Self care is a topic that’s come up often in massage school. We’re taught that we can’t take care of others without first taking care of ourselves, and a big component of that is proper nutrition. I was worried going in that there’d be a vegetarian bias, and I’m not sure where that came from, because actually, we’ve talked a lot about the importance of protein and healthy fat (although my idea of healthy fat differs from that of my teachers and textbooks).
But still, when one of my teachers announced that we’d have a guest lecture on nutrition from an acupuncturist, I was not looking forward to it. I resigned myself to sit through it and not argue – maybe it would be really helpful for my classmates even if it wasn’t for me. But a few minutes into her lecture, Amy the Acupuncturist started talking about insulin and I perked right up – this wouldn’t be so bad after all!
Amy described her view of nutrition as a combination of the principles of Western nutrition with Traditional Asian Medicine. I did not know this before, but diet is a big component of Traditional Asian Medicine. I’d add that her advice also followed the guidelines of intuitive eating, but I’ll get to that in a moment. Here’s a quick recap of what resonated most with me:
Eating Enough Protein
This was one of the first things Amy talked about, and the one that spoke most to my personal experience. It’s only in the past several months that I’ve been making a conscious effort to eat protein at every meal (usually meat or eggs), and I have so much more energy because of it. She was not dismissive of vegetarian diets at all (she used to be one herself) and mentioned three foods in particular she recommends to strict vegetarians: molasses, ground flax, black beans.
Kindling Foods and Briquette Foods
Kindling or briquette a way of thinking about the energy for our foods – our digestive systems are the fire, and what we eat is the fuel that keeps the fire going. Kindling foods burn quickly: things like sugar, fruit, white rice, crackers, scones, muffins, marshmallows. Briquette foods are the slow burners: protein (particularly animal protein), whole grains, nuts, beans. I would also add fats to that list.
Just after I was diagnosed with Celiac and was still new to healthy eating, I became concerned with eating local seasonal foods – I have since given up on this because certain … okay, many, foods just don’t grow in Seattle in winter. During her lecture, Amy introduced the idea of dampness – we live in a damp climate, so eating foods (raw foods and dairy, in particular) that create dampness in the body can aggravate certain conditions. And many of the foods that alleviate dampness are the ones that actually grow here during the wintertime.
Elements of Intuitive Eating
By far my favorite part of the acupuncturist’s advice was the part that aligned with the principles of intuitive eating. She mentioned several of them:
- listening to our hunger cues
- listening to what our bodies crave
- setting our forks down in between bites to thoroughly chew our food
- eating in a good frame of mind – our emotions while we eat affect how we digest our food
Amy also has several educational handouts on her website, which she’s given me permission to pass on here. Feel free to click over (after you’ve read my post!) and check them out – I thought they were very interesting.
I’ve since been in contact with Amy about my desire and struggles to cut back on sugar, and hope to visit her after the new year. She briefly mentioned during her lecture that for sugar cravings, her recommendation is meditation.
And finally, just to clarify: after I finish school and begin practicing massage, I will not be talking with clients about nutrition – my following a special diet and writing a food blog does not qualify me in the least to make dietary recommendations. It is within my scope of practice to refer clients to other healthcare professionals (like an acupuncturist), but this lecture was really for my purposes, to develop good habits in taking care of myself.