I’m all about lunch. The practice of eating a larger lunch in order to have an earlier, lighter dinner, in order to go to bed early, in order to wake up early and start the day right—are the practices have effected my immune system, my energy integrity, and my over all wellbeing and feelings of happiness in my body.
It’s amazing what these simple practices can do for the soul!
I was recently visiting a friend in Colorado and she suggested that I start writing about my two favorite topics—1. the body and 2. food.
I’m trying to bring back lunch as the main meal of the day for those of us who want to feel better in our bodies. Why? because according to the ancient science Ayurveda (which is Sanskrit for The Science of Living) and modern science, we are mammals and mammals are diurnal which means we are awake and active during day light hours.
When we align our daily rhythms with the rhythms already present in the universe, we thrive.
In my attempt to soften in all areas of my life, I’m going to let you in on one of my daily rituals: preparing and eating food.
So here I am, writing about food. It’s been 20 years (yes 20!) since I started my journey in discovering what works for me with health, healing, food, sustainability, body awareness, and intentional living. What you get is the product of trial and error, hard work, blood, sweat (and tears!) and a dedication to using food as medicine, made simply, easily, with passion, and playfulness.
I’m not perfect. I make mistakes. I make bad recipes, and yes, sometimes I have to order Thai takeout because it’s just not edible or satisfying. But mostly food is what gets me through my day, literally and metaphorically. I’m beginning to use food as medicine and food as fuel more and more. So here goes, my aim is to be useful.
And, with all things, “Don’t get too pure, remember that we are from the streets,” as a reminder from one of my teachers who was famous for keeping things “Real.”
The Main Event: LUNCH.
First, since she’s the inspiration behind the coming posts, I’m going to start with a dialogue between my friend, Sera in Colorado and myself:
“Okay, I have a question,” Sera said to me across the dining room table. “I’m trying to eat only three meals a day (per your suggestion) with no snacking. I eat breakfast till I am full and I am hungry one hour later. I eat lunch early because I am starved and I am hungry again by 1pm. I am drinking a ton of water and eating till I am way full but I am hungry soon after eating. What do I do?”
Shinay: There are two things that could be going on here (remember that I’m not a doctor! What I do as a Yoga Health Coach is take people from not feeling well in their body to feeling terrific. That’s what I do.)
So here’s what I can tell you having been someone who used to eat a light breakfast, snack all day (or skip lunch all together) and then eat a really big dinner at the end of the day usually around 6 or 7pm.
1. When we’re bored or thirsty we usually confuse this feeling with false hunger. If we’re eating at our desk or at the office or we’re distracting ourselves from the task at hand, (eating) by watching something on YouTube or looking at our smart phone or even trying to read a book, we’re not actually connecting with the sensation of mind telling body I’m nourishing myself now and then when we need another distration we get “hungry.” we’re dYou’re afraid to be hungry and actually experience deep hunger so your brain is sending signals that I’m hungry when in fact body is not actually hungry. You’re either thirsty or bored.
2. You can learn to really enjoy the sensation of being hungry and not be in a stress response (flight or fight mode) to food. If your body doesn’t know true hunger how can it know true satiation? “I’m full” can mean a lot of things (especially when you’re eating at your desk or at work). The key here is to pulsate between true hunger and true satiation. I’d take an educated guess and say that your brain is telling your body “I’m full,” but in reality you’re body is not yet satisfied. (See The 6 Tastes of Ayurveda here form more info about how to get the most nourishment out of each meal by including these 6 tastes.)
It’s important to remember to that there is A LOT of confusing and conflicting information out there. There’s the “Eat six small meals a day” theory, there’s the “Don’t eat breakfast theory,” there’s the “Eat less fat” theory, there’s the “Eat more fat” theory, there are so many suggestions out there it’s hard to know which one to follow and why and if it will work for your body—and that’s the key! It’s YOUR body. Each person is in a unique situation and it’s important to start to understand (and put words to) the result you want to get from you food.
The TOP 3 best rules of thumb from Ayurvedic wisdom around meals spacing for optimal digestion are:
- Learn to love lunch and make it the main meal of the day between 10am and 2pm when the digestion is strongest.
- Drink only water between meals.
- Leave at least 4 hours between each meal and 13 hours between dinner and breakfast.
What I told Sera I would tell everyone because it’s important to remember WHY you’re doing something, your aim behind your action. I asked Sera what she wanted from her food, how she wanted to feed herself, and what she wanted for her body in regards to nourishment and food and fuel.
Here’s a list of the top 10 things people say they want to change when they come to work with me:
- I want to be at my optimal weight
- I want to feel better in my body
- I want better energy
- I want to learn to take better care of myself
- I want a better relationship with food
- I want to get better rest
- I want to become stronger and more flexible
- I want to develop a meditation practice
- I want to connect with my body through nature
- I want peace of mind
Here’s what I’ve been eating for the last couple of weeks. It’s spring here in Arizona: hot, dry, and windy. Using the fundamental principles of Ayurveda “Like attracts like and opposites balance ” I aim to balance these energies by staying grounded and eating warm food. (Also, I’ve taken to eating only room temperature food instead of cold food and it’s working wonders for my digestion!)
Breakfast around 9am: 2 quarts green smoothie with 1-2 bananas, 1 pear or 1 cup blueberries, and 3 large handfuls of greens (lettuce, spinach, chard, mustard greens, nettles, tumble weed, parsley, cilantro—remember not too many!), a dash of spirulina, and water to desired thickness.
Lunch around 1pm: Baked yam with home made pesto (my recipe here Collard Green Pesto), avocado, tomato, carrots, maybe an egg with a piece of sprouted toast if I’m really hungry, or raw tahini on toast, and roasted beet slaw with grated ginger.
Other ideas for savory breakfast and/or lunch: chard, bell peppers, onion, asparagus, miso soup, quinoa, stir steamed (not fried) with olive oil, coconut oil, butter or ghee added after. Add an egg, tuna, quinoa or hummus if you desire more substance and protein.
And for dessert I like to have a small handful of raisins, 2 dates or figs, or a few squares of Brain Bark (get the recipe here).
Dinner is the biggest non-event that happens in my house. I’ll usually eat the same thing I ate for lunch but cut out the fats and proteins which are harder for one’s body to digest later in the day. Soups, stews, and stewed apples are great!
3 Helpful Tips for falling in love with lunch:
- Include more high quality fats like avocado, olives, legumes (think: green beans and French lentils!) and high grade, cold pressed, raw, unfiltered oils into your diet. This helps the body burn fat at fuel and you won’t get hungry as soon. Think high octane oil for the body to use baby!
- Add avocado, olive oil, coconut butter, ghee, or raw tahini on toast instead of butter!
- Stir steam instead of fry (use water and spices to cook instead of oil). Once you heat oils they become rancid and your body can’t digest them (aka use them for medicine and fuel in their natural form).
Love, love, love and more love,
P.S. Did you know that quinoa is a seed and it’s packed with tons of protein?! Yup, check it out.