Oh my goodness. This is probably the number two issue in my office and life coaching. (Number one is stress.) We talk about “cleaning up the diet” and “health foods” and “whole foods”…it’s SO easy for a Pixie to get turned around and upside down!
I just finished reading one of the most insightful books on food I have ever found. The Yoga of Eating by Charles Eisenstein offers some deeply helpful ideas which re-frame “diet” and “health food” and the like.
The main principle is that how we nourish ourselves should be a delight and a pleasure, not a chore or a dread. When we truly taste and enjoy the food we eat, we are satisfied with less, and start to desire whole and simple foods which truly nourish us. The food we eat contributes to, and amplifies the vibrational reality (i.e. Life) we live, and type of the world we encounter. Let me flesh out this idea a bit for you and offer some other key pointers I have started implementing and noticing results with in my own life. (By the by, I heartily recommend you snag a copy for yourSelf and give it a read. It’s short, easy to read, and very very smart.)
Stop using Will Power to change the diet, and start listening to the body’s messages:
Eisenstein astutely points out that if we are forcing ourselves to eat in a certain way, we are basing this action off of the false premise that there is something inherently wrong with what the body and its needs. In fact, the body knows EXACTLY what it needs, and wants, and these things are reflections of our inner state.
Want sugar? That’s a yearning for sweetness. When we slow down to enjoy the sweetness of fresh fruits and whole food sources of sweetness, much less “sweet” will satisfy us. Slowing down in general and enjoying life’s small pleasures will also reduce this craving. We will begin to crave nourishment, not necessarily sweetness, when life is discovered to be sweet in its own right.
Fats sustain us: we yearn for power, resources, adequate stores of fuel. There’s nothing wrong with whole food sources of fat, and they are delicious. In fact, eating coconut oil increases your liver’s activity and starts burning fat you already have stored on your body. The new understanding of fat, is that it doesn’t make us fat, too many carbs do. Taking rest, and making sure there is enough protein as well as fat that comes from raw foods (olives, coconuts, nuts and seeds, grass-fed butter) are two easy ways to buffer our stores in a healthy way.
Carbohydrates are fuel for later. Craving simple carbs is a craving for both sustenance and sweetness. Complex carbs are found in vegetables, and nearly as detrimental as simple carbs. Craving a huge salad or colorful meal of roasted veggies means you need nutrition, which you ought to eat and enjoy!
So when we eat, we should be doing JUST that:
When we are truly focused on something, our awareness of it changes hugely. Our eating habits are usually that we eat while doing something else: talking with others, watching TV, reading, scanning a cell phone, etc. How often do we sit quietly and focus on our food? Silence increased intimacy, which is why most of us avoid it all costs. If we get too intimate (meaning, connecting deeply with another) then the ego gets very uncomfortable and scared. Egos hate silence.
Eisenstein suggests that silence is a wonderful way to eat, as it provides plenty of room for us to simply experience what is before us. He also acknowledges that this is not always possible. Simply taking a breath between bites, making sure to chew enough (but not a prescribed number of chews) and savor our meal, will make a difference. When we start to truly pay attention to what we putting in our bodies, we get A LOT more information about the fuel.
Sometimes it starts tasting like plastic, or rather bitter, or rotting. This has happened to me with processed sugar and dairy products (though not all) and much animal protein. I still enjoy eggs occasionally, and raw cheese, but I don’t like eating the way I used to, because 1. the food doesn’t taste as good and 2. my body feels stuck and uncomfortable afterwards.
And after we eat, we gotta check in:
“How does that body feel after I eat such and such?” Headaches, stomach aches, gas, bloating, indigestion, constipation, excessive thirst, and feeling tired are all indications that there is something less-than-awesome about what was just put into the body. Maybe it’s not immediate (your morning poo the next day is…quite simply…terrible) but the body will tell you if you are putting something into it that isn’t helpful.
The body is ALWAYS responding intelligently to our lives. Our demands on the body provoke changes and growth, but also ways to handle stress and tension. Growth and evolution may be uncomfortable but there is a sense of ease and rightness when they are occurring: “Gosh my muscles are sore but that workout made me feel so strong and awesome! Can’t wait to go back again!” While stress and tension feel weighty and awful: “My entire body is screaming and I couldn’t complete any one set of exercises. This sucks. I hate exercise. My body is so weak and crappy.”
See the difference? It’s the same with food, only we have to cultivate a deeper listening awareness because our gut is often ignored because outside of us there’s lots of stimuli.
The last main point is that we our diet is going to reflect and support the world we live in and life we lead, and that this is a good thing! If we are living a life of family, bunches of friends and social groups, and working at a stressful job, we are not going to eat in a monastic way. Our diet will most likely include some meat, some dairy, or grains, if not all three.
If we live in a community of spiritual folks, or are raising our children in home-schooling paradigms, or even practicing a whole ton of yoga and meditation ourSelves, then guess what? The diet we turn to is lighter: less meat, less dairy, and whole grains (if any). We may eat in silence, or at least with some mindfulness. We have more control and maybe more time, and our diet will reflect that.
And, the diet will change as our lives change. So you normally eat one way but go on a vacation where there is only certain fair available: no problem! My personal example is that when I went from teaching yoga 5 days a week and taking 3 classes a week back to school an studying, I also went from a vegetarian-sometimes-vegan to mostly paleo and craving meat 3-4 times a week. And I ate that way and I loved it. Not as much anymore, and while I have re-assumed my role as vegetarian for the time being, if animal protein smells good as it’s being cooked, or I am craving it, then I eat it. I do my best to stay very mindful and offer my body what it wants. I trust cravings and desires, and I do not deprive.
I hope this little offering helps you navigate the plethora of dietary information out there. If you find this intriguing but overwhelming, please know that I can help. You can always book a session with me and we can apply these principles to your life in manageable ways, and your relationship with food can absolutely change. Hope over to the Pixie Store page and scroll on down 🙂
Until next time,