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“I don’t care whether your diet is politically correct. I care whether your food choices are consistent with your love. I care whether they bring you health, uphold your spirit, and help you fulfill your true nature and reason for being alive.”
- John Robbins, The Food Revolution
As a yoga and meditation teacher, from the outside I may look like I have this health thing all figured out. In reality, it is a constant practice for me which sometimes can be challenging.
My meals at home were mainly a combination of processed foods, soft drinks, juice from concentrate, white rice, and meat. I'm sure there was the occasional vegetable dish but I have a hard tim remembering it. All this to say, for the first 25 years of my life I didn't realize there was another way to eat.
It was only when I began to practice yoga and meditation I observed what other people were eating and drinking. Curiosity led me to ask questions and try new things. Suddenly, I was feeling better in my body with more energy and alertness than before.
It may sound like it was love at first sight with kale and kombucha but this was not the case. The transition to eat predominantly whole foods took years, and even these days I have to be particularly careful when I'm tired, traveling, or sick because it's at those times I want to revert back to what I was raised on.
When we begin to change any habit, we use discipline to do so. Although it may be effective to start, the hardness that often comes with discipline doesn't make this approach long-lasting or sustainable. Once you start realizing that discipline is more of a downer than a motivator, try letting your body be the expert. I know from experience that this can be scary since the body may have made some bad choices in the past, but with practice and space, we can begin to allow our natural intelligence to guide us.
I practice and teach an approach to awareness called mindfulness. Simply said, mindfulness is paying attention to the present moment without judgment. By being mindful we can discover how moods like agitation, boredom, sadness, or fear influence the mind with thoughts like "This agitation makes me think things I don't like. Eating a bag of chips will make it better.” With practice we can begin to cultivate the practice of saying to ourselves "Ah, agitation is in me. Can I just be with this?”
It may seem like a small thing but what is happening is a complete revolution of the heart and mind; a benevolent quality presents itself (that natural intelligence I mentioned!). Sooner than later, we learn how to accompany ourselves instead of abandoning or judging ourselves for giving into a food craving.
One way you can put this into practice immediately is to S.T.O.P.:
Take a breath
Observe what you're feeling or what is motivating you to eat
Proceed. You can choose to go forward with eating that piece of chocolate cake with full awareness so you enjoy it more, or not.
The good news is that you now have a choice.