Healthy Minds Canada “Bright Futures” Conference: Food and Health

On August 19, 2016, I had the privilege of being a panelist at the Healthy Minds Canada “Bright Futures Conference”.

Over 110 people joined us to hear from over 30 panelists (experts, those who are living in recovery, and those who wear both hats!) share their stories of experience, knowledge, and insight regarding all things recovery.

They were also treated to a welcome greeting from Madame Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, Canada’s Prime Minister’s wife,  and a key note talk by Toronto’s City TV’s Tammie Sutherland.

My panel was talking about food and health and that old adage, “we are what we eat”certainly rings true. A few years ago, I was working between 12-15 hours a day. I would often forgo making a healthy meal because I “didn’t have the time” and  would hit drive-thrus. After a few months of this, not only did I pack on about 15 lbs but I noticed I did’t feel very well. I couldn’t concentrate, my moods were unpredictable, and my temper was short. I realized I had to make some changes because not only was I unhappy, but others around me were being affected by my behaviour. I started to take stock of what I ate and how it made me feel. I noticed if I cut back on the coffee, yes, cut back not cut off because that wasn’t in the cards for me at the time, and reduced the amount of processed food I ate, I felt better immediately. I also started to wean myself off my favourite soda because that, in combination with my favourite drive through chicken sandwich, seemed to have a negative impact on my mood.

Eventually, I found my way to Ayurveda and to say incorporating some of this sister science to yoga’s practises has been life-changing is an understatement.

In Ayurveda, we like each meal to consist of six tastes:

Sweet

Builds tissues, calms nerves

Fruit, grains, natural sugars, milk

Sour

Cleanses tissues, increases absorption of minerals

Sour fruits, yogurt, fermented foods

Salty

Improves taste to food, lubricates tissues, stimulates digestion

Natural salts, sea vegetables

Bitter

Detoxifies and lightens tissues

Dark leafy greens, herbs and spices

Pungent

Stimulates digestion and metabolism

Chili peppers, garlic, herbs and spices

Astringent

Absorbs water, tightens tissues, dries fats

Legumes, raw fruits and vegetables, herbs

By incorporating these tastes into each meal we are creating balance in our systems which helps alleviate some of the symptoms of eating a diet of made up primarily of one source or taste.

We also like to consider the following when preparing and enjoying our meals:

How was it sourced? Local and fresh is always best

Is the farm organic and if you are eating meat, were the animals raised humanely?

What is the atmosphere in which the food is prepared? Are you calm? Are you enjoying the act of preparing the food?

Are you able to enjoy your food with another person?

Are the devices turned off or in another space? Is the TV off?

Are you able to sit down?

Take a moment to express gratitude for the bounty on your table.

All of this might seem rather daunting but, truly, baby steps is the way to success. Perhaps pick one or two of these thoughts and try them for week, and then, when you’re ready, pick another and keep building on your foundation. Go for the 80/20 rule. Ok, start with 60/40 and work your way up. Your body, mind and spirit will thank you!

As Virginia Wolfe once wrote, “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.”

May you think well, love well and sleep well.

Bon appetit!

Pam