Welcome to Ayurveda in the Workplace, where we offer tips to help you meld the seemingly conflicting energy of your daily work life and your Ayurveda practice.
Lunch should be an enjoyable break, while we sit outside among the trees or in front of a window, blissfully eating our freshly cooked, nutritious meal as a light breeze in our face and the sound of the babbling brook nourishes our entire mind, body, and spirit.
I wish! Or, is lunch more like this:
"Hey! Did you bring your lunch or are you going out?"
"Uggghhkkk. I need to find something but I don't know what. I want something healthy but cheap and fast because I have to eat at my desk to prepare for the 1:00 meeting."
Right?! That sounds like lunch for many of us. We might even feel stressed about lunch because a) it happens in the middle of the day—how inconvenient! or b) we don't want to spend money on it, or c) we have no idea what to eat or, d) by the time lunch hits we are too hungry to make a good choice so we just shove something, anything down. Can you relate to some or all of these things? Sometimes lunchtime can feel like just one more thing we have to do, but it doesn't have to be that way.
Stemming off my "Ayurveda in the Workplace" blog series, let's talk about lunch. Ayurvedically speaking, our lunch should be made fresh and be the biggest meal of the day. But it's darn near impossible for most of us to make a fresh lunch in the middle of the day. So what do we do?! Below are some common pitfalls (no judgments!) around bringing Ayurvedic principles into our lunches as we live and work:
- Put the salad down. Salads are popular because they don't have to be heated, they stay pretty fresh all day, and they are easily carried around. Plus, veggies! Unfortunately, salads are not the best choice from an Ayurvedic perspective because they are cold, light, rough, and can be hard for many people to digest. They can be okay in summer time for some people but overall they don't give enough staying power for anyone and by 3:00 we'll be sniffing around for cookies or chocolate.
- Not eating enough food. Our agni (digestive fire) at noon is the strongest it will be all day and it's looking for fuel. If we don't give it enough fuel at lunch, we will be starving by afternoon, which encourages cravings and extra snacking. Cue the cookies and chocolate.
- Eating on the go. When our mind is not on our food, the food will not be digested properly because the mind is doing something else. So the food sits there in a blob as our digestive system waits for the mind to tell it what to do. That is not the way to use food as energy or nourishment, so we need to keep the connection between mind and meals.
- Not chewing well. When eating on the go, we are likely not chewing very well either. *Gulp gulp* as whole pieces of bread go down. Yikes! The only place we have teeth is in our mouths (in case you didn't know) and otherwise the food goes down whole making it super hard on our innards to break it down. Let's be kind to our innards.
- Starvation. Because we have been on the go all morning long, we might be starving by lunch. When we get to the point of starving, our wisdom of good choice making gets clouded, and instead of making a wise decision, we make a fast one. This could mean fast foods or just grabbing a snack bag of Oreos from the vending machine just to get us through the next meeting.
Make Lunch Awesome:
- Choose warm, nourishing foods. If possible, lunch should be warm, full of vegetables, delicious spices and flavors, and balanced by what your dosha needs.
- Make lunch the biggest meal. Having a big lunch is important because the sun, pitta energy (element of fire, energy of transformation!), and our agni (digestive fire), are all in alignment. This means big, lots o' fire to digest big, lots o' food! Our digestive fire is the strongest it will be all day long and it's looking for a big meal to work on. If we wait to have our biggest meal at dinner, there is no fire left in nature or in us, so the food sits like a big blob in our bellies until the next day. That is no bueno.
- Plan ahead. When you make your dinner at home, make a bunch of it. Eat a little for dinner and bring the rest for lunch the next day! This solves every one of your lunch problems. You will save money each day, which can be used for way better things like new yoga clothes, a spicy haircut, a donation to your favorite charity, or the guilty pleasure of putting racing stripes on your Mini Cooper.
- Try really hard not to eat at your desk. Multi-tasking and eating do not mix because we confuse our minds. "Am I eating food? Or am I typing? Or am I talking?" says the mind. The focus needs to be on the food so we can taste it, chew it well, and begin the digestive process healthfully (digestion starts in the mouth!). At the very least, step away from your desk and go into a conference room. Play your favorite Pandora or Spotify station to create a nice ambiance.
- Bonus points if you can take a leisurely 15-minute walk outside after lunch. It helps the digestive process and keeps our mind nourished. This is not a power walk, it's a stroll.
Try incorporating a few of these things, the biggest being: bring your lunch. Even if the lunch is not necessarily "Ayurvedic," the fact that you won't have to a) worry about finding lunch, or b) feel bad about spending money on it, or c) run out of time for it, or d) spin in circles until you are starving, will go a long way in how you feel each day! Go try some of these tips and begin to make it awesome!
We welcome your awesome lunch stories in the comments section so let us know how changing your lunch begins to change your life.