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January 21, 2021
Welcome to Season one of my self-care series, where we learn to hit pause and take care of ourselves. As I stated in my blog post last week, self-care is so much more than just getting your nails done or taking the time to read a good book. Its a whole new mindset, and a lot of work physically, mentally, emotionally, and environmentally.
That's why I started this series, mainly for myself due to my anxiety and depression issues. In this process, I will experiment and document what things work and what things don't work for me, but might work for someone else. If you are reading this right now, I am so excited. I am so grateful. And I am so touched. If you choose to try this self care series with me, or even just pick up little things here and there from my research, I am even more ecstatic.
I chose season one to be physical self care, because those are the easiest things we can change, and may even see instant results. It's a great start for self care, before we get into the bigger things like trying to control our thoughts, emotions, or the things around us.
When we are trying to heal, or make ourselves a better person, we work from the outside in and also from the inside out. Food does just that. It is a product of the outside, ingested into our body, and then works to heal our insides as well as showing up on our skin, hair, energy levels, etc. Food is an amazing gift.
We have such a variety of food, each with different affects on our body. If you didn't already know, I've been living in Taiwan for six years now, and my experience of living here has definitely influenced the way I eat and view food. The people of Taiwan infiltrate the practice of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) in many aspects of their everyday life. After doing a ton of research on TCM and food, I practiced what I learned for a week. Here's what I found.
I'm not going to get into certain special "diets" because I don't believe in them. I've seen many people around me start a new diet all the time, are successful at loosing weight for maybe the first few days, plateau and then give up, only to gain the weight back, and even then some. This self care series is not going to be about losing weight. This food episode is going to be about eating the right food at the right time so that we can take care of our bodies like the precious machine that it is. Once our bodies are functioning at it's optimized state, we feel happy, are more likely to make wiser food choices, and never feel deprived.
I'm going to start with the most basic and then work my way down to more complicated. First of all, I learned that I should be eating at the same time every day.
We were designed that way. If we eat at the same time every day, our vital organs can prepare for the work ahead. For example, our stomach will be ready, our intestines will function more efficiently, our liver, spleen, everything will function in a timely and organized manner. On the other hand, if we eat sporadically, it's like we are saying to our organs "I know you thought you were resting right now, but... SURPRISE you get to digest this snack and then some other random foods in 15 minutes."
Have you ever been resting, thinking you have already done everything you need for the day and can finally relax when someone rings your doorbell and invites themself in? You probably let them in, but I'm pretty sure you weren't 100% happy about it. But if you knew ahead of time and was in the habit having this person in, you wouldn't think twice about going to the door. Our body is the same way.
As a child growing up, I didn't really like mealtimes. I had hypersensitivity and hated most textures of food, especially fruits and vegetables. Dinner time always scared the heck out of me because I never knew if my mom was going to make me eat veggies or not. I also can legitimately not ever remember feeling hungry. Either I just simply never got hungry or I was snacking all the time.
I loved snacks. I could easily skip lunch or dinner and not even care. That mindset sort of grew up with me. My mom was never a breakfast eater, and lunch was also something that could be satisfied with a couple snacks to ward off the hunger until dinner.
Many people also do this to save the extra calories for dinner, as a way of losing weight. However, many studies have shown that this method doesn't work, because if your body feels like you haven't had enough to eat that day, it is going to crave and take in more calories than you should for dinner, often gravitating towards calorie dense, unhealthy foods high in fat, salt, and sugar. We can't help it, it's just our bodies trying to survive.
As I'm writing this, I just thought of a funny story that I'd like to share with you.
My husband is Taiwanese, and the week before our wedding, we all lived together in a big rented house. My family (who speaks no Chinese) spent four days with Jerry's family (who speaks no English). Our families cooked together, drank tea together, and used the translation machine and laughed together. It really was quite a sight.
After seeing them together, I can now look back humorously at some of the major culture differences. On the day that Jerry and I took my nieces to Disney, we left the four of them and my grandfather alone to fend for themselves. At least they had the translating machine. When we came home that night, my mother in law was already asleep.
