Do you ever have stomach issues and it had nothing to do with your food? Do you feel like you don’t even appreciate your meals, it’s just a waste of time? Or are you looking to have healthy eating habits to feel amazing after a meal?
Well, when I traveled through Asia, I ate in temples in several countries. But here, I am going to focus on sharing about the healthy eating habits that I learned while staying in the Five Immortals Temple.
Having these healthy habits in a temple is quite natural, because we had our daily ritual for this moment. After long hours of training, when we were finally called to come eat, we would get in line to each grab our metal bowl and pair of chopsticks to then pour some rice or noodles in it. We would then go to one of the tables and wait till everyone was sitting as well. Before touching any of the bowls of veggies and tofu on the table, we started with a little mantra…
1. Be grateful mantra
Let’s start with this simple but very important healthy eating habit. By the way, you don’t need to be religious or spiritual for that matter. It’s simply about saying a little mantra or prayer that you chose or just putting your intention on being grateful for the amazing opportunity to have a meal to eat!
At the temple, we had a food mantra in Chinese that we would all say before digging in! Yes, I didn’t know what I was saying exactly and even when I did learn the significance of the words, I didn’t fully grasp everything. But that wasn’t important, what was, was my intention that I put into my food. Let me explain with my experience in Japan…
The meaning of Itadakimasu
While I was there, everyone would say “Itadakimasu” before eating. Literally, it means “I will humbly accept it”. But it actually means so much more. With just one word, they are saying how grateful they are for the farmers, the hunters or fishermen, those who prepared the food, the meal itself and whoever else was involved in bringing this meal to your table.
Don’t complain, be grateful
When I was in the temple in China, one of the rules was don’t speak badly about the food we are eating. Also, we weren’t allowed to be selective either. Besides for food sensitivities or allergies, we needed to take a little bit of everything. We couldn’t just grab our favorite dish and not leave any for the others.
So instead of complaining about the food in front of you, because you wanted to have pizza instead of tortillas or instead of not paying any attention to it, be grateful!
Indeed, when you have to carry all the weight of huge cabbages and blocks of tofu on your back and climb up the mountain with all of it, you start to appreciate a lot more your food! During those times, I missed having a grocery store close by…
So remember to take this time to self-reflect, to see how fortunate you are to have this food in front of you. It took hard work to get this meal to you, by those who grew your food, cleaned it, then brought it to the store, you went to buy it and then took time to prepare and cook it. The gratitude you will feel will transform this simple, maybe boring moment into a true blessing that you are receiving nutrition to help your body be healthy, vibrant and alive!
2. Eat in silence
I would pay so much more attention to how my food tasted when I stopped talking all the time.
Have you ever completely lost your appetite after a difficult discussion? Or you’re eating and all of sudden someone starts criticizing you and you feel a knot in your stomach, next thing you know you have heartburn?
If you’re eating right after or during an emotional discussion, it will be difficult for you to digest your food correctly. So, what about waiting after you’re finished eating to exchange?
I absolutely understand if this is difficult, since we are accustomed to have social interactions during our meals. And outside of the temple, staying silent is very difficult for me because I looove to talk! But I tried to make efforts when I was at the temple, outside of the fact that silence was part of the eating habit rules.
Eating can be a meditation
Eating in silence permits you to pay attention to your food, the taste and the smells. You will be much more present to this moment. Eating is like meditation. But if you’re always talking and barely chewing your food, then you won’t be present and will never enjoy what you already have. This is a point that can affect many parts of your life. Use this as practice to appreciate everything.
If you want to learn to meditate without food, click here to read all about how to meditate like a powerful taoist master!
The health benefits of chewing
Being silent and actually focusing on chewing permits you to digest better! This is because the process of chewing will help you to absorb a maximum amount of nutrients from your food. Your salivary glands need this process to create your saliva which in turn will dissolve your food . Therefore, without chewing properly, you won’t absorb the sufficient nutrition that your body needs, so you may also feel heavy and tired after eating.
3. Eat with chopsticks
Eating with chopsticks is actually healthier for you than eating with a fork and knife! Yes, it might seem weird at first, but you will soon understand why.
When you use chopsticks, you will naturally eat more slowly, since you can’t take as much food at once compared to when you use your usual forks and knives. Why is this important? Well, since your body takes around 20 minutes to feel full, you will therefore be more likely to eat what your body actually needs and not overeat. Personally, I really don’t like that feeling of being overstuffed and it’s not healthy either.
The mindfulness of chopsticks
On a more mindful approach, as we saw earlier, eating more slowly helps us to be more aware of what we are eating and we can enjoy it so much more.
It also takes more concentration to eat with your chopsticks, especially when you didn’t grow up with them, so you are more easily present to this moment. Think about it, if you are aware of each movement you make with your chopsticks, it’s again a form of meditation. By poking into your food while looking at your phone and simply swallowing food down that you don’t even take the time to taste, you have completely disconnected to what is happening right now.
Start with the basics
When I first tried eating with chopsticks, it was a disaster! I was at a Japanese restaurant with some friends and we were eating ramen noodles with chopsticks. The noodles kept slipping right back into my bowl! When everyone was finished, I still hadn’t eaten half of my meal. What helped me to finally be able to easily eat with them before I even went traveling through Asia? I used those practicing chopsticks for kids for a while…They kind of looked like these below.
4. Don’t waste any food
This healthy eating habit from the temple is definitely going to feel strange, but it taught me a lot. While I was at the temple, when we were finished eating, we would always pour hot water into our bowls and drink what was left. This was to make sure to not waste any food at all and leave our bowl without any leftovers. Not a single grain of rice was allowed to be wasted!
Food is truly precious and we are so used to getting it easily, that we don’t realize how fortunate we are to have easy access to it. Again, when you have to go down a mountain and climb back up with a very heavy bag on your back for several hours, you make sure that every piece of food counts! Gratitude is everythingl!
5. Choose natural and fresh foods
Everything we ate came from the temple’s garden or from the villagers down the mountain with their variety of vegetables, rice, noodles and tofu.
This was very important for us to have a daily healthy diet. We were training in martial arts for so many hours each day, our bodies needed the nutrition. If we had been eating a bunch of processed foods, we wouldn’t have been able to train like we did.
You are what you eat
If you don’t get proper nutrition from your food, you will get sick more easily or your brain won’t be able to focus on your work.
Looking to eat healthy most of the time may seem complicated with all the information out there that keeps contradicting each other. But just start with limiting processed foods, cook your own meal, eat natural and fresh foods that are alive, these will already bring you so much more energy and health!
“If one eats lots of sprouts, fruit, and whatever vegetables that can be eaten in a live condition, if you bring at least thirty to forty percent live food into your diet, it will sustain the life within you very well.” – Sadhguru
Find balance with healthy eating
Enjoy a healthy meal to give you energy on a daily basis. But don’t cause yourself unnecessary stress. Let yourself also enjoy treats from time to time. Just really appreciate them and don’t gobble them down. When we were training for hours in the cold, we really felt like we needed something extra. So if anyone went to the city, they had better bring peanut butter back with them. It definitely was the comfort food that we needed occasionally and it was a good balance.
Start those healthy eating habits!
If you want to have more healthy eating habits like we find in temples, mainly remember to be more conscious about what you’re eating and how you’re eating it. Be grateful for those who grew the food, who brought it to you and who made it!
What are your healthy eating habits? Share them in the comments!