We explore what food energetics really are and what they mean to us and planet with Nena Foster.
Those of us engendered to a Western way of eating will be used to thinking about food in terms of individual nutrients, fats, proteins and the rest. Eastern perspectives on food are, on the other hand, are focused on how the human body reacts to food and how those foods make us feel. Warming foods, cooling foods, and foods that nourish your liver, kidneys or heart—all foods have distinctive energies when eaten help to balance the body or throw things off track, according to the principles of Food Energetics, a practice rooted in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). I admit, there is something quite refreshing about being able to view food not in terms of its chemical composition but by observing it effects my body, does it give me energy or make me feel sluggish? And using this sentiment to guide food my choices is one dietary change that I hope to make this year.
From keto-diets to veganism, there are Western dietary trends that tout a one-size fits all dietary solution, but Eastern ways of eating do the opposite. TCM and food energetics recognises, that as individuals, our constitution is wholly individual and eating is an extension of this, meaning our diets too, should be individual. While the concept of eating food that suits your constitution sounds largely intuitive and perhaps obvious, there is more to it and I am keen to find out.
A few weeks ago, I had the chance to chat with Lori Hillman, acupuncturist and Food Energetics Practitioner. Lori started on her food energetics journey decades ago when looking for a way to transfer elements of her acupuncture practice into tangible, practical eating tools that her clients could apply in their everyday life to help treat illness, and she has been teaching food energetics course since 2003. She runs Food Energetics retreats near where she lives in Spain and will be running both a taster weekend and an intensive course a London’s stunning OmVed Gardens in Highgate this Spring/Summer. We talked about the basic principles of food energetics, how to use these to self-diagnose your bodies needs, and how create nourishing foods to keep the body in balance. We also spoke about the role of the planet in impact on food energies and how our own emotions can impact on our body’s reaction to the foods we eat. Essentially, I got a sneak peek into her upcoming course.
Chatting to Lori, she explained that we are born a combination of TCM’s 5 elements (water, fire, earth, wood and metal), and one element is more dominant over others, or slightly out of balance. This balance of elements determines our temperament and our constitution, essentially how our bodies process food. When making food choices, we must eat to redress this imbalance. As, well, each of the 5 elements are linked flavours (sweet, salty, sour, bitter and pungent) and the flavours are said to enter or support designated vital organs. Sour foods are said to enter or support the liver and salty the kidneys. It is also about the way that foods are cooked, warm food heat the body up and cooling foods do the reverse. Simplistically put, if your system needs warming, think roasted root veg.
Balancing the body is very much an act of balancing flavours and food on the plate.
But the food on your plate, as Lori explains, is only part of the equation. Equally vital body balance and achieving better health is the way in which food is grown—thinking about the soil and its composition, growing seasons, as well as the use of/lack of pesticides and eating only living foods, foods that are full of life and nutrients with the ability to nourish. We also talked about the importance of having a greater connection with our food—not just knowing more about how it gets to our plates, but also examining our own emotional connections to what and why eat, essentially enjoying our food in a more mindful way.
If like me, you have a tendency to head straight for the refined beige carbs in times of pressure, stress and anxiety and as a result feel even more anxious, stressed and bloated, perhaps learning more about food energetics can help you learn to listen to your body, support it with the foods it needs when it needs, improve your health, whilst thinking more consciously about the health of our planet.
For more information and to book a place on Lori’s Weekend Workshop on Food Energetics, Human and Planetary Ecology on March 23rd& 24th and her in-depth 6 weekend intensive course starting in April at OmVed Gardens head to Lori’s website or on the Omved Gardens website.