MINDFUL EATING WITH JESSICA BLACK

Jessica Black, an Australian-Chilean acupuncturist hailing out of NYC is here this week sharing her beliefs and wisdom on eating mindfully. Insight and tips on creating a more conscious relationship your food and how we nourish our bodies. 

Traditional Healing has always been something that I have been drawn to, there was always books on healing therapies in my home growing up and I loved learning about different cultures around the world and their healing practices. I found with the various natural therapies that there was a universal appreciation and respect of nature, growing up near a rainforest this philosophy was something that resonated with me and sparked my curiosity in healing. What first drew me to studying Acupuncture was its roots in Taoism and Yin Yang theory, Acupuncture was originally used for the prevention of disease; the patient is treated holistically taking into consideration the physical symptoms of the body and their connection to the mind and spirit. 

I first began my studies in Australia where I completed my Bachelor in Health Science (Acupuncture) degree, I then went on to do two hospital internships at the Guangzhou Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine, from there I relocated to Santiago, Chile where I practiced Acupuncture, I found my home in New York and am currently undertaking my NCCAOM Licensing Board Exams to practice in NY.  

My hope as a practitioner is to guide people to healing themselves, to hold a safe space for you to look within and to share the knowledge I have learnt so that you can be empowered and take charge of your own healing journey.

MINDFUL EATING

Diet is one of our vital sources of energy, it nourishes our body and gives us life, it can be used in the prevention of disease and it can also be the source of disease. In Traditional East Asian Medicine (TEAM) the digestive system is linked to the mind, therefore thoughts and emotions will affect digestion and diet will in-turn affect brain function and emotions. Whilst the actual food ingested is a key component in determining digestive health, the mind and emotions also play a vital role in the digestive system’s ability to transform food into energy. The effect of emotions on the digestive system is often overlooked in the overwhelming amount of nutritional information that is now accessible, however mindfulness in creating a meal and enjoying the food that is providing essential nutrients has a remarkable effect on the body and overall wellbeing.

In TEAM the body is viewed as a whole where the environment, lifestyle, emotions, constitution and diet will all have an impact on the individual’s health, consequently when a practitioner administers nutritional advice the unique foods that will be of benefit to one will differ to others. TEAM is a holistic system of healthcare therefore whilst a client is guided to a specific diet for their individual needs there are a few key dietary principles that are considered universal:

Eat with the seasons: In TEAM it is thought that to maintain health we must live in harmony with nature and the seasons. The local, seasonal fruit and vegetables naturally contain the properties that help ward off seasonal diseases for instance Autumn is dry which means that we need food that will moisten the body, which is why Autumn seasonal fruits such as pears and apples have a lubricating effect on the body. Seasonal eating also applies to cooking, in winter we need enriching, slow cooked warming soups and broths to nourish and warm the body whilst in summer we instinctively gravitate to cooling, raw foods that help battle the heat. Aside from the medicinal benefits of seasonal eating, it also cultivates gratitude for the fruits and vegetables when they come back in season, it reconnects oneself to nature, adapting with the flow of the seasons. 

Eat in Moderation: Eat not too little, not too much! When you over-indulge and eat too much food it blocks the flow of energy and creates food stagnation, this overworks the digestive system’s ability to properly transform the food which may lead to indigestion, acid reflux, gas or bloating. On the flip side eating too little causes deficiency in the body as it depletes its resources to counteract the energy normally obtained from food. Eat quality food until you feel satisfied!

Chew: When food is properly chewed, it breaks the down food from larger particles to smaller ensuring that once it is swallowed it will be more easily digested allowing the body to more readily absorb the nutrients. Chewing also stimulates the production of adequate saliva which contains enzymes that help lubricate and break down food. Remember that it takes time for the brain to signal that the stomach is full. When you eat quickly you tend to eat more and when you eat slowly you tend to eat less and feel fuller quicker.

Listen to your body: As discussed previously there is no ‘One Fits All’ diet, so it is important to tune in to your body and take note of how you react to food. Does a certain food make you feel tired, sluggish, bloated, heavy or do you feel energized, nourished and satisfied? Actively looking at how you react to food, you begin to see what foods are of benefit to you and which are not. Start to use your intuition, reconnect and listen to what your body is saying, you know it better than anyone else. 

Allow yourself the time to sit down and be present in a relaxed environment when eating, whether it’s at a nice restaurant, in the company of friends and family or some peaceful time alone, this is the recipe for good digestion. Eating whilst stressed, worried or anxious it counterintuitively works against the body. When you are stressed the mind and body perceive the threat of danger, your heart rate increases, muscles contract and you become more alert. Systems that are not essential in fight or flight mode like the digestive system and reproductive system begin to slow down their function. Therefore, eating whilst stressed, angry, anxious or worried your working against the body, so whatever food you do eat will be poorly digested. 

Aside from the digestive benefits of eating in a calm environment there is also the emotional-mental benefit, nowadays many of us have a complex relationship with food, often there is an obsession with eating clean, healthy, organic and whatever the buzz superfood of the month is, how often though do we take the time to be mindful, put the phone/laptop/television away and enjoy the food that is giving us life, to savior the taste, smells of the meal and truly the experience regardless of whether its ‘healthy’ or not. 

Before I begin a meal I like to take a moment of silence to show my gratitude and appreciation for the farmers, workers and plants that have created this meal for me. Taking a moment of silence is a really beautiful ritual to do when you have a dinner party, to bless the food and give thanks to those that helped create this meal. 

I would like to note that if you are eating a meal that contains meat or an animal products you can also give thanks and gratitude to the animal that gave its life. 

Connect with Jessica through her Instagram for soulful words, chinese medicine, spirit, and all things mental health. 

(words by Jessica Black / Photo by Marika Jewell)