Did you struggle to stop overeating this Christmas? One of the biggest impacts Christmas has on our healths, is our determination to keep eating, even after we are full.
When we live regimes or eat foods that are contrary to our natures, we disturb digestion and metabolism. This generates chemicals foreign to the body.
We naturally tend to eliminate such unwanted material. However, if we continue to eat incorrectly, or if we can’t stop overeating, our digestion becomes overwhelmed and malfunctions.
Digestion is one of the most important aspects to prime health. If working well it provides good health. If it malfunctions, it gives rise to toxins, which creates unease and eventually disease.
Digestion isn’t just about what you eat, but also when you eat, how you eat and how much. You may be eating the best foods for your body, but even the best foods are of little value if you cannot digest them properly.
Over the years we have developed unhealthy eating habits, which have had detrimental effects on our digestion. When you were young, it was common to be pressurised to eat at a certain time, regardless of your hunger. You were also required to finish your meal or ‘clean your plate’, even if you were too full.
You may have learned to eat as a reward, or to be sociable. Our culture uses food to celebrate our successes or to drown our sorrows. Due to this, you may now be out of touch with your bodies needs for food and be eating out of habit, or for emotional reasons.
Digestion Exercise to Stop Overeating
The only true reason for eating is physical hunger.
So instead of spending time learning what to eat, focus instead on the following exercise.
Firstly, you must start to feel your stomach. Allow yourself to get hungry by delaying eating. When hungry, place your awareness in the area of your stomach – see what you feel. You may feel nothing or you may be aware of a feeling of emptiness.
Now have a meal.
After the meal, put your attention on your stomach again. You will now notice a contrast. From this contrast you learn the difference between an empty stomach (when hungry) and a full stomach (when satiated).
From now on, always check your stomach before and after eating.
As you do this over days and weeks you become aware of your ‘hunger level’. Your stomach has two functions – to hold food after a meal and to begin digesting. As your stomach digests, it slowly empties.
After a meal your stomach should be no more than three quarters full, leaving room for churning the food and for digestive juices.
Two hours later your stomach may be half full and after another few hours it will be quarter full. Quarter full is the point at which your stomach is finished digesting the previous meal and is now just emptying.
So now the stomach is ready to digest again. It is at this point that it sends us signals of hunger.
As you continue to check your stomach, by putting your attention in that area of the body, you become more aware. You begin to recognise when your stomach is full, three quarters full, half full, quarter full or empty. As you do so you will even be able to predict your hunger.
When you feel half full it will be up to two hours before you will feel hungry. When quarter full, you will shortly feel an appetite. For good digestion it is most important to eat when hungry. If you eat before hunger arises you are expecting your stomach to finish digesting the previous meal and yet, at the same time, to start digesting a new meal. This upsets digestion.
How to Stop Overeating
The second most important lesson is to stop eating when three quarters full. Overeating leaves no room for churning and digestive juices and so digestion is compromised. It is like putting too much coal on the fire. A simple question to remember after the meal is: are you fulfilled or are you filled full? ‘Fulfilled’ feels good. ‘Filled full’ is a heavy discomfort in the stomach and a general feeling of dullness and lethargy.
If you listen to your stomach you will over time develop better eating habits. Gradually you will tend to eat at the right time, when hungry, and eat the right amount. At this point you will learn from listening to your stomach the amount you should eat for breakfast, which satisfies but leaves you hungry for lunch. Then you will eat appropriately at lunch to leave you with hunger for your evening meal. Only if hungry should you snack between meals.
Another important consideration for digestion is the way you eat. Ayurveda considers it essential to sit and relax. Only when you relax can your body concentrate on digestion. Therefore do not watch TV or read the newspaper. Also do not have an argument or become emotional. The best scenario is gentle company enjoying a meal together or else eating quietly on your own.
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Article written by features editor Ciara Louise Glover