Connecting with food... through hands
Ever since I learned about Ayurveda, healing at the Manaltheeram Ayurveda Resort in India, I’ve been gradually adopting it into my life more and more. Why? Because it’s the only thing that works for me.
I’ve been able to lose a lot of weight and more importantly, cure my incurable-by-Western-doctors skin problems (the main reason I sought out Ayurveda to begin with). Last week, I was visiting family friends. Their daughter, who I never met, was trying to guess my age. She guessed that I was 21 (10 years younger than I am!) specifically because of how good my skin was. I wanted to cry - my skin was not this good when I was actually 21!
But those are just the side effects. I feel leveled, clear-headed, energized, creative, in-sync. So the more I read, the more I try to experiment with the suggestions, no matter how weird they are… Just a few weeks ago, I tried doing self oil massage and now I can’t live without it!
One of the big things I keep hearing and reading over and over again is on being mindful when eating. Even back when I was at the Manaltheeram Ayurveda Resort over a year ago, they told me to not read or watch TV while eating.
The problem is that I’ve always been watching TV or reading while eating before, and it seems impossible for me to break that habit. It’s boring to eat! I need entertainment! Watching TV is the perfect activity while eating - you’re not doing anything important, like working! So it’s guilt free.
But a few days ago, something interesting happened and a solution presented itself (I love when that happens!).
I switched to cooking with ghee (a special healthy Indian butter) vs olive oil after reading about how amazing ghee is over and over and over again in Ayurveda Lifestyle Wisdom:
“Ayurveda followers continue to enjoy ghee in moderate quantities, and while they do, they often experience weight loss, lowered cholesterol, healthy digestion, lubricated skin and hair, lubricated joints, and soft, well-formed stools.”
“Fat helps digest proteins, carbohydrates, minerals, and all other nutritional components of food. According to Ayurveda, of all fats, ghee best contributes to the healthy functioning of agni, immunity (oja), strength (bala), the balance of our all-important kapha dosha, and the integrity of our body tissues.”
“Ghee directly improves eyesight, memory, and the feel and texture of skin. It is a great antiwrinkle agent when it is consumed internally or massaged externally.”
With olive oil, I would just pour the olive oil into the pan - so clean! But ghee is in a semi-solid butter. So when I fill up a teaspoon or tablespoon with it, I have to use my hands to get it out of the spoon. My hands get stuck with the ghee, which is hard to wash off.
So one day, when this happened, instead of washing it off, I realized that ghee could be used for oil massages, so I just massaged it into my hand instead! It felt great as a lotion!
Earlier that morning, I made my own natural “soap” out of mung bean flour and turmeric powder. As the wisdom goes, don’t put anything on your skin you wouldn’t put in your mouth!
The barrier between what is food and what is a skin ointment was being broken. This connection made me realize that the best way to connect with my food is to eat with my hands!
Funny enough, that is exactly what everyone in India already does. I even read this advice in another Ayurveda book:
“When feasible, eat with your hands so that your skin can send temperature and texture cues to your brain.” ~ Prakriti: Your Ayurvedic Constitution
But when I first visited India, and saw that everyone was eating with their hands, I was disgusted and fascinated at the same time. What kind of barbarian culture is this?!! Have they not discovered forks and spoons yet?!!
I try to blend in and follow the culture everywhere I go, but eating with my hands was a MASSIVE barrier in my brain, even though it was fascinating to watch my friend do it so easily and naturally. I just couldn’t handle getting my hands dirty with mushy food…
After a few more visits, I kept trying. My friend taught me how to pick up the mushy stuff with roti or naan, so I wouldn’t have to touch the mushy food directly. Finally, on my last visit to India, I went to my friends Indian wedding, where we had to, once again, eat with hands. There were many of us there, so it became a lesson on how to eat properly (make a little shovel and pick it up!). That time, I was able to finally let go and enjoy the process!
But it was really the normalizing using food items as skin care products that finally allowed me to understand how important it is to eat with my hands! I tried it and the results were incredible.
It’s super fun, interesting, different for me, so I don’t need TV or reading as entertainment. I have to really pay attention to what I’m doing - otherwise the food will get onto my clothes!
I also realized that before, I used to eat my food when it was way too hot. This is one of my favorite things about quinoa - it stays very hot! That is not exactly good for you - it burns your tongue and throat, and more importantly, prevents you from chewing well (since it’s still so hot!). Since I have to pick up my food with hands now, I can’t eat it too hot. I have to wait, take my time with it. Be mindful by default.
I feel so connected with my food now! I really pay attention to what I’m eating and how it tastes. An impossible task for me before, despite knowing the importance of it! Eating has been elevated to a spirtual experience instead of just another boring task I can’t get through without Netflix. Thank you hands!