Stop the Madness
There is no enlightenment at the end of a pose. Actually, there is no end to these poses. It seems to me in a general se...READ MORE
Every yoga practice we all work so hard on healing, releasing, creating and maintaining balance. We are practicing ideas and principles that ultimately need to transcend the classroom and permeate our life in order for us to really benefit. I'd like to talk (what's new) here about my feeling on how this pertains to a huge aspect of our life: Food!
First of all, I want to acknowledge that we are all very unique and that we should really experiment and explore what works for us and what doesn't. I don't feel there is one diet for all. Actually, I feel there should be 6 billion different diets, one for each person on the planet because we are all uniquely different. Also, what works for us now dietarily will probably not work for us 10 years from now as our bodies change and metabolisms shift. So, just like in a yoga pose, we need to be open and sensitive to what's happening right now, so we can give ourselves what we need. Maybe more than any other aspect of our lives, we need strength and discipline to alter the deep-seated habits and attachment as well as addiction to food. This will require a sincere effort. It's a wonderful challenge that will benefit every aspect of your life. Improving your eating habits may be one of the single largest steps toward wellness and balance.
There are many interesting and important aspects to this subject. Although we are all unique and subjective, I feel there are objective and general guidelines or principles that are necessary and will be highly beneficial.
I feel the single most important aspect of a healthy diet is "NOT overeating". Eating the proper amount of food is probably the largest factor in heightening your life span, increasing your energy level, heightening mental acuity, decreasing age related disease, including heart disease, strengthening your immune system, decrease obesity and obesity related problems, decreasing digestive problems, increasing bowel function which decreases toxicity and toxicity related problems like colon cancer to name a few. Also, the mental discipline and sensitivity developed to facilitate this will highly benefit every aspect of your life. Now, there are many issues associated with over eating, some very deeply rooted: unhappiness, stress, stuffing feelings, addiction and old eating habits. So, you can see why not over eating will take a sincere effort. I sincerely believe that if any of these issues are to be properly dealt with and eradicated, they must be honestly looked at or felt, something we are not doing if we continue to stuff our face (or bury these issues with food). It's time, I love myself!! Creating balance or health means exposing and eradicating the imbalances, which begins the process of healing. This is not any easy process, but what kind of success at any level is attained easily. If life were not challenging, how would we learn and grow. Let's embrace the challenge, let's support each other and let's enjoy the myriad of benefits we shall reap.
Now, not over eating is personal and subjective. What's too much food for you might not be enough for someone else. Whatever is the right amount of food today might not be tomorrow or 25 years from now. So, according to your age, physical activity, energy output, metabolism, etc. your diet will vary. It's very important to get in tune with your body's needs. In order to do that we are going to have to break some deep seated habit patterns. Like the way we eat, the amount we eat, the frequency we eat, what we eat, the time we eat, etc. A balanced diet needs to be attained in a balanced manner, so let's not change everything at once. Let's do it in a step-by-step manner, so we don't overwhelm ourselves and shock our bodies. It's called a gentle but firm approach.
Here is my 8-month, 4 Step program to dietary health and balance:
Step #1: Only fill your stomach to 2/3 of its capacity at any and all meals! Never eat till you are full or stuffed. Along with this eat slowly so you can get a good sense of how your stomach is filling rather than eating so fast that your stomach can't register how full you are before you already have stuffed more food down. The challenge of Step #1 will come from facing your addiction to over eating and countering some of our parents' benevolent yet misguided advice to clean our plates, sometimes even with guilt prone statements like "there are starving people, so eat all your food; don't waste it." Let's take 1-2 months and simply work on this powerful step of self-discipline.
Step #2: This is as important as Step #1... Are you ready? O.K. Eliminate ALL between meal snacking! Between meal snacking is usually totally unnecessary. Dipping your hand into that bowl of peanuts, pretzels, candy or whatever might be sitting on the counter, table or in the refrigerator is a very unhealthy habit that generates unnecessary caloric intake and burdens the body and decreases energy levels. If it's your house, get rid of those foods. Not to mention that those things we usually snack on are not healthy foods. It's o.k. if your stomach growls. You can go days without eating, so your body can wait 'til the next meal. Initially, the hunger pains and mood shifts will occur because the body is used to being satiated. But if you can hold strong and not cave into the seeming need to eat, you will soon create a new habit pattern for your body that it will acclimate to and thrive on. Remember that whenever you try to eliminate a habit, there will be a revolt. When this occurs let it be confirmation you are on the right path. Within one to two months your body will have adjusted. Let's take another 1-2 months working on this in conjunction with Step #1. Then Step #3.
