what to do, eat, and wear for a month (and if you can roll with a little woo woo, like chanting the names of Hindu gods in Sanskrit and stuff). For this gal, it was a heaven—a total luxury to not think about anything other than my yoga practice.
Anyways, I’m back—and I’m full of beans! Literally and figuratively. And, probably not surprisingly, I’ve returned with a renewed verve for plant-based eating too. (And a serious plan to grow my own food—but more on that another time.)
As I’ve shared in the past, I was a 20-year vegetarian (and on-and-off vegan) until I encountered some health problems a few years back—which I now recognize as a hormonal imbalance due to stress and total energetic depletion. On the recommendation of several practitioners I started eating a little bit of well-sourced meat. It was the right move then, but over time a little bit turned into a little bit more. And if I’m being totally honest, I even started slipping on the sourcing thing sometimes.
But this month helped me reconnect in a big way with all the perks of eating plant foods: from the practice of ahimsa (non-violence) to being kinder to the environment, as well as the benefits to my own physical and spiritual health. It was part of our curriculum (and a final exam question!) to learn about and extol the virtues of a vegetarian diet. (Ok, so they never mentioned glowing skin—but we all know that’s a major plus too.)
And while I’m not swearing off meat entirely—keeping some flexibility around food is important to me, because I do think context can be everything—right now, I’m in a pretty deep love affair with lentils and most things that grow in the ground.
The best part? After years of bloating at the mere sight of raw vegetables and legumes, it seems I’ve finally figured out how to digest this good stuff! Here are my three tips to anyone else who’s had the best intentions to eat more greens but couldn’t quite stomach it…
1. Chew chew chew. I’d never given a whole lot of thought to chewing and tended to eat pretty quickly. But it turns out that chewing is a critical part of the digestive process—not least of all because it lets your saliva do its job—and the more of it you do, the easier a time your tummy will have. It also allows your intestines to absorb nutrients more efficiently; it’s good for your teeth; and it helps you to really enjoy the taste of your food and eat with more consciousness. How much chewing? One speaker on the retreat recommended chewing until you can drink your food. While some foods never quite liquify, it’s a helpful way to think about it.
2. When you eat, focus on eating. I took many of my meals in silence at the farm, sitting under a beautiful weeping willow tree by a pond. While regular life doesn’t generally afford such a picturesque environment, I find there’s a big difference in the way that I eat, chew and digest if I’m distracted by the TV, my computer, or even just conversation. I’m not saying to ignore your family at meal time, but I believe making a conscious effort to focus on the act of eating can be a boon for your body.
3. Snack consciously. I can be a total grazer, and it almost always results in indigestion for me—especially if I throw something down unconsciously around 4pm. So now I’m trying to treat snacks like meals—if I want one, I put it on a plate, sit down, and eat it with awareness. It seems to help!
How much thought do you give to the wheres and hows of eating and chewing? Oh, and happy Meatless Monday!
We’re firm believers over here that, if you’re listening, these bodies of ours may actually communicate what they need. And because I’ve done the exact opposite for some time—ignoring all the signs that my body is totally fed up with me—she’s been a bit of a loud b*tch lately, pardon my French.
See, even though I’m a healthy eater, and I put really nice stuff on my skin, and I exercise regularly—and despite what I sometimes preach—my stress levels have probably been way off the charts for way too many years. I think about fifteen. (My stress is sneaky too because people who don’t know me well think that I’m totally chill, as I quietly churn. Sometimes I even trick myself!) But from aches and pains to hiding periods, my body isn’t really playing ball anymore.
Which is why not too long ago, when I came face to face with a mountain of fresh ginger at the small grocer on my corner, and almost involuntarily reached for one of the gnarled stubs—it gave me pause.
Sure, I knew ginger was healthy, and that ginger tea was good for digestion. But I was unprepared for the barrage of health benefits this strange and spicy root has to offer, some supported by science and others anecdotally.
Just a few that I came across: Ginger does contain powerful digestive enzymes; it also helps the body sweat and detoxify (I can attest!); it’s highly anti-inflammatory; it strengthens the immune system; it reduces nausea and is a common prescription for morning sickness; it’s been shown to help with arthritis; in a study done by Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center ginger powder caused cell death in ALL the ovarian cancer cells it was applied to; in another study it slowed growth of colorectal cancer cells; Chinese medicine uses it to assuage menstrual cramps; Ayurveda tells you to eat it fresh daily and also uses it as medicine; and word on some women’s sites is that it helps bring on hiding periods too. Wouldn’t you know. (I’ll have to report back on that one.)
Lately I’ve been grating some fresh ginger into hot water for tea, and adding it (also grated) into simple warm vegetable dishes with olive oil, lemon and fresh cilantro. It’s delicious, and it seems to help me digest the veggies better. Though that could be a placebo-power-of-suggestion thing too.
Has your body talked to you lately? What has it said? Do you eat ginger?
Thanks everyone for your comments and feedback on this earlier post about my digestion woes. I just wanted to share that since posting I’ve been experimenting with enzymes.
I don’t love the idea of having to take supplements in order to digest my food, but our bodies aren’t always perfect machines, are they?
Perhaps something got thrown out of wack a while ago (I used to be able to digest veggies with ease), or maybe my body just isn’t producing certain enzymes anymore—apparently this happens as we get older. Without the right enzymes, you’re not able to properly absorb nutrients either. Sad! Whatever the case, the pills seem to be working. I take a blended one at each meal, though I imagine it’s the cellulase (which helps with fiber) that is most important for me.
And so far, so good! I’ve been able to enjoy cauliflower, kale, and the other winter treats in my farm box, without the same problems. Here’s hoping that with time my own body will be able to produce the right enzymes for these foods. Until then, I’m sticking to the supplements. Do any of you take enzymes?
It just doesn’t seem right. Why would the food with the most nutrition, the one that makes us look our best, be so hard for some to eat?
A few weeks ago we talked about The China Study, a compelling book that sets about proving how animal protein may be linked to Western diseases. After reading it, I’m more inspired than ever to load up on greens. In fact, I’d be happy to subsist on a plant-based diet alone, as the author proposes, if only I could digest one.
But more often than not, eating veg for many means dealing with a distended belly, gas, and pain. A quick Google search shows this to be a common affliction—do any of you suffer from it?
According to Ayurveda, as someone who is Vata dominant (if you want to know your dosha, revisit this post), I am predisposed to tummy troubles. Many factors may be at play: Time of day seems to matter (afternoon snacking tends to wreak havoc), cold weather definitely aggravates it. But even warm, cooked, vegetables smothered in healthy oils (as Ayurveda recommends for Vatas) can cause problems for this girl.
If you are a fellow sufferer, what have you done to improve your condition? Do you take enzymes? Do you subscribe to the blood type theory? Do you avoid certain vegetables? Do you chew thirty times between bites? Let’s hear it.