Most of us see pictures of our parents or friends from 30 years back and screech at whatever heeeedious outfit was cool and in style at the time. Personally, I look at my current wardrobe and think it would be impossible that in 30 years I wouldn’t be wearing the same clothes and still looking effortlessly chic (what? My ripped jeans from Zara aren’t going to be appropriate in 30 years?!). Sometimes it’s hard in the moment to picture any other way of life fitting us better and serving us more than what we are doing now. Ten years ago, with the help of Jennifer Aniston, The Zone Diet seemed to be the answer for healthy eating. Currently, the Paleo Diet is sweeping its way across the nation. I’m not picking on either diet; in fact, many diets out there (minus any diet selling boxed foods, and the Fruitarian diet) have some base of sound principles that do help people improve upon what they were currently doing at the time. Most practical diets remove sugar and processed foods and put some importance on eating vegetables. We can all agree that it’s a healthier way to live. Regardless of whether it’s the South Beach diet in 2004 or Paleo in 2014, all of these “diets” share a commonality: they don’t create balance and life-long lasting change, and most importantly people are relying on rules and not on their inner communication with their bodies to guide them to eat what is healing for them at that moment.
This inner communication I call conscious eating. Conscious eating is a spiritual practice that can never be mastered. It is a discipline much like meditation, exercise, being kind to others, and thinking positive thoughts. You don’t get to check it off your list much like a 30-day diet challenge (sweet! Finished the 30-day detox, let’s go grab a burger!) The number one rule for conscious eating is to ONLY eat when you are physically hungry. I know my sweet, Jewish mother would gasp at the idea of me skipping dinner because I’m simply not hungry for it, but listening to your body is the only sustainable way to maintain ultimate health and vitality.
The human body is constantly changing. Stresses, our environment, activity level, immune system function all vary depending on circumstance. Following any one rule or diet basically says that we don’t trust the innate wisdom of our bodies to guide us. I understand completely (without judgment) why clients come to me begging for rules. This conscious eating I speak of is virtually impossible if you aren’t connected to your inner guide. You may be thinking, “what the f&*k is my inner guide”? It’s a voice inside you that comes from your higher self, always guiding you in the right direction to make the best decisions for your life and health. This guide only works when we quiet our minds and sit still enough to listen to its whispers. Because our current culture places very little to no importance on the practice of mediation, breathing, and reflection time, for most of us we are left only to our thoughts to guide us, and when it comes to eating, the mind can be your worst enemy.
There is a pendulum swing we typically see when we use rules to govern our nourishment. We go back and forth from “food prison” to “reckless abandonment”. I’m not saying rules are bad; they are usually the beginning of how we change a habit that is no longer serving us until conscious eating can allow the rules to fall away naturally. Rules will never last forever. They aren’t sustainable. Listening to your body and asking questions like “Am I hungry? What am I hungry for? Will my digestion like this? Am I eating something medicinal for my body? What am I feeling? Does my body want this at this moment?” is the only sustainable way to achieve long lasting health. Do you know how many times I would reach for food (with the excuse of “it’s healthy so who cares if I am hungry or not”) when after asking those questions what I really needed was to get in bed and watch reruns of Sex in The City?
I’ve been practicing conscious eating for years, I lead workshops on it, I write blogs about it and I teach the practice to clients one-on-one. Even with this level of consciousness, I still have to gently remind myself to come back to it when a rule has taken over. I normally eat animal protein with every main meal; usually I don’t feel good without it. I was fighting off a cold last week and for the first few days I ate as I normally would and went to sleep feeling full and uncomfortable. After two nights of feeling off, I woke up the next morning, sat still for a few minutes and came to the conclusion that my body didn’t need meat for that day. I made one of my favorite breakfasts from childhood: a piece of gluten free toast with a half of avocado spread on it, