As the Fall season settles in, a seasonal reality does, too: it is once again the season for overeating. Why, just the other day, on October 31st, I happened to be visiting the home of a good friend and neighbor who lives on one of those streets where everyone has agreed to try an outdo themselves with Halloween decorations and the volume of candy they can give away. While distributing said candy to children from 2-15 (or so it seemed), I found myself sampling the goodies, despite a very healthy and ample Indian dinner, with little restraint or attention to my body’s signals around satiety or fullness. I noticed I did not sleep well that night and my energy was off the next day. And I live with an Ayurvedic educator and nutritionist- goodness, what lies in store for me with Thanksgiving on the horizon, not to mention the holiday parties leading up to the December festivals!
So, I thought it might be worth checking in with the aforementioned in-house expert to see what sage yet practical advice Melina Meza might have to help us all navigate this tasty, tricky time of year.
Baxter: Melina, I feel very blessed to have you as a partner, as you are a treasure chest of wisdom around nutrition, eating habits and Ayurveda. Can you talk for a moment about any basic concepts from Ayurveda that help us understand “healthy eating habits”?
Melina: The pillar #1 of overall health in the Ayurvedic system (sister science of Yoga dealing with health of body, mind, and spirit) is maintaining good digestive fire. So, healthy eating focuses on this idea. One way to do that is to leave a third of the space in your stomach when you eat. This is also reflected in Japanese dietary habit of eating to satisfaction not fullness. So, protecting your digestive fire by leaving some space in your stomach is a good place to start.
Another concept that might apply to healthy eating habits is to know that in Ayurveda each person is seen as a unique individual with different needs centered around maintaining better energy by eating more or less frequently or more or less volume, based on your unique constitution (as defined by Ayurveda). So, learning to understand your body’s messages around eating and energy helps you to refine your habits.
For healthy habits, another concept that Ayurveda promotes is the idea of establishing “routine”, routine meal times of healthy eating so your body feels safe, knows when it’s going to get food and nourishment, and with that you learn how much you take in to feel energized and satisfied. When we get out of our routines, skipping meals, eating at weird times, eat more than we would normally, or too many varieties of food at one time, etc., we often feel the negative consequences. So, these are actually learning moments that help us refine your unique routines.
Baxter: What is your take on this seasonal tendency towards overeating? Is there actually something about the season of Fall leading to Winter that might justify or explain this trend?:
Melina: Absolutely. It is natural and healthy to try and put on more weight to insulate the body this time of year from colder temps if you live is such places. Also, this time of the year we are often also eating heavier foods, almost always cooked, (verses uncooked, lighter summer meals- think salads vs stews) that can contribute to seasonal weight gain. Depending on where you live, you may be exercising less due to colder, darker days, and seasonal challenges such as icey conditions. Additionally, coming together to share the abundance of harvest and resources of community at this time of year has some cultural basis, and so these celebrations, where we express our love for family and friends through food, often involves larger more tempting feasts.
Baxter: What are 2-3 of your go to recommendations around developing better eating habits this time of year?:
Melina: I encourage you all to keep your digestive fire strong by exercising in general, and with more dynamic yoga practices if you are more home bound, paying attention when you are eating meals to stop when you feel satisfied or 75% full. If you overdo things one day, be kind to yourself and reset your intention to follow your personal plan today. Also, when you are invited to a celebration, consider contributing something to the potluck that is in alignment to your personal healthy eating goals.
Baxter: Those are great suggestions, Melina! If folks wanted to learn more about your work as an Ayurvedic educator and nutritionist, how can they do that?
Melina: They can reach out via email to email@example.com to learn more about setting up a one-on-one consultation. Also, a great practical and visually beautiful way to practice some of the most accessible Ayurvedic health ideas can be found in my book Seasonal Health and Wellness: Change Your Life One Week at a Time, which you can order from my website melinameza.com.
Baxter: Well, this has been just what the doctor ordered! And know that there are upcoming opportunities to learn more from Melina on topics such as Ayurveda for Healthy Living in our Yoga for Healthy Aging 2.0 Weekend Immersion, Dec. 2-4, 2022, live online on Zoom. Learn more here.