The next morning, the first thing she said to me was "Alix, your parents don't eat lunch?"
"What do you mean?" I say.
"We didn't have lunch yesterday!" she said concerned.
"Mom, did you not give them lunch yesterday?" I turned to my mom to ask. "We had a later breakfast, and it was pretty big. When lunch time came around, I asked them if they were hungry and they said no."
How would you respond if you were in this situation? I turned back to my mother in law,
"She said you said you weren't hungry."
"Well, we weren't, but I thought we at least were going to have some noodles."
At that time, I didn't really understand the whole situation, and talked to my family a little more about it. Thankfully both of our families are very easy going, so we just laughed about it and moved on. Besides, I had a wedding to plan and get ready for. I actually didn't think about it again until just now. Now I understand. According to TCM, you really shouldn't skip meals. If your not hungry, you should still eat a little something.
Here's the overall concept of how I've been eating this week, sorry the picture is in Chinese.. Basically the top is breakfast, the middle is lunch and the bottom is dinner:
7:30-9:00 --- Breakfast. The best time is 30 minutes after you wake up. This time is when your blood rushes to your stomach, so the stomach accepts the food the easiest.
Chinese medicine also talks about something called jingmai, which is the same channels they use for acupuncture. Simply put, at this time in the morning, the jingmai goes through the spleen. The spleen in turn takes the nutrients from your food and processes it into qi, and puts qi into the bloodstream and carries it to your vital organs.
So if we eat a good breakfast high in calories we don't have to worry about gaining weight because the food won't just sit there, it gets put to work. A typical breakfast may include toasted egg sandwich with meat, yogurt, and coffee with milk.
The spleen also has a connection with brain function, so having a good breakfast is essential for having a clear head throughout the day. Skipping breakfast will result in our stomach secreting excess gastric acid, resulting in a higher chance of ulcers, gastritis (inflimation) etc.
11:00-1:00 ----- Lunch. During this time, your qi and blood runs to the heart and small intestines. At this time, the digestive system can easily absorb the nutrients in food. In the picture above, lunch is the middle meal. TCM recommends lunch time to be a balanced meal of starches, proteins, vegetables and fats.
5:00 - 7:00 ------ Dinner. If you've followed the plan of a big breakfast and a balanced lunch, you most likely are not ravenous at this time. This time of the day is when the spleen starts to go down, and your organs start to rest as well.
Since your organs need to prepare to rest, it is best not to eat anything heavy, too salty, spicy, or oily. A light meal of fibrous vegetables, light proteins like tofu and fish, and a little starch like rice is a perfect meal to fill your stomach and treat your body with care. Eating four hours or later before bed is not recommended. If you are afraid you will be hungry before bed and wont be able to sleep, drink some warm milk at around 8:00pm.
11:00pm- 1:00am ---- This time is the most important time for your body to rest. We should try our best not eat at this time because it's when our jingmai goes through the gallbladder. If we are not sleeping at this time, the gallbladder doesn't get the rest it needs, resulting in fatigue the next day.
Every morning now when I wake up and drink coffee from my Mora mug, I journal my thoughts on how I'm feeling, my hunger level, and my to do list. The first day I woke up extra early, 6:00 and was so hungry. I exercised the night before after my dinner, so I think that is why I woke up so early.
In the past, I would maybe skip dinner and have a snack instead, workout, and then have another snack. I think that pattern made it harder for me to sleep good at night. But now, honestly I am sleeping better. I look forward to each and every meal, especially breakfast. I am hungry for my meals. My brain is clearer. I don't skip meals anymore, and I think I have more energy. I haven't gained or lost any weight. I feel like my metabolism is on cloud nine. I'm not as tired in the mornings. I like the feeling of this, and I will continue to eat like this.
Do you eat at regular times? What are your thoughts on this topic? Comment and let me know.
I love you all.
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