Step #3: Eat no more than 3 meals per day! Now there might be a rare medical exception, but let's get real. How much food do we need? 1, 2 or 3 nice meals a day are usually plenty. If you eat more than this, of course your body is addicted, so when you make a change you will have a revolt. Hunger pains; blood sugar dips, etc - soon your body will acclimate. If you feel so miserable during this transition period, drink some fresh fruit juice or tea with a little honey to ease the edge and balance any blood sugar dip. Fruit juice is not the whole fruit ground up. It is simply the juice - no pulp. Give yourself 1-2 months for implementing this before Step #4.
For me, I've discovered I'm at my best with 2 meals per day unless I do an unusual amount of physical exertion. I've noticed that as opposed to having a full stomach where I feel a little heavy and sleepy, when I'm a little hungry, I feel energetic and alert. Anyway, this is what works for me right now. Maybe if my life changes and there are more calories needed (more physical exertion), I'll add a 3rd meal. Maybe as I get older and my metabolism slows down I'll need even less food. Additionally, hiding the fact that you over eat by burning those excess calories the next day by participating in some aerobic exercise does NOT negate the toxic burden that over eating puts on the body's systems, not to mention the destructive effect on the skeleton that many aerobic exercises facilitate over time.
O.K., another important aspect of diet is the kinds and quality of foods we choose. You know, "you are what you eat." Please don't take this important topic lightly. The choices you make here have a large effect on you as well as our planet. I'm not about to advocate any particular diet. Different people do better on different diets. Each person may do better on a different diet at different times in his or her life. Although, I would advise you to be open and experiment with different diets and make your decisions based on wisdom and experience and not dogma, habits and addictions. Two books that I found very helpful are Fit for Life by Harvey Diamond and Eat Right For Your Type by Peter D'Adamo. Now, the food you choose is different than the diet you choose. I'm talking all about quality here.
Step #4: Increasing the quality of the FOOD you eat! In this capitalistic corporate climate we live in, what really matters to most food growers and producers is, of course, "The Bottom Line." I didn't say what matters is "Health" and I didn't say what matters is "Quality." What matters is money! Because health and quality are not the priority we don't get much from the corporate producers. I would even go so far as to say in some cases the quality is so unimportant that the food we eat (especially in large quantities over many years) has a detrimental effect on our health and well being. I'm sorry if I seem negative here. I'm not trying to be negative, just realistic. Actually, understanding the general business climate of which the food industry is a major player can be very empowering. Once you know "they" are not looking out for you, you can start looking out for yourself and your circle of family and friends. I didn't say quality food is unavailable. For most of us, quite the contrary. We just need to be aware, educated and proactive. A lot of the food industry is into making foods last longer. The longer they last, the less spoilage, the more money. Also, they are into gaining more quantity. The more fruit you can squeeze from an acre of land or flesh from an animal, the more money. Also disturbing is, in a lot of cases, the level of pesticides, herbicides, synthetic fertilizer, preservative, artificial coloring, hormones, antibiotics and a myriad of other chemicals, techniques and processes, which now include genetically modifying the cellular structure of food (of which we really have no clue of any long term health risks), irradiating food and feeding a naturally vegetarian animal like a cow ground up flesh of it's own brethren (an act called cannibalism that a cow would never wittingly take part in) that is believed to be a major factor in "mad cow disease". Corporate greed and power and its quest for more money and power and its willingness to compromise truth and integrity is probably nothing new to you.
So, who produces the food you eat? If your health and that of your family's matters, don't you think you should know? Not to mention the significance of how we support these companies by buying their food and maybe even by buying stock in these companies, and furthermore, the detrimental effects all these chemical and negligent farming and ranching techniques have on our planet. All I really want to say here is: increase the quality of the food you eat and everybody including mother earth will benefit. Of course, I have a few suggestions:
Give yourself another 2 months to implement your game plan here on Step #4. There will probably be a revolt. We are very addicted to the foods we eat and how they taste. Of course, whenever you break an addiction there is a revolt. It is a challenge we need to face. So, you are giving yourself 2 months to use up all the junk food and processed food in your home, to rethink where you shop for food and what you will eat, (a lot of foods can be the same foods you have always eaten, the only thing that changes is where you buy that food, how it was grown and handled) and to educate yourself pertaining to food quality and earth awareness.
I've designed this life change to happen over a 4-8 month period. If necessary, please alter the time allotted to suit you. You might also notice that even though some of these changes are quite drastic for you, nothing I've mentioned is irrational, impractical or complicated. It's really about being simple or getting back to simplicity.
Much, Much, Much Love,