At this stage in my series on weight loss I’d like to address an important aspect of the Yoga Diet. This is no quick fix. Indeed, the problem with dieting in general is that it encourages behaviors that can only (should only) be sustained for a very short period of time. Usually until the weight is lost, or the dieter gives up. Whichever comes first….insert sarcasm. unfortunately this quest for a quick solution to weight loss is actually contributing to weight gain. No really. Medicare researchers recently released findings that show that dieters actually gain MORE weight in the long run. This might explain why Americans spend so much time, money and energy on dieting but are heavier than ever. So this week I’d like to discuss a few easy ways to boost self-awareness, or Svadhyaya in the interest of making long-term progress toward the goal of a healthy weight and body image.
The Yoga Diet can really be summed up in a quote by Michael Pollan.
If we could all follow these basic rules I think we’d really get somewhere toward feeling more vibrant and living longer, healthier lives.
Rule #1 – Eat Food.
I know right? Who’d a thunk? Except, increasingly we Americans are eating less and less real food. Unfortunately companies have been not only processing ingredients from seed to plate to engineer pest resistance, longer shelf life, less fat and calories, but also fewer nutrients, more artificial ingredients, higher levels of chemicals that our human bodies don’t process well. Take whole grains for instance. Raise your hand if you think that whole grains are good for you….. But what if it comes in a box with an expiration that is 2.5 years away, and is accompanied by dozens of other ingredients. Just because Coco Puffs have whole grains that doesn’t mean that they are a healthy choice for your kids at breakfast. Mostly because sugar is the second ingredient, and corn syrup is the third. Last I heard candy is a poor choice for growing brains right before school. Food companies have spent a fortune fooling us into believing that these boxed up science experiments are food and even that they are good for us and our children. Consider “diet” foods, gluten-free products and even some vegan ingredients. Many of these products are as devoid of nutrients and full or fats and sugars as the Coco Puffs. We’ve really been duped and the companies that manufacture and sell these “foods” cannot be trusted. So what to do? Pretend that you can only shop for food in a horseshoe pattern. Not at Wal-Mart or Target, but at the legit grocery store. Start at the produce and hug the outside walls. Pretend that everything in your cart has to be reasonably fresh or have fewer than 8 ingredients. You can choose from Produce, fresh meats, dairy, the bakery and even the deli. Don’t even go into those isles in the middle!! At least not in this imaginary trip. Can you feel good about what is in your cart? “Yes you CAN”. Now of course in real life we often have to feed our families fast. We make instant oatmeal for breakfast, or prepare something from the freezer, or God forbid… a box for dinner. That’s cool, no worries. Everything in moderation right? Just plan to prepare the real stuff at least half the time. Another great quote by Michael Pollan “Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.”
Rule #2 – Mostly plants.
It’s a shame but you really can’t trust meat anymore. If you want to buy part of a grass-fed local cow for your freezer like my friend Sandra or raise chickens like my sister-in-law and brother-in-law Kris and Allen then you should be good. If not you should come to terms with the fact that what you are eating is gross, causes an immense amount of suffering, is terrible for the environment and is in many cases unsafe. I’m not saying that you have to go vegetarian or vegan or anything radical like that, but you might want to think about eating less meat. For many reasons a plant-based diet is better for your health and better for the environment. This is a big topic fit for another blog so I’ll bow out on this one for now.
Rule #3 – Not too Much.
This is also a big topic and a large part of the our focus “Svadhyaya”. Tuning into our bodies while we eat is VITAL. Food cannot and should not be treated as entertainment, or a placeholder for emotion … at least not all the time. Food should be consumed because 1.) You are hungry. 2.) Your body needs it. Does that mean it doesn’t have to taste good, Hell NO. Does that mean that you should never succumb to cravings, Hell NO. It means that if you listen to your body and become accountable (yes the A word) to it you might just feel really good. Hunger and fullness are powerful signals from our bodies that we have learned to ignore in our dieting culture. It’s time to listen more and chew less.
There’s an app for that?
Get out your camera phone for a thoroughly modern version of Svadhyaha. A University of Wisconsin-Madison study enlisted 43 subjects to photograph all of their meals and snacks before they ate them. The researchers concluded that the so-called “flash diet” was even more effective than written food diaries. Which is amazing since people who keep food diaries lose three times as much weight as people who don’t. The “flash diet” is a great tool for self-study and accountability. It’s also kind of fun and if you do count calories, which I don’t recommend, it makes for easier tracking at the end of the day. To add an even greater level of fun and accountability (who knew those could go hand in hand?) partner up with another food fotog and picture message throughout the day. A week or two is all that’s needed to start to consider your choices and to make it a habit. Again, the Yoga Diet is not about self-recrimination, it’s about awareness without judgement. You eat what you eat and this project is about owning that. If you are really aiming for the title of teachers pet, your photo journal will feature plates full of veggies and fruits, lean protein and a limited number of grain based foods. You will show off reasonably portioned snacks and deserts that you plan to truly enjoy, and will feel energized from. Your pix will be of not products but real food. Mostly though, have fun. This is a behavior that you hope to cultivate for years to come so keep it low-key. Give yourself credit for the good work and never-ever beat yourself up.
Let me know how it goes! I love your feedback as it helps me to plan future posts.