What we put in our belly can have a huge effect of the happiness of our belly and our body! Take a minute to think about how you feel when you eat various foods… not just how they taste but how you feel after you eat them. How did your belly/body/mind feel?
Ayurveda has a theory that there are six tastes and a complete meal will have all six tastes.
The six tastes are bitter, astringent, salty, sweet, sour and pungent. You can learn more about determining your constitution and cooking with the six tastes here. For those of you that like to cook, I also use and recommend the cookbook Eat, Taste, Heal. Thai Medicine has a similar concept, incorporating nine tastes. (If you are interested in learning more about the Thai approach, I recommend the book A Thai Herbal.) To help find physical and mental balance, both schools of thought advocate incorporating more of one taste or another depending on your constitution (your natural state of balance).
When I was first learning Ayurveda and Thai Medicine, I found using these tastes to be a good recipe to figure what really worked for me and what didn’t. This helped me balance my eating habits in a new way, eating things I never thought I would like but that made me feel really good. For instance, my Ayurvedic constitution is Pitta/Kapha. Bitter foods are recommended for me. The only way I knew anything was bitter, was that I didn’t like it. Super-taster, I am not! But, I continued to eat bitter foods, mostly in the form of cooked bitter greens. And, you know what, I felt fantastic whenever I ate them. They are now one of my favorite foods. I can eat all the cake I like and the flavor is wonderful, but it does not leave me feeling good like bitter greens do. Exploring these theories gave me a chance to broaden my food horizons.
It’s not just what you eat, but also how you eat it. Over-eating leaves us feeling bloated and uncomfortable. Under-eating leaves us feeling weak and malnourished. Eating quickly tends to lead to over-eating. Eating under stress leads us to not absorb as many nutrients as we could.
How to do an eating meditation for a happy belly:
There is a wonderful, yogic way to explore how your eating habits may be affecting you – meditation. Making mealtime conscious and practicing an eating meditation will make you more aware of the affect your food choices and habits have on your systems.
To do a conscious eating meditation, prepare a meal taking into account the six or nine tastes. Eat your meal in silence. Notice the look, the smells, the sound of your food. Take a bite and notice how it feels in your mouth, what it tastes like. Chew your food COMPLETELY before swallowing. Stop eating when you feel full. Sit in meditation after your meal and observe the state of your body and mind as your belly digests.
This is a simple practice that will change your relationship to your food and ensure you are eating for a happy belly. And a happy belly leads to a happy body and mind!