The way you eat is an expression of who you are, regardless of the quality of the food. The enjoyment of good food and company creates such an inner joy that it’s possible to taste the sweetest of nectar in even the simplest of food. Without this joy, and with no blessing offered, the most wholesome, delicious food can seem tasteless and leave the soul hungry. People who eat only for the taste or according to a diet or nutritional value often develop cravings for something they aren’t getting. They bring turmoil into their lives and homes in their constant search, and they eat to satisfy a misplaced hunger.
Overeating and Aging
Overeating, a popular pastime in the wealthy nations, is thought to be the primary cause of premature aging. Fifty years of research have shown that when a nourishing diet is eaten sparingly, aging is retarded; the maximum lifespan and immunity are extended in all animal species so far tested, from protozoa to worms, insects, fish, and rodents as well as humans.
Consumption of too much fatty and denatured food is responsible for most of our civilized diseases, such as obesity, cancer, and diabetes. Overeating by vegetarians also occurs regularly, and while it may not always result in weight gain, it invariably causes weakness, digestive upset, and accelerated aging.
On an emotional level, overeating results from excessive and undifferentiated desire, which also leads one to choose an unnecessarily great variety of foods. Each food has a unique flavor which the appetite control center of the hypothalamus recognizes. Before it feels satisfied, the hypothalamus seeks a certain amount of every flavor it has sampled. Thus, it is challenging not to overeat a meal of many ingredients.
Refined foods may also contribute to overeating, according to a scientific study reported by U.S. Agriculture Research Service (March 1, 1999). An explanation is that one is biologically conditioned over millions of years of human evolution to consume whole foods; excessive eating may represent an instinctive craving to obtain nutrients that are lost during refining. Common foods depleted in nutrients include “white” refined: sugar, pasta, bread, pastries, and rice; refined oils, and reduced-fat dairy.
Habitual overeating, especially of meat and intense flavors, inflame the lining of the stomach. According to Chinese medicine, excess heat in the stomach is itself a cause of overeating, but even when this heat-overeating cycle is broken, one still must change underlying habits, which may have become embedded in the body’s cells and organs over many years.
Other Concerns About Eating and Nourishment
Do not be so rigid or self-righteous about your diet as to annoy anyone. A bad relationship is more poisonous than one of Grandma’s sugar cookies. If you desire such a treat, it is better to have it than stuff yourself with rice to suppress the desire. This causes mental anguish and arrogance.
Set aside a particular time and place for meals in a clean environment, surrounded by pleasant sounds, aromas, colors, and conversation. Avoid emotionally charged subjects and confused, scattered talk or thoughts. Avoid eating while tired, too hot or too cold, worried, angry, standing, watching TV, reading, or before bathing. These activities make the food hard to digest. Relax and get comfortable. Perhaps undertake self-reflection about your condition. Eating is a time to receive offerings in the form of food to nurture and revitalize your body. Nurture your thought as well. Consider your manners insofar as they represent your intention toward others. Give attention to the unique qualities of each food and the work involved in bringing it to you.
Relax after eating, but do not fall asleep or into a stupor. Relaxation helps you digest your food and sleep well at night.
Choose the majority of your foods from local growers. (This helps not only your health but your local economy and also the environment by using fewer resources for shipping and refrigeration.) Eat according to your health and constitutional needs.
Liquids and food should not be too hot or too cold. This is especially important for infants and children. Heat debilitates the stomach and creates acidity. Cold paralyzes it.
Drinking with meals dilutes the digestive juices. However, a small amount of warm water- four ounces or less – is acceptable. In general, drink water or herbal teas ten to twenty minutes before meals and at least half an hour after fruit meals, two hours after a meal rich in starches and plant proteins such as grains and legumes, and four hours after a meal containing meat, eggs, or dairy products.