Overeating is part of our modern culture: Holiday celebrations, weddings and social events revolve around eating beyond our capacity. We hear from the media that we should eat small amounts all day long to stay thin, or that we should treat ourselves with snacks or a “fourth meal.” But cultural norms aren’t always natural for us and don’t have to dictate how we act.
Overeating also has an impact on our mental and spiritual health. Certain kinds of foods – sugary, excessively salty or fried – bring us momentary pleasure and a tendency to binge and then feel guilty. Food is also commonly used to trigger positive emotions or mask uncomfortable ones. No matter how they show up, attachments to food pull us away from our higher selves, the place where we live in balance and harmony.
Most of us have been trained to each too much, but Ayurveda offers simple ways to train ourselves to eat to live rather than live to eat. Invite the practices below to your table to avoid overeating and enjoy health today and health tomorrow.
Ayurvedic tips to eat to live:
- Try it on for size: Cup your hands together in front of you. This is your ideal serving size for each meal. If you are accustomed to filling your dish with food, try eating this hand-sized portion from a smaller plate or bowl.
- Three cheers for three meals: “Grazing” on small amounts of food all day long has become a popular diet trend. But when you are constantly digesting, you weaken your agni, digestive fire. Just like your car’s engine would burn out if you ran it all the time, eating all day taxes your body and eventually lowers your metabolism. Ayurvedic wisdom tells us to eat three balanced meals a day at least four hours apart.
- Slow down: Digestion begins in the mouth. Chew each bite at least 20 times, or until it is liquid. This breaks down the food for your digestive organs and allows the enzymes in your mouth to do their work.
- Go ahead – burp! Your first burp tells you when you have eaten enough. If you have overeaten for many years, you may not notice your burp. Spend a few weeks being present during meals (tip #5 will help with that) and take a few deep, calming breaths before eating. You’ll soon tune in to the cues your body gives you.
- Make mealtime its own time: Avoid eating while doing other activities, like driving, watching television or working, so you can give full awareness to the medicine on your plate and its impact on your body.
- Just let go: You should enjoy your meal, but when the senses become over stimulated, it becomes hard to stop eating. Eat delicious, simple and organic foods in meals that represent all six rasa, or Ayurvedic tastes, to bring balance and satiation. Focus your meditation practice on releasing attachments and emotional responses to eating (try our guided meditation on food attachments).
Just remember: If you do overeat, beating yourself up makes it worse. Simply give your body a break at your next meal by eating kunyi (a soupy rice dish made with a ratio of 1:6 rice to water, a little ghee and a pinch of turmeric and salt) and use the opportunity to meditate and release emotions at the root of overeating.