In the second installment of my series The Yoga Diet we’ll be learning a bit about our eating “type”. I’ve relied heavily on a book by Michelle May, M.D. called Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat for this month’s blog. This is a great book that I highly recommend.
The Yoga Diet isn’t really a diet. It’s not about counting calories or cutting certain foods. The Yoga Diet is really about Svadhyaya. The observance of self awareness and self study. Let’s start by discovering more about your relationship with food. There are 3 basic patterns that people fall into: Instinctive Eating, Overeating, and Restrictive Eating.
Instinctive eaters don’t worry about their weight. They eat foods that sound good to them when they are hungry and stop eating before they get over full. Instinctive eaters listen to their bodies to determine what they want to eat and how much to eat. They have fairly active lifestyles because they move when their bodies crave movement. They tend to think about food only when they are getting hungry.
Over eaters worry about their weight. They diet alot, then repent, then feel deprived and binge. Often over eaters eat not because they are hungry, but because it’s lunch-time, or because there is something yummy, or because they are bored, anxious, happy…etc. Over eaters sometimes eat too much at a sitting becoming overfull, then feeling sluggish, even ill. Over eaters think about food frequently but have irregular eating patterns, like skipping breakfast or snacking instead of having a real balanced meal. Over eaters are typically over weight as well.
Restrictive eaters worry about their weight obsessively. They are masters of ignoring their body’s signals and often skip meals even if they are very hungry. They count calories, weigh themselves daily if not several times a day, and sometimes exercise compulsively. Restrictive eaters often consume alot of processed “diet” foods that are a nutrition vacuum and sometimes eat way too much of them at a sitting. Restrictive eaters obsess about food and exercise and feel guilty about it too. Repentance is a common trait in this style. Restrictive eaters do no necessarily have a healthy body type and suffer with poor body image.
So do any of these types describe you? I was surprised to find that I’m a bit of a hybrid of all of these. I was raised in the south: read – over eater. I learned restrictive eating from my girlfriends as I became an adult; savoring guilt over food or freedom is practically a rite of passage into womanhood. As yoga has become a bigger part of my life I have naturally learned to eat instinctively.
I think that the most appealing aspect of instinctive eating is FREEDOM. So many of us live in a food prison! We’re constantly experiencing this binge and repent cycle that is robbing us of the more important experiences we could be having in life. Svadhyaya is key here. Take some time to determine what pattern you are falling into. Nothing is off limits here. Ask questions like; Am I hungry? Am I full? How am I feeling about what I am consuming or have consumed? How am I feeling in general while eating? ie. bored, anxious, excited, tired etc… Does this taste good? (you’ll be surprised by the answer sometimes, believe me). Ask some questions too after you’ve eaten; Are you full or satisfied? Do you feel fueled up, energetic, or sluggish? How long till you start thinking about food or are hungry again? Come up with more questions and write them down. Write down answers too. If you suspect that a certain food might not be treating you so well, write it down. Try not to assign a quality or value to any question or answer just observe and notice. Remember that it is a very noble thing to observe yourself and your actions impartially. Self chastisement is not an acceptable form of self study. Neutrality and compassion will be much more helpful tools. Being inquisitive is a great start to liberation from the habits and patterns that may be keeping you in your food prison. Give it a try and feel free to tell me how it’s going.