Episode recap: Nutrition with Cheeks R

Our 29th episode was dedicated to the Joy Superpower Nutrition, which I was pleased to dive into with our guest Cheeks (Chetna Ahlawat), who brought valuable, fun and personal insights, as well as scientific studies to the table. As a professional yoga teacher, wellness coach and a keen student of psychology and neuroscience, Cheeks R marries the traditional philosophies of yoga with modern research, which often seem to compliment one another.

New beginnings

After an unfortunate accident that left Cheeks with a broken ankle, two years worth of surgery and a stack of medical bills, our guest had enough; the pressure, health related fears, and a growing unhappiness with her corporate job led her to refocus on the things that made her relax amongst all the stress; yoga and physical exercise, which then became a core part of her life, as she took upon herself the responsibility of teaching the practice.

Once you’ve understood something, you will always make a slightly more sensible decision compared to when you did not know it.

Cheeks R

It was a journey that took its time and its fair share of challenges, but she likes to look at that period as being necessary for the rediscovery of herself. All it took for the vital step to reinvention was a shock to the system, supportive parents and a trust in herself. It’s a journey not too dissimilar from those of some prior guests, such as Zahra Syeda, who spoke to us of her experiences regarding perseverance and self-confidence. Zahra’s three P’s that are vital to the human experience, passion, purpose, and perseverance seem to be a throughline for a number of our guests, including Cheeks, for whom a fourth p, positive parents, could perhaps be added to the list.

Everything psychological is biological

Cheeks sees a strong connection between the gut and the brain; indeed, in yoga the two are not treated as separate entities, but as one. Science suggests that the stomach, and everything food consumption related, is way more complex than one would perhaps initially assume, with some experts of the field going as far as calling the enteric nervous system, which among other things controls systems of the digestive tract, The Second Brain, which through the vagus nerve communicates our physical state to the brain in our skulls.

The episode dives into the hows and whys of health and nutrition; why something as simple as walking outside makes one feel good, and how making oneself feel good through easy ways (such as sweets) may be a health trap, that yes, releases high quantities of dopamine, but once the sugars wear down, may lead to emotional crashes. To avoid these traps and bring a healthy balance to one’s life, Cheeks R suggests the following three tips, although she also has dozens more to offer:

  1. Chew your food. Yoga suggests chewing something chewable a total of 24 times, which might feel excessive, but goes a long way to help your gut process the food. It also gives you time to appreciate the food you’re eating. Start chewing ten times, over time move to fifteen; take it slow, you’ll get there in no time.
  2. Eat raw, fresh fruits and vegetables. Make it 50% of what you consume, and avoid processed foods the best you can. Scientifically, that should yield more nutrition, while Yoga speaks of gaining chronic energy, the life within the food.
  3. Do not eat whatever whenever; If you can, make two meals work for you, keep the dinner light, and don’t eat before going to bed. The body has a schedule too.

“The quality of food that you’re eating is going to determine how you feel.”

Cheeks R

Finally, reading and learning is always key to your personal development. Cheeks recommends the following people’s catalog of insights, most of which can be found on Youtube: Andrew Huberman, a neuroscientist with “a little spiritual inclination,” and Sadhguru, whose teachings she finds to be inspiring.

To find more about Cheeks, take a look at her website and follow her on LinkedIn and Instagram.

Thanks a lot for your interest! You can follow the Art and Science of Joy on Instagram, LinkedIn  and  Facebook. Remember to subscribe to the podcast from Spotify, Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts or Captivate, for example, for more episodes on Joy Superpowers, to inspire and empower you to live a more joyful life.

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