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How you eat matters – Intuitive eating, Chinese medicine, and you

How you eat matters – Intuitive eating, Chinese medicine, and you

by Grace Ganel, L.Ac., Dipl.Ac., C.Z.B.

I’m working on teaching my clients to focus on their behaviors around mealtimes, rather than obsessing over what they eat. What are your eating habits? Do you eat in front of the television? Are you scrolling through news feeds or social media during most meals and snacks? Eat your lunch at your desk while reading email? These eating habits are extremely common, and can be detrimental to your acupuncture channels’ health and wellness. Eating mindfully and intuitively could be a better approach for many folks.

American Culture and Food

Diet Culture: “Good” and “Bad” Foods

American diet culture assigns a lot of value to food. When I was growing up, full fat foods were “bad” foods and many foods and snacks were marketed as “fat free!” or “reduced fat!” In contrast, today’s diet trend of the Keto Diet preaches eating foods very high in fat, resulting in marketing for foods high in fat as “fat bombs” or “keto friendly.”

Examples like this demonstrate how assigning values to foods like this can be absolutely arbitrary. Add to this the impact to the average consumer of these values, and it becomes apparent that this particular habit of diet culture is very damaging. Many folks feel guilty, ashamed, or out of control when they crave, eat, and enjoy foods diet culture has taught them are “bad” foods. This begs the question, “does the assigning of good or bad value to foods serve?” Chinese medicine teaches that for different folks and at different times, some foods might be ideal to “avoid” or “seek” because the foods may make the illness worse or better. These are not generally universal, though, and we learn that everything in moderation is probably the best policy for most folks.

Overwork and Multitasking While Eating

Another tenant of American work culture is the working lunch. The habits of taking your lunch at your desk, working through lunch, skipping lunch, or having a “lunch meeting” are absolutely normalized in corporate America. To add another layer of complication to this, many folks need to use their lunch breaks to attend to their health or the health of a family member due to inadequate leave policies. Rather than being able to step away from the computer in the middle of the day to go to the doctor or seek preventative care, folks use their lunch break to complete these essential tasks (and other, equally important self-care tasks such as exercise) and eat lunch while working at another time of day. All of this translates to a culture of multitasking while eating.

Meanwhile, our long work hours mean that we have little time for attending to important personal matters, “unwinding,” and our hobbies. So even when we’re not at work, we’re habitually eating while checking social media, eating while reading the news, eating while watching television, eating while running errands, and so on. Once again, eating while doing other things, and failing to set aside a designated time for eating, is normalized and even expected in American work culture. Chinese medicine teaches that these lifestyle habits result in patterns of disharmony that disrupt our lives with symptoms.

Chinese Medicine and Healthy Eating Habits

“Good” and “Bad” Foods and Chinese Medicine Diagnoses

Eating a diet which is excessive in a particular energetic can cause illness. For example, eating a very large volume of nuts every day can cause stagnation of energy, resulting in symptoms such as alternating dry and loose stool, premenstrual symptoms such as migraines and cramping, increased pain throughout the body, one-sided headaches, and emotional irregularity. On the other hand, eating a small volume of nuts every day can be very moving for qi and can help to support folks experiencing the very symptoms I’ve just described. So we come back to the, “everything in moderation,” best practice.