I mentioned in yesterday's post how I had recently read Deepak Chopra's book - What Are You Hungry For? whilst we were away on holiday and that it was changing my attitude towards the beauty products I use and the food that we currently eat in our household. It was a book that delivered a very important message about healthy eating and finding balance in our everyday lives. In my case, I've long known that I am overweight and can readily admit that I eat too much and too often. I'm a grazer and although I exercise very regularly, this just serves to prevent me putting on too much weight and doesn't really seem to help me lose it.
When I saw this book in a charity shop, I hoped it might help me to rectify some of my negative eating habits, by way of aiding me in uncovering the reasons for them and possibly set me on the road to eating much more healthily and mindfully. All of these matters are covered in this book and more besides and made it a very interesting read indeed.
Deepak Chopra, who wrote this book, is an endocrinologist by profession and a practitioner of both traditional Western and Ayurvedic medicine. In this book he combines his knowledge of both of these traditions to create a balanced and holistic approach to health and well being. He has written many such books on related subjects, which I will now be looking out for on my travels, as I really enjoyed this one.
In this particular book, Chopra urges you to take a look at long hard look at your eating habits. He suggests that diets are really completely pointless and do more harm than good to the body.
As an endrocrinologist, who has studied hormones for many years, he argues that diets cause the secretion of hormones which can actually prevent weight loss. In addition, he points out how hormones released by people who are overweight and have belly fat, actually cause their hunger to increase and thus, they actually eat more and continue to gain weight. What is needed to maintain a healthy weight, he argues, is not a diet, but a total overhaul of one's self-awareness and eating habits, in order for you to achieve a healthy weight that suits you and that you can easily maintain for life.
All of this is not actually anything that I haven't heard before, (save for the hormone that causes an overweight person continue to gain weight), but the way that Chopra explains this, is incredibly interesting and seemed to appeal to my current sensibilities. He very sensitively encourages you to take a good look at yourself and your lifestyle and then offers ways that you can dramatically improve and simplify your life to achieve more balance and improved health.
The first area that Chopra tackles is eating habits and he suggests that people eat, either because they are hungry and need to eat or are trying to fill a hole, be it emotional, mental or spiritual and food has become the quickest way to do this. He goes on to question what triggers overeating i.e. being in a rush, eating out at restaurants, boredom, tiredness, being busy or alternatively a raft of reasons that are connected to self esteem, i.e. feeling depressed, lonely, unattractive, anxious, stressed, negativity about oneself or wanting to be comforted.
What he goes on to suggest is to focus on what triggers you and try to find an alternative activity such as doing a chore, drinking a glass of water, reading a book, phoning a friend, etc. In this sense he purports reconnecting mind and body and looking inwards to identify what it is that you are actually hungry for and become aware of your body, emotions and choices. He suggests that many overweight people have lost touch with their bodies and need to wean their brains away from old conditioning and choices and create new techniques which allow change to occur more naturally.
He goes on to talk about how we need to nourish our bodies, minds and souls and a very good way to do this is to eat according to Ayurvedic principles. Ayurveda, he explains, involves conscious experience of what you're eating, slowing down and conciously consuming our food and includes the avoidance of frozen, leftover, unnatural, nuked (microwaved) and canned food, whilst moving towards a plant based diet. Now I know that in this day and age this might seem a little severe, but he goes on to explain the reasons for this method, how food is adulterated and the effects this can have on the body and mind.
Ayurvedic principles also include the notion of the 6 flavours of life i.e. sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent, astringent and how by balancing the body's need for these flavours in our daily food intake, we can help the body and emotions to feel balanced.
A very interesting chapter in the book concerns itself with self-regulation and how the body takes care of you and is a self-regulating system with hundreds of feedback loops that function to keep us alive, healthy and vital. He suggests, however, that our input is also needed in this process and one of the main ways we can participate is to ensure we get enough sleep in order to avoid interfering with it's self regulation.
The book goes on to say much more about stress eating, emotional well-being and a whole raft of other things including how to develop a lightness of soul and participate in meditation. I admit that I have picked out only some of the more pertinent points, that actually stuck with me after reading this book, but I would highly recommend it, as it is very enlightening on a myriad of issues.
Now, whilst many of the ideas in the book are very interesting and convincing, I can't say in all honesty, that I'm aiming to follow the book's suggestions in their entirety, but having read it, it has given me a starting point from which I can try to eat in a different way.
I'm starting by slowly introducing more organic foods into our diet. I've read lots recently about how seemingly simple natural foods such as fruit and vegetables are treated with chemicals to make them last longer on the shelves of supermarkets and producers are not even required to list this on packaging. In addition, there is the issue of how animals are pumped with hormones in the process of fattening them up and how this remains present in their meat. Not a very nice thought.
Obviously, some things are more affordable and more easily sourced than others, so I'm not sticking religiously to the idea of eating organically. Organic meat, particularly, is very expensive, so we may either have to suck up the cost or just eat less.
It's a gradual integration of these foods as I can afford them, as I use up what we already have and as I manage to source alternatives, but I'm hoping that this will be healthier for all of us, not to mention more ethical and ecologically conscious. I am also hoping that being conscious of how much more expensive things are will stop us eating more than we really need to and subsequently help with any weight issues. It is a bit of an experiment and it will be interesting to see where it takes us.