Feed Your Soul, Then the Body

Wholesome health, a balanced approach

Perhaps the most universal New Year’s Resolution is to drop a few pounds and change body composition in a positive direction. Certainly one tool that gets used for this quest is to add in some extra workouts. Yet it is usually only one part of what will help someone succeed in shifting their composition and losing weight. You see, the body is so efficient at adapting to training, that over time it uses less and less energy to do the same amount of work. For example, a longer walk or run in the beginning of the season may burn 400-700 calories/hour, but later in the year you will only use half that. Exercise is absolutely essential for good health, but usually needs some additional support for weight loss.

Portion Size

The number one tool for helping drop a few unwanted fat pounds is regulating portion size at meals. And the most effective way to reduce serving sizes without feeling like you are depriving yourself is to find smaller dishes on which those portions are placed. Humans have a tendency to eat all of what is put on the their plates. So if you are trying to reduce your overall consumption, start out by putting less in front of yourself. Then if you are someone like me, who knows you will almost always go back for seconds (mostly for the taste), curb that initial serving even a little more so that you do get to go back for round two guilt-free, and in the end still reduce the overall amount you eat.

Slow Down To Eat Less

Next, eat a little slower. As we said in our book, eating is not a speed sport! If you are like me you probably won’t be able to do this by chewing more even though that is usually the main recommendation on how to eat slower. An alternate solution is to just put less on your fork with each bite. Lots of smaller mouthfuls will end up reducing the speed with which you eat.

The Smart Snack

Remember the old thing your mother used to yell at you when you were a kid? “Stop snacking before the meal, you’ll ruin your appetite!” Well, that is indeed true and something you can use to your advantage in weight loss. Try eating a nutritious snack of about 100 calories 20-minutes prior to the meal that is coming up. This will usually take the ravenous edge off your hunger with the result that the amount you end up eating overall is much less than if you did not have that snack and went into your meal with a completely empty stomach.

Drink Water

Often hunger is a masked sensation for needing water. Make sure you are drinking enough of this precious liquid throughout the day. Also try a glassful first when you start to feel the hunger pangs coming on. Even in the winter getting enough water can be tough. Most heating systems dry the air out, making it just as important to hydrate now as it is in the summer.

Gauging When To Stop

There are many ways to judge the time to stop eating. If a person stops when they are full they will eat significantly more calories throughout the day than if they stop eating at the point where they no longer experience hunger. Experiment with this subtle but important difference. Start by eating a little slower as we just mentioned. Then notice when you begin to no longer feel hunger, which is a different sensation than what you will feel like if you keep going and feel full.

The catch to this strategy is that if you are indeed able to push the plate away once you experience that your hunger has subsided, you will also find yourself getting hungry sooner after the meal. This is normal and fine to have happen. Just make sure that you are prepared for it and have some good healthy snacks or another small meal at hand when you do get that hungry feeling back again.

Pattern Eating

Next see if there are any overeating patterns that you can change. When do you find that you eat too much? Is it when you are alone? Is it when you get together with friends for a meal? How about when you are bored or stressed? Whenever that is, try to come up with another go-to activity that re-patterns what you do in those trigger situations.

If you eat when alone, see if there is something else that you can do that soothes your soul and gives you satisfaction. If it happens when you are with friends, perhaps going for a walk or just simply staying out of the kitchen can do the trick. If stress causes you to eat too much, use other calming techniques to help take the edge off and change the response to a tough time away from the urge to eat. This can be as simple as taking a walk or drinking in the colors of a sunset first. Stick with it long enough to detect if indeed your body was in need of food or if you were reaching for food as a soothing mechanism.

Feed Your Soul, Then Your Body

Then finally, eating is medicine for the body when our souls are being fed as well. However, many of us have eaten in an attempt to feed a starved inner being. Even taking a few moments to walk outside and breathe in the air with a sense of gratitude that you are alive can shift that feeling and feed your soul with a positive thought. Then the hunger you feel can be that of your body.

The Voice of Food

For years I was in pursuit of a crown that was held by an athlete who was renowned for his dietary discipline. His name was Dave Scott, and his extremism in eating lead him to among other things rinse his cottage cheese before he ate it, to rid it of any excess fat held in the cream. Me? Well, my claim to dietary fame was less exemplary. I was known as a patron of the sacred chocolate chip cookie. “Self-restraint” was never mentioned in the same breath with “chocolate chip cookie” when I was speaking.

Dave’s methods did seem to have merit. By 1989, Scott had amassed an arsenal of six Ironman victories and I was at zero. Perhaps I should have taken a clue earlier and ditched the cookies for some squeaky-clean cottage cheese. But eventually I held up the white flag. I wasn’t going to follow his blueprint to the letter, but I thought I should at least go cold turkey with the cookies.

I made a pact with myself. I would not eat, touch, make or otherwise come in contact with a chocolate chip cookie for six weeks. Someone once told me it takes six weeks to change a pattern, so I thought why not! Six weeks without a cookie would not be easy for me, but if it meant victory in Kona, then so be it. After all, it wasn’t rinsing my cottage cheese!

