Submitted by Annapurna, Part 1 of 3
Holidays, the new year, birthdays, vacations, all of these are enough to set many of us re-evaluating our bodies and therefore, our eating habits. I know I’ve resorted to wearing only pants with elastic. To encourage me and you, this entire week we’ll explore step-by-step how to gain a new relationship to your body whether it’s to lose weight, tone, or simply gain more confidence.
New England Journal of Medicine confirms: what you eat is not as important as how much you eat. How much — and what — you eat begins before you put anything in your mouth. First step towards portion control: to change your relationship to your food, change your relationship with yourself. The first obstacle to a healthy relationship with food is the judgment you have about yourself. The judgment cycle has nothing to do with a mirror. It begins in your mind’s mirror, which may have nothing to do with reality.
“I hate my [fill-in-the-blank].” Stop! Change the language to, “I have terrific [legs] but I’d like to work on my [stomach].” Don’t look at the negatives as negatives. Look at them as areas you would look to work on either in terms of losing weight or toning.
And remember, some of those problem areas may be out of our control due to genetics or physiology. If your mother, aunt, and grandma all have big stomachs, as mine do, don’t list one of your goals is to have a six-pack in a month. You may but not in a month. If you’re suddenly gaining weight for no reason without any change to diet or exercise, it maybe your thyroid.
Don’t just say this new language to yourself, write it down. “I would like to lose X pounds in [realistic time that will lead to a sustainable weight]” or “I will follow this arm work-out plan that I googled in order to tone my flabby triceps.”
After we’ve judged ourselves, we pass judgment on food. When food first enters our mouths, our sensory organs, namely our tongue and brains kick into action labeling it good, bad, spicy, tangy, sweet. Associations are built in this way: candy = sweet therefore good feeling. Thus, when we’re down, we seek “comfort foods,” those foods which we’ve associated with good feelings because they release the “feel-good” hormones, serotonin, causing us to literally feel good.
So, before we even put a bite into our mouth, if we are to change our eating habits, we must be the ones to control the thought pattern. We must be mindful of our food and our hunger.
This insightful article, “Enough is Enough” tells of two women, both active, who had two different eating disorders (too much and too little), and how a changed perception and deeper understanding of one of the ethical underpinnings of yoga, aparigraha, “greedlessness,” led them to be “in each moment instead of building a judgment system.”
As the article begins, “don’t worry about changing your eating; yoga will change your eating.” Replace yoga with any disciplined, physical activity that you are committed to and the same holds true.
That’s how I began. My practice became too important to let bad habits interfere and conversely, my bad eating habits took a bigger toll — sweets, alcohol, and caffeine — because I was in better shape. This led me to seek out information on nutrition and recipes. It starts with the mind!