It seems that you can't look anywhere these days without seeing something about food & diet. There are so many varieties of disordered eating that it can be hard to know what is healthy. I grew up with the "traditional" food pyramid:
It was pretty depressing to be doing what the "professionals" deemed healthy and still feel and look shitty! (As it turns out, those governemet guidelines were based on bad science- read all about it in the book "The Big Fat Surprise" by Nina Teicholz) At the suggestion from a friend I tried the "Slow Carb Diet". The results were almost immediate. Just by cutting out grain I already had ore energy! I stuck with this eating style for a time and discovered that I had been eating a lot of sugar despite not eating refined sugar. Grain? Sugar. Fruit? Sugar. Dairy? Sugar.
This style of eating also alerted me to the fact that my body does not process soy well. One of the benefits of living in Vermont (where my husband and I were living when we discovered this diet in 2012) is that it was easy to source ethically and sustainably farmed meat. I believe that factory farming is one of the greatest tragedies of our time. It is not only horrific for the cruelty to the animals but also for the environment (and vegetarians- dairy farming is worse). When we lived in the Wood River Valley in Idaho it was also easy to source humane animal products.
I felt GREAT doing the bulletproof diet but I wanted to try being vegan for ethical reasons (even though we were sourcing from ethical farmers). So, in 2015 for the month of March I cut out all animal products and focused on nuts, seeds, legumes, & veggies. The results were disastrous. Despite eating in a way to stay "low sugar" my body needed more fat and accessible protein. I gained 10 pounds but lost muscle mass. By the end of the month it was difficult for me to teach a 1 hour Vinyasa class.
I was very sad not to be successful on a vegan diet but realized that to exist in this world we are going to cause harm and the art lies in reducing that harm as much as possible. I have needed animal fat my whole life. When I was a child in the 80s my mother fed us what was thought to be healthy then- a diet heavy in soy and "lean meat" and light on fat. I would steal the butter from the fridge and eat it while hiding behind the couch (much to her chagrin).
Because it frequently takes more than once for me to learn my lesson in December of 2017 I did a 10 day silent meditation training that consisted of a 1970s style vegetarian diet with my friend Caitlin Hegwood. You are not allowed to bring your own food and while they will make dietary accommodations I figured it was the food I grew up on so I would be fine. I was not fine. After 2 days of eating oatmeal, stewed prunes, veggies with nutritional yeast, salad dressing with soybean oil and the like I had such a flare up of candida I couldn't stay awake or sit still when I was awake due to pain in my joints and muscles. This was a Dhamma Institute training that requires you to sit completely still for hours at a time.
I had to cut out EVERYTHING that has sugar to get the candida under control which left me with sunflower seeds for breakfast, steamed veggies at lunch (no salad dressing or anything on them), and hot water with cayenne pepper for dinner (there is no dinner although new students are permitted fruit, but I couldn't eat it). After 8 days of this food I was starving. My body was literally digesting itself and I was supplementing with the coconut oil from my cosmetic bag. My first words once we were permitted to speak were "I'm starving" to which Caitlin (who is familiar with my normal diet) responded" I know". I had lost 15 lbs of mostly muscle and got tired standing too long.
What is the moral of the story? I am unable to live a quality life without animal products. I attempt to carefully source all my food to reduce any harm. I also try to give myself a break to avoid orthorexia, but that is a fine line and a whole other topic. (Currently my diet is mostly pasture raised red meat, broccoli, despite the fact that I don't really like broccoli and prefer cabbage or cauliflower it is REALLY GOOD FOR YOU... oh, and a bunch or probiotics, especially found in food like sauerkraut and kimchi, click here to see the supplements I recommend).
Who is this voice inside my head?
One of the fundamentals of human experience is thought. The frequently continuous stream of language happening in your own head. While that voice might seem innocuous it can be devastating over time the same way a river can wear away rock. In yoga we call this chitta vritti.
What is your inner voice saying? I will admit- mine gives me a lot of crap! Make it a point today to pay attention to what that voice is saying. What is the content, quality, and consistency?
“But it was in this moment, lying in bed late at night, that I first realized that the voice in my head — the running commentary that had dominated my field of consciousness since I could remember — was kind of an asshole.” — Dan Harris
Without even noticing it often that voice is giving us constant negative feedback and criticism. This can be especially pronounced with people who suffer from anxiety or depression. Is your own head a negative feedback loop or echo chamber? Here are a few ways to stop it:
1.) Physical exercise! The benefits of this practice are numerous! Cardio can not only help boost your natural "happy' chemicals but it can also be a break from whatever it is that is stressing you out. Double benefits if you are in nature. Try going for a brisk walk near trees and practice noticing your surroundings- the quality of the light, the sound of the wind through the leaves, the smell, etc.
2.) Along the same vein: forest bathing. There truly is something about being in nature that is rejuvenating.
3.) Adopt a dog! Dogs always live in the moment and are great at offering love and support. Additionally, taking your dogs for walks can be combined with the suggestions above. Make sure to get a dog that matches your activity level- if you tend to be a couch potato don't get a Husky because they need miles and miles of exercise everyday.
4.) Practice some asana. One of the key features of yoga is the union of the mind and body through the physical postures. By focussing the voice in your head to your breath, your posture, your dristi, your mudras, bondas, etc there is no room left for negative self-talk. Make sure that you go to a qualified yoga teacher though, and not just some franchise down the street that focuses on the physical gains.
5.) Meditation! As I mentioned in the last post practicing meditation & mindfulness is a great way to change your thoughts, brain structure, and life. Bringing mindfulness and awareness of your present presence is key to all of these suggestions. Here is a guided meditation that is less than 5 minutes and we all have time for that.
6.) Check your drinking- and I'm not talking about water. While popular culture is rife with "drink responsibly" and "studies" about what amount of which alcohol is "good for you" the reality is it alcohol is much higher risk than reward. If you already struggle with mental illness it is even more problematic. Perhaps you identify as a "social drinker"? Try keeping a journal for a few weeks documenting your alcohol consumption and feelings. I, myself, in the past found that my daily glass of wine was an emotional crutch for a unhealthy work situation. (DISCLAIMER: if you are seriously dependent on alcohol do not go "cold turkey" but check with medical professionals since the withdrawal can be fatal).
Chances are we all "self medicate" but you have a choice as to what you are doing it with: wine or exercise? Choose healthy habits to replace the unhealthy ones. Every time you crave a cigarette go for a quick jog/walk around the block. That voice might tell you that you "need" something but just take a breath and a moment to check that "need". When that innervoice is being an asshole notice that it is being an asshole and try not to take it personally.
That voice isn't YOU. Feel free to tell it to fuck off <3
Kelsey enjoys researching and discussing. These posts are based on her research and are open for discussion! Enjoy! (For the record the credit for the title goes to one of Kelsey's favorite authors: Douglas Adams).