With Thanksgiving behind us but Christmas close in sight, it’s very easy for us to slip into the overeating mindset. The voice in the back of our heads reminds us we are probably full after the first plate, and may not really want dessert, but with all the delicious food in front of us and spirits lifted, we tell ourselves “I’ll just have one more slice”.
In Ayurveda, this is known as Prajnaparadha which means ‘crimes against wisdom’ or ‘offence of the intellect’. We know something is not the best choice for us, but we do it anyways. These are the actions that lead us to an imbalance of the doshas, Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Of course enjoying food is an essential part of the holidays and we all let our hair down every now and then, but overeating can lead to a few undesirable after effects.
First of all, if we are working towards a healthy lifestyle, eating well and exercising, then suddenly increase our intake of heavy food and hit the couch for a few days, our bodies are totally shocked. If our gut is used to fresh, supportive foods, it has no idea what to do with all the new information it’s receiving. As a result, we experience discomfort such as stomach cramps, bloating, mild headaches and irregular, uncomfortable bowel movements. Another issue with overeating, at any time of year, is that we slowly stretch our stomachs capacity past its natural levels. We get used to this very ‘full’ feeling and continue to eat in excess past the day of celebrations.
Every time we overindulge, we are not eating mindfully. We are with friends and family, maybe the TV is on or we are having some alcohol too. We are unable to listen to the signals from our body that we’ve had enough. Its also quite true that we generally tend to overeat on comfort foods only like heavy carbs, rich fatty foods and sugar which unfortunately are very difficult to digest and will deplete the strength and health of your Agni (digestive strength). They also block our Srotas (bodily channels) leaving us congested and lacking proper circulation of nutrients. When you think back on your own diet, have you ever overindulged on a fresh summer salad or nutritious winter soup? Probably not!
So maybe you did eat more than necessary. You’re feeling full, bloated and sluggish right now - but there are some wonderful Ayurvedic solutions to get you back on track! The important thing is to not beat yourself up about it. Instead, think about what you can do now to improve digestion, and try remember how you felt after overeating at the next big occasion.
1. Take 1/3 tsp of cumin, coriander and fennel seeds and dry roast in a hot skillet and add a little rock salt. Chew one teaspoon of this mixture after a heavy meal to lessen the effects of over indulgence like bloating, gas and cramps and also to boost digestive strength.
2. For several days after a food filled event, eat a light and nourishing diet. What do we mean by light? Light foods are easy to digest. They don’t put a burden on our digestive capacity (Agni) and give our bodies a welcome break from all the rich foods. Some light foods to include in your post holiday diet are:
• Grains such as basmati rice and quinoa
• Legumes such as split mung beans and split red lentils
• Steamed vegetables such as bean sprouts, carrots, kale and chard
• Fresh fruits such as berries, apples, pears, and pomegranate
• Herbs and spices such as cardamom, cinnamon, fennel, fresh ginger, fresh coriander, basil and turmeric
• Fresh homemade yoghurt or takra (Ayurvedic buttermilk)
The perfect ‘light’ meal which includes most of these nourishing foods is Kitcharee. This staple Ayurvedic meal has the perfect combination of grains, legumes, herbs and spices which your body will be very thankful for after any overindulgence!
3. Another area to concentrate on is our immunity and vitality which in Ayurveda is known as Ojas. This can become very depleted after overeating. The light foods listed above have a cleaning effect on the body and also boost immunity. Some extra foods to help support Ojas (to be enjoyed in small quantities) are:
• Almonds (soaked)
• Coconut (meat, milk and water)
• Fresh dates
• Pumpkin seeds
4. In some circumstances, fasting may be appropriate after overindulging. Again, this gives your body and your Agni a break from the extra work it did digesting the holiday feast. But this will not be suitable for everyone, especially anyone who is:
• High Vata
• Pregnant or trying to conceive
• Ill or recovering from an illness
• Diabetic/ has specific blood sugar requirements.
Fasting is also not suitable when you are working or have to travel. If you do choose to fast for a day, ensure you have no major obligations, stay home and relax. Never let yourself feel faint or light headed. Sip lots of hot water throughout the day and add a little honey if you feel hungry. If you feel the need to eat, enjoy a small bowl of very well cooked basmati rice with a little rock salt.
5. Yoga is a wonderful way to get our body naturally cleansing itself after a holiday. While you can always practice yourself at home every day, ask your teacher to show you some twists. These asanas are particularly good for simulating digestion and samana vayu, a subdosha of Vata which governs the movement and digestion of food in the stomach. We want to clean and strengthen the body at the same time, leaving you feeling more energetic and ready to get back to reality!
You can take these practices with you throughout the year, whenever an event or occasion means you eat a little more than usual. We hope you all enjoyed a wonderful Holiday Season!
The Holistic Highway Team.