In the lead up to the holidays, especially with Thanksgiving right around the corner, it’s important to stay in the right mindset. If we tell ourselves, “Oh, well its the holidays sothe next few weeks will be a total disaster for my diet”, we are giving up before we have even started. Instead, see it as an opportunity to try something new. “What have I learned about my health and well-being to support me through this busy time?” is a good question to reflect on. Have confidence in yourself that you can adapt when needed.
A classic but vital tip is to plan your main meals in advance. This can take a lot of the ‘last minute’ pressure off and give you an opportunity to think if there is anything you can do to make these meals more Ayurvedic. Can you purchase whole, organic foods? Could you add some extra digestive herbs and spices, like basil, mustard seeds or cinnamon to your cooking? Is there a lighter dessert you can prepare? Remember, a lot of the foods we are drawn to at this time of year, like pumpkin, squash and sweet potatoes, are in season and naturally balance an excess of Vata in our bodies. These foods are naturally sweet and can help to satisfy that craving without indulging in a rich dessert.
This is a wonderful time of year to sip a cup of chai. The light, warming and penetrating qualities of this classic tea will keep your body warm and your digestion strong. You can pick up a good quality chai mix at most health food stores. Prepare with some almond milk and a teaspoon of maple syrup to keep the tea tridoshic(suitable for all metabolic types, Vata, Pitta and Kapha) and enhance its grounding and nourishing effect.
Ayurveda strongly promotes enjoying your main meal of the day at lunch time. This is because our digestive fire (Agni) is strongest at this time. Agni may be a concept you are unfamiliar with. To understand it better, you can relate it to the hydrochloric acid (HLC) in our stomach. It is what breaks down our food into absorbable nutrients and stimulates the secretion of essential digestive enzymes. Scheduling your festive feast for about 1 pmmeans you are giving your body the best chance to digest it fully. Enjoy a lighter breakfast and dinner to feel the best results.
Before your main meal, it’s helpful to take a little digestive stimulant. This stimulates the secretion on HLC and wakes our stomach up that a meal is coming soon. A simpleand effective options is to take a 1/4 tsp peeled fresh ginger, a squeeze of lime and just a touch of rock salt. This is a great tip to improve digestion at any time of the year and, often, we have most of the ingredients in the pantry already!
Make sure to not overstretch your stomachs capacity. This is easier said than done, especially when there is so much delicious food on offer. A good marker to keep in mind is the ideal ratio for food in the stomach. Our body digests best when our stomach’s capacity is:
• 1/2 full of good quality fresh food
• 1/4 full of hot water or suitable digestive tea
• 1/4 remaining with empty space
Chewing food slowly not only makes it much easier for the stomach to handle, but also gives us time to consciously check in to what capacity our stomach is at.
When the holidays come around, we want to fling all responsibilities out the window, but keeping up your normal routine as much as possible will benefit you greatly. Take the 10 minutes in the morning to meditate, don’t skimp on getting your daily dose of fresh air and movement and ensure, above all, you get adequate sleep. These simple processes will prevent stagnation in the body, keep your mind clear, lymphatic system circulating and help the body to remove any extra toxins (Ama) we may accumulate.
So the holidays are over. Hopefully you were able to introduce a few new practices from your ‘Festive First Aid Kid’ this year and you’re feeling pretty good. But if you do experience that slow, dull sluggish feeling, there are a few things you can do to pick yourself back up.
Following a very simple diet will allow your Agni (digestive strength) to recover from any extra work it may have done. Ayurveda has the most wonderful meal, kitcharee, that can both satisfy and cleanse your body all at once. This staple meal in the Ayurvedic diet is a combination of basmati rice, split mung beans, fresh seasonal vegetables and suitable herbs and spices. It is so simple and inexpensive to prepare but the best thing - its Agni’s favorite food! It is light and nourishing, meaning your body can digest it with ease. As a result, it has a cleansing effect on the entire digestive system, balances Vata, Pitta and Kapha and can help restore that sense of ‘lightness’. Make kitcharee your main meal of the day for about a week, or follow a 1-3 days of a supportive kitcharee mono diet.
During the holidays we can be out and socializing more than usual. Its also a time where things kick up a gear and its much easier to be swept away with everything going on around you. Give you self a day, or even an afternoon, to have some time to yourself. Reflect on how it all went and how you are feeling now. It is not only our bellies that goes through the digestive process. Our minds need the time to digest experiences and emotions to keep us stable and calm.
You may be surprised that enjoying a festive celebration is not as depleting to your health as you once thought. We follow an Ayurvedic lifestyle to live a healthier and more fulfilled life, not to be completely perfect. Enjoy the time you have with your family, use these tools to balance yourself and leave the holiday stress behind!
We hope you have a wonderful holiday,
The Holistic Highway Team