A yogic approach to nutrition

Article by
Jennifer Keegan.

Jennifer Keegan, yoga supremo and nutritional counsellor, outlines her refreshing view on nutrition. Her approach is non-prescriptive and acknowledges that we are indeed all different! As with many things in life it's a matter of finding a balance that suits your body and your current circumstances.

Learning to feel the difference between a body's real need and a craving.

Nutrition is simple. It is about eating food that works for your physical and emotional self. We are all truly individual (thank god eh?!) and different approaches suit the wonderful myriad of bodies and minds that we are as human beings.

Within all this diversity, personality type plays a major role. A relaxed person will digest and use food in a totally different way to a worrisome person for instance. A warm person needs different foods to someone who is cold all the time! An anxious person may have food intolerances and stress will mess with blood sugar and the adrenals. An addictive personality may eat for emotional fulfilment or reasons of sadness instead of for physical requirements. We have in fact very strong instincts as to what to eat just as animals do. It's just that we've forgotten how to listen to these instincts or we've overridden them in favour of feeding cravings or emotional emptiness. Learning to feel the difference between a body's real need and a craving is crucial in terms of health. 

Though as a basic example we all need some combination of fat, protein and carbohydrate. That is more or less a standard but the ratios, types and amounts are not a standard. These need to be tailored to the individual. If you want to balance your weight or your hormones say you may need to recalibrate the ratios significantly between protein, fat and carbohydrate and add certain vitamins or herbs for support. If you are menstruating you’ll need a different diet than if you are moving towards no longer menstruating or if peri menopausal symptoms are an issue. Some people do great with beans and piles of rice say and others better with meat and vegetables and very few carbs. A woman’s craving for chocolate may be a very real need for magnesium that needs to be addressed or it may simply be a sugar addiction that may also need to be addressed!

So each assessment is individual. What you inherited from your parents in terms of constitution is relevant as are the core beliefs around food which are often inherited too. Many of our grandmothers had a feel for simple culinary ideas that were very appropriate for how and where we lived. Growing your own veggies for instance or eating local unprocessed foods. But again that doesn't mean that if your mother was Italian that loads of pasta suits you personally or if your grandfather are mountains of French cheese that it works for you. It could be that niggling health problems that can be sorted by a shift in diet just don't get resolved. Plus times have changed; generally we are exposed to more pressure, stress and chemicals than our parents or our grandparents were.

Often people get genuinely frightened at the prospect of being told to cut some food item out completely. But there’s always a point of balance and moderation that can be figured out or a substitute that can soothe the sense of deprivation. So if you’ve been diagnosed with candida or flora imbalances for example or you’ve been told to give up all alcohol then that can be depressing for someone who really enjoys a simple glass every now and then. But you can substitute with very clean drinks like vodka or dry doubly fermented wines in some instances. If you re giving up sugar there are loads of treats that will help with the cravings and in time give just as much pleasure but a better kind of energy. It's about finding a way, a balance and learning the clever art of substitution to give the body and mind what it needs to feel fulfilled, healthy and happy. Life is short and at times difficult, sometimes we need comfort and the joy of nosh has existed since the beginning of time. We are only human after all.

Jennifer Keegan is a yoga teacher, nutritional counsellor and filmmaker. She does one on one tailored nutrition sessions and nutrition workshops and courses. She tries to teach people to be sensitive to their bodies' needs helping them find solutions to all kinds of health issues. She can be contacted on jenniferkyoga@gmail.com or 087 2853029 for further enquiries.

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