How Traditional Chinese Medicine Can Transform Your Eating Habits

Tips and tricks based on the ancient mindset that can really help cultivate a healthier you.

April 26, 2016 | By Ka Hang Leoungk

For people living in a big city, the lifestyle can easily wear you down – it’s actually a more concentrated area where urban dwellers feel, on average, 30% more stressed than their countryside cousins. Busy schedules with work, social and home life battle in our calendars, and although we all know eating properly and exercising your body and mind are important, these are normally the first elements to be sacrificed in the busy rush.

To overcome these negatives, some mindful eating tips based on Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) can really make a difference in the relationship you cultivate with food. Sometimes it seems that when it comes to eating, we are more interested in listing the things we can’t eat than the idea of balance, but a lot can be learnt from Traditional Chinese Medicine to get the idea of mindful eating right.

Traditional Chinese Medicine relies on a constant flow of change, an ebb and tide to maintain a good balance inside your body. The primary guide of TCM is the concept of yin yang – yin being ‘darkness’ and yang ‘brightness’, which expresses how opposite forces are often complementary, interconnected and work together to achieve harmony.  

Therefore in Traditional Chinese Medicine if it’s a deficiency syndrome, we increase the energy in your system, just as if you have an excess condition we aim to reduce it. However, once you’ve reached the balance again, continuing the exact same treatment means we’ll tip on the scale again and you may end up with a deficiency after too much reducing method for too long.

The same goes for mindful eating, where the emphasis is on balance rather than deprivation. This makes it different from traditional diets, most of which are based on avoidance and deprivation techniques, mostly banning things we see as ‘treats’. This can be good in a short time period, but has the negative effect of making something banned seem desirable, which is why so many fad diets fail.

Mindful eating does the opposite by not making food an adversary that you need to avoid. Eating mindfully involves really paying attention to your food and how you are eating it. It’s not about giving anything up – rather emphasizes taking time to experience food more intensely, whether its chocolate pudding or kale, which in turn benefits your whole system.

So how do you incorporate mindful eating into your life? Well, the main idea is to make your food the main focus of the moment. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, eating ‘on the go’, or eating while thinking or worrying damages the organs’ functions – so try sitting down to eat at a table (not your work desk), but if not you could also easily stand against the kitchen counter. Proper 'formalized' meals are also a good idea, as they promote interaction with others or give you the time to focus on the meal. 

Radio silence whilst eating is, of course, a little extreme, but make sure you are taking the time to concentrate on what you are putting in your mouth and eat it slowly enough so you are really aware of the food going into your body.

Using these small tips and tricks, you could really cultivate a healthier, more mindful relationship with food, whilst making sure you don’t deprive yourself of any so-called ‘naughty’ foods you love. Just remember – it’s all about the balance!

Read next: The Suprising Stress-Busting Foods You Should Be Eating.