Immediately the most amazing transformation took place. Everywhere I went I saw chocolate chip cookies for sale. At the gas station, in a display at the checkout in the market, in the airports, everywhere!

But gradually over my six-week cookie-free diet, my cravings for them slipped into the unknown and they were replaced by something I never knew I had. It was a whole spectrum of cravings that were fine tuned messages for what my body really needed. What had once been one huge overall urge for a cookie had now become about twenty similar but very distinct cravings for all things healthy. One day it might be a need for more protein, another for extra healthy carbs and the next a simple need for more water. The blare of a cookie craving was gone and I could finally hear the underlying whispers for all things good.

So I put the challenge to you. If there is a nemesis in your cupboard, drop it in the recycling and go on a six-week journey that will lead to understanding the language of your body’s food needs. We are hardwired for wisdom with an inner voice that knows how much food is healthy for our bodies, and what kind of food is going to bring us into our personal body balance each and every meal.

If you do give this a whirl, here are a few tips. First, giving up one indulgence doesn’t give you free range to replace it with another. When the craving first yells out, and it will indeed try its best to break down your resolve, replace it with something totally unrelated to food. Go for a short walk or a workout. Visit a garden or a forest or a park, river, stream, mountain, grassy patch at the end of the block, or anywhere else that has a vivid reminder that nature is happening all around us and use that to put the mute button on the craving.

Second, listen to your body every single day when it sounds like it is calling out for your temptation, then ask: what is it really calling for? What healthy, wholesome, and yes it can be delicious food or fluid is your body really in need of.

Then finally, be looking for the real reward at the end of the road. No, it isn’t going to be license to go out immediately at the end of your six-week quest and stock up on that one thing you have eliminated from your diet. The true reward will be the ability to interpret all the wavelengths of your body’s food cravings. You will understand the messages that lead to positive eating habits. The task will then be to honor them. Bon Appetite!

Eating Well to Bring Balance

Many of us have had the experience of discovering that growing herbs or some peppers or tomatoes in pots on a balcony around the back door can lift the spirits. In many urban areasmulti-family community gardens, filled with vegetables; herbs and flowers are burgeoning as more and more people discover that working intimately with the soil for food and relaxation promotes a more conscious perception of the sacredness of all things. Even though most of us cannot grow our own food, we can become conscious of how the food we eat is grown and processed before we buy it at the market.

Food, specifically corn, is life for the Huichol people. Corn istheir main crop, along with beans and some squash. The fields are planted along steep hillsides surrounding the various villages and ranchos where they live in the Sierra Made mountains of Mexico. Corn is the mainstay of the life of the tribe and their ceremonial cycle. The Huichols plant 5 colors of corn: red, yellow, white, speckled and blue, each in a different field. According to Huichol cosmology, not only does the corn resemble a human being with the corn silk like our hair and the ears on the stalk resembling our arms and legs, but each color represents the various races of humankind.

In everything they do, the Huichols are balanced and steady; so too is their relationship with the food they grow and eat. Food is medicine, sacred, and meant to nourish their bodies, keeping them strong so they can gather their firewood, walk miles to their fields or to the spring where they get their water. Food keeps them strong so they can hold their ceremonies and go on extended pilgrimages to their sacred sites. Their very simple diet of beans, corn tortillas and of course, homemade salsa, provides extremely valuable proteins and nutrients that nourish and sustain them. In all aspects of their lives the Huichols recognize that their bodies are directly connected to Mother Earth. All of us are an extension of her body, and the earth and its food sustains us. We should eat, not just to fill up, but thinking of ‘food as the good medicine it is; something to enrich our bodies and minds and help us sustain our well-being.

Be conscious and a conscientious consumer. Eat foods grown without insecticides and produced without chemical additives, whenever possible. Find produce that is locally grown by small farms if you don’t have the space to have a garden. Patronize your local health food stores. In addition to packaged products, they often sell organic fruits and vegetables. Read the ingredient labels on any packaged foods you may buy so you get to now what you are really consuming.

Remember the sacredness of food. How it is nourished by Mother Earth and the elements of air, water, and light. Be aware of what you are eating and slow down to truly appreciate it. Set aside work, worries and other difficulties as to appreciate what it is you have before you. You don’t have to make a big ceremony out of it, but as you eat slowly and consciously, the good food on your plate will be more effectively used by your body.

Remember the steadiness of the Huichol people, their lives of balance and harmony, which has helped them maintain their remarkable way of life for thousands of years. Strive to maintain a steady focus in all you do in your life as well. This kind of steadiness comes in many forms in Fit Soul, Fit Body – for example helping to keep an athlete in rhythm, but also helping anyone of us to maintain balance and accomplish our goals.

By feeding our bodies with the right foods, we can keep our blood sugar levels steady, which enables the body to be strong and allows it to devote its energies to regenerate rather than having to spend time correcting an unbalanced state. When we keep steady emotionally, we have the energy needed to cultivate our souls and fill our beings with the positive attributes of life, rather than having our energies monopolized by dealing with emotional highs and lows.In this way we can walk through life focused, calm and balanced, in harmony with ourselves and the world around us.