The New Year prompts many of us to rethink our diets, eat healthier, and lose weight. We forget that January is still winter, a time of hibernation, heartier meals, and rest and relaxation. Choosing good-for-you food over junk is ALWAYS recommended. Chinese medicine practitioners would have you think twice, however, before jumping into the latest grapefruit or raw turnip diet as it could foil your weight-loss plans.
First, picture your digestive system as gas stove that likes to make soup. There’s the burner and flame (representing your basic metabolism which is dependent on several organs in Chinese medicine), the pot itself (your stomach), and then there’s what you put in the pot (your dinner). The strength and efficiency of your flame is dependent on your constitution and general health. Imagine that your stove has a relatively healthy, strong, steady flame going. Your pot is good and warm and you put in some nice roasted vegetables and warm broth for a soup. The stove will continue to work at a relatively efficient level to cook that soup for you. Now imagine that you put raw vegetables and ice water in your pot. Not only will you shock the pot you’ve worked to keep warm, but the whole system will have to work harder and longer to make that same soup. This puts you in an energy deficit and your efficiency plummets. Instead of gaining energy and nutrition from your meal, you have spent quite a bit preparing it leaving you tired and lethargic. You are especially vulnerable in the winter as your body attempts to save energy and stay warm.
You may have heard that eating cold foods and drinking ice water helps you lose weight because it increases your metabolism as your system works harder. Eastern dietary therapy does not view the process this way. These cold and raw foods impair your digestive organs (as explained above), which can lead to what we call Dampness. What is Dampness? Excess water weight, phlegm, and fat. Not very conducive to losing weight, right? Furthermore, expending this extra energy makes exercise and other daily activities harder and more tiring, mental processes slow, and mood changes ensue (for the worse, by the way).
I LOVE that January brings about excitement for healthier lifestyles and diet makeovers. I urge you, however, to think about the health of your digestive system first and foremost before jumping into anything too extreme. A healthy (and efficient) digestive system begets a healthy body. And if you are just dying to get on the raw diet kick, wait until spring when your body is naturally craving lighter and cooler foods. Until then, start falling in love with soups, roasted veggies, and warm whole grains. Your inner stove will thank you.