About Lynn

lynn jaffeeLynn Jaffee is a licensed acupuncturist and the author of the book, Simple Steps: The Chinese Way to Better Health, a clear and concise explanation of Chinese medicine for the lay person. She is co-author of the book, The BodyWise Woman, a personal health manual for physically active women and girls. Read more about Lynn...

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Eat to Feed Your Heart

The Chinese view food as medicine that you get to eat three times a day.  Food can nourish, heal, and give you energy.

Simple, right?  Well, maybe not so simple if you are trying to lose weight, maintain your weight, cut out carbs, ditch the fats, or restrict your diet in ways that are unhealthy.  If this is the case, then for you food may feel a little bit like the enemy.

My initial topic for this post was truths about weight loss.  However, as I began writing, I realized that the greatest truth is this:  How you approach food and eating is a mirror to how you approach life.

In the clinic, I see busy professional women who only have time for a quick bite on the run, often from the nearest fast food place and eaten in the car or standing up.  I see people who are depressed and unhappy eating out of control as a way to fill the void in their lives.  I also see joyless clients who restrict their diets to within an inch of their lives—no carbs, no fats, no sugar, no this, no that.

Food is medicine that you get to eat three times a day.  It also feeds your soul.  In Chinese medicine, your heart is the home to your Shen, which is the mind, memory, consciousness, and spirit.  While these activities are attributed to your brain in Western medicine, we intuitively know that your heart is also an organ of feeling and spirituality.  In fact much of our language about the heart refers to it as an organ of feeling.  Terms such as someone “tugging on your heartstrings,” “knowing things in your heart”, or having a “broken heart” are speaking to an emotional and spiritual organ.

So what about eating to feed your heart and soul?

  • As the home to your soul, your Chinese heart is all about connection—to the divine (however you perceive it), to yourself, and to loved ones.  Sitting down and sharing a meal with people that you love is heart-nourishing.
  • Preparing a meal with love honors your heart.  It’s not about the ingredients, but the preparation.  However, choosing tasty recipes and fresh ingredients are also part of the process.
  • Eat out hunger, celebration, love, or sharing, not boredom or stress.
  • Be thankful for the food you’re eating and the company you’re eating with.  Remember food is nourishing and life-sustaining—not your enemy.
  • While ingredients are secondary to feeding your heart, there are foods that are not life-sustaining.  These are “dead” foods that have been overly processed and contain chemicals that you body doesn’t recognize as nutrients.  Avoid them like the plague.
  • In Chinese medicine, the color red is associated with your heart.  Red wine and cooked tomatoes have been shown to benefit the physical heart.  Also good are berries, red peppers, and apples.
  • Celebrating the seasons through food is also heart nourishing.  The freshest foods of summer eaten outdoors or a sitting down to a hearty winter stew by a crackling fire are ways of connecting with food, loved ones, and creation.
  • Finally, the emotion related to your Chinese heart is joy.  If you eat with joy, you will live your life with joy.

3 comments to Eat to Feed Your Heart

  • Hopi Wilder

    I really like the emphasis on nourishing yourself on a deep level in your post. I feel that there is a lot of cross-fertilization possible between the acupuncture and the psychology field. I have found in my TCM acupuncture training, however, that there is not much support for people’s emotional growth. I think that this part of the medicine is missing, mainly because of the Maoist revolutions effect on the medicine. When Food is Love by Geneen Roth is an extremely helpful book on understanding the psychological reasons for why we eat unhealthily. I also found Peter Holme’s L.Ac. of Snow Lotus Essential Oils to be an amazing teacher of the categorization of emotional problems and shen disturbances and the best way to treat them. The essential oils are categorized in terms of their differential diagnostic capabilities. Using a diffuser with them directly effects the brain and can quickly effect our moods and consequently how we choose to nourish ourselves.

  • Lynn Jaffee

    Yes, sometimes I feel like I’m flying by the seat of my pants when treating people with complicated emotional conditions, but it sounds like we’re on the same page. I read Geneen Roth’s book not long ago, and recommend it for anyone who struggles with eating and food issues. Also, I heard Peter Holmes speak this past spring, and since then have been incorporating his essential oils into my treatments. It’s been a good addition to my practice–and my patients really like it, too.

  • Thanks for that. I was trying to find a hearty stew recipe to help me get through the winter time, and this sounds perfect. I found a whole stew recipes site here too that seems to have tons of good stuff, maybe you can get some more inspiration there. Anyway, thanks again, I will bookmark and read more another time 😉