It is not enough to know WHAT you eat. You should also know HOW you eat.
It is a common myth to say – if it’s natural it must be healthy. Even poison is natural, but it kills. Many lifesaving natural occurring drugs like digitalis can be lethal if taken in wrong amounts. Ghee mixed in equal quantity with honey acts like a lethal poison.
Even the best food that nourishes you, can also kill you if it is not consumed correctly and scientifically. According to ancient science of Ayurveda certain rules of eating must be followed and if they are flouted or ignored, then even the best and the most expensive food can turn harmful. Avoiding Bad Food Habits! That is the crux of art of eating.
What do you mean by Bad Food Habits?
Bad food habits means eating like a pig. Bad food habit means ‘consuming’ and not eating.
Technically, bad food habits is defined as consuming food either in incorrect amounts, or incorrect time of the day or season, or at inappropriate place, or in inappropriate way.
What happens if I have bad food habits?
Just that you can die early or develop chronic diseases like Alzheimer, Parkinson etc. And of course, cancer is on the top of the list.
Modern medicine has no idea why most chronic diseases like the Alzheimer and Parkinson happen. Although they know what happens in these diseases (chemical deficiency in the brain) but no one knows what causes these deficiencies. The same is with most cancers.
Ayurveda argues that one the main factors for such intractable diseases is bad food habits. Since people are completely unaware of ‘How’ to eat, therefore even though they meticulously consume the right amount of calories and proteins per day, daily multivitamins and minerals, still they fall sick.
To cure their sickness they stuff multivitamins, proteins and herbal products not realizing that the problem lies not in the type of food that they eat, but in ‘how’ they you eat. Consequently they become more sick leading to chronic diseases.
Bad food habits are bad because they produce toxins in our body that contaminate and gets lodged in our cells and organs producing dangerous and intractable diseases. These toxins are called as ‘Dushivisha‘ (slow poison) since they accumulate and affect our body slowly over number of passing years.
What diseases can I suffer by bad food habits?
Shushruta Samhita, an ancient book of Ayurvedic surgery, enlists all kind of chronic diseases occuring due to Dushivisha. Skin diseases, diabetes, chronic sinusitis, heart problems, baldness, IBS, diarrhea, fevers like PUO, impotency, Dhar syndrome, Depression and mental disorders are some to mention.
Besides chronic diseases, Dushivisha can also cause acute diseases like seasonal viral fevers, bout of diarrhea, allergies, and sudden heart attacks all due to weakening of immunity and the internal organs.
Note that the above diseases are very common and mostly related lifestyle, directly or indirectly. Lifestyle includes diet, sleep, exercise, and sexual habits. Ayurveda precisely pin points ‘Food Habits’ in lifestyle as the causation of these diseases.
What are the Bad Food Habits that I should avoid?
Charak Samhita mentions a long list of Good food habits, but here we are mentioning the most relevant, the most important, and the most practical habits that you should try to cultivate. Where there is will, there is way!
Avoid Consuming food in incorrect amount :
I. Eat When Hungry and Stop Before Full.
Do not eat more than or less than required. The trick to do it is eat when hungry. Eat only so much that will palliate your hunger. Do not do binge eating or eat simply because you have nothing better to do. The point is ‘taste’ should not be the guide for the amount of food you eat. Make ‘hunger’ your guide in the matter of eating.
How to know when to stop? It is said half the stomach should be filled with food. One fourth with water. And rest one fourth with air. This is anyway common sense. In a blender the same principle works, otherwise there will be no blending or you will mess up the blender. The cut off point for eating should be just before you get a feeling of fulness. That means after eating you should feel a little hunger.
2. Eat to Live and Do not Live to Eat
Eat two major meals a day. That’s enough for the human body. Do not keep on munching. Yes, many doctors recommend frequent eating but many experts have now refuted this myth of frequent-meals per day.
Of course eating twice a day needs a little practice. But this doesn’t mean you do not eat the entire day even if you feel damn hungry. The point is two major meals. If you feel hungry in between you can take something light or may be a glass of juice or milkshake or even a smoothie. It is said one major meal is for yogis, two for humans, three for becoming diseased and four for early death.
Avoid Consuming food at inappropriate time of day or season
1. Sun Sets, Digestion Rests
Avoid eating after sunset. According to Ayurveda your body mimics the universe. So with sunset, your digestive power goes down. Since at night your digestive system shuts down or is at its minimal activity, whatever you eat either turns into fat or wasted as stool. Even modern researches show that after sunset your body goes in absorption phase and excretion phase. There is no digestion phase after sunset.
So eating after sunset demands digestion which is against the body clock. This produces stress on the organs and rather than providing energy, fatigues the body. That is why do not be surprised if next time you wake up being tired after a late night dinner.
2. Keep Summers Light and Winters Heavy
Do not eat heavy, fatty foods in summers, since fatty foods gives lot of energy and heat when metabolized in our body raising the basal body temperature. This in turn will make you feel hot and uneasy inducing excess sleep.
Also since digestion power is very low in summers, body is unable to digest heavy foods and consequently the fats gets lodged in organs and arteries causing diseases.
Similarly do not eat light foods in winters. In winters digestion power is at its peak, so eating light in winters can lead to acidity and gas problems.
3. Never Eat in Mid-Day
Never eat between 10:30 am to 1:30 pm. Although it is generally said that digestion is at its peak at midday, so one should eat at that time, but this a fallacy. Yes, the digestion power in midday is at its peak, but it is so high that any food eaten at this time will burn immediately and get wasted, just like putting food in a furnace. So food should be eaten either before 10:30am or after 1:30 pm ,or even better after 2 pm.
Avoid Consuming food at inappropriate place
1. Of All Digestive Regimes, Peace is the best
Do not eat in public place. So say no to eating at bus stations and road side food corners. The whole ethos at such places is confusing and bewildering and there is no mental peace. Better is to sit peacefully and eat with focus and a prayerful mood.
2. Eat Safe
Do not eat in a dirty place for fear of infections. Also, eating in dirty place, according to Ayurveda, is disrespecting food.
Avoid Consuming food in inappropriate way
1. Mind Your Posture
Do not eat standing or walking. Every posture effects our mind. Lying makes you feel drowsy and sleepy and so not a good posture to eat since body prepares to shut down your digestion along with all other processes. Standing and walking makes your mind alert and thus the body prepares itself for motion rather than digestion. Only in sitting posture, mind is peaceful and alert enough to digest food to its best capacity.
2. Fast Eating = Fasting
Do not eat too fast. Like when you catch on food while running to office. Eating too fast hinders the mixing of food with the digestive enzymes in saliva thereby hindering digestion. Food eaten fast therefore is not absorbed in the system and the food gets wasted as stool. The system is almost fasting when one does fast eating. And therefore, fast-eaters quickly become hungry and have to eat frequently to allay their hunger and maintain their energy levels.
3. Even Right Things in Wrong Way will Harm
Do not eat while watching television. Ayurveda says eating should be mindful. Television distracts and puts stress on our vision and mind.
4. Be Patient and Attentive
Do not eat before previous meal is digested since that will interfere with the proper digestion and assimilation of the previous meal.
5. Do not ‘Mix and Match’
Do not eat cold and hot foods simultaneously. Like fruit juice and coffee together. This is because if you first consume a hot item your digestive fire will increase, but then following it with a cold item will reduce the digestive fire and thus hinder the digestion of both items. Best is to avoid cold and hot foods together. But if in case you have to take both, then keep a gap between eating each of them. Or take the cold item first and then the hot item, for the simple reason that the digestive fire reduced by cold item will be increased by the heat of the hot item keeping digestion intact.
6. Keep Symmetry
Take liquids first, then solids. Take less hot food items first and then more hot. Take most tasty food last. Some sequence and symmetry should be maintained while eating. Some texts recommend that soft foods should be taken in the beginning and the end and semisolids and solid food in the middle. Anyway, have some sort of sequence. Mother Nature is a mathematician!
7. First Sleep, Then Food
Never sleep just after consuming food. Sleeping arrests heat in the body and interferes with digestion. Also since sleep reduces the basal metabolic rate and slows down the organ-activity, putting food in body will put stress on the body.
Similarly never exercise after food, since exercise also increases heat in the body and disturbs the bodily airs interfering with digestion. In both cases, digestion is in a compromised state. If you are tired then first sleep as much as you wish and then take food. Never do the opposite even though how much tempting it may be.
8. Eat Clean : Wash-Eat-Wash Strategy
Always wash your feet, hands, and mouth before and after food. It is hygienic and cools and freshens the mind and the body making digestion easy and complete. But if you are traveling or at work, then washing feet may be a avoided for practical reasons.
What happens if I follow above rules and avoid bad food habits?
Ashtanga Hridyam, another standard book on Ayurveda, states that consuming food in correct amounts increases digestive power. And that in turn prevents and even cures all kind of diseases and helps in increasing immunity by making digestion and absorption efficient.
Avoiding all kinds bad food habits will keep away dushivisha and keep the mind fresh, in the mode of goodness, assuring youth, energy, and freedom from all chronic and acute diseases.
Remember. Food matters. But how you consume food, matters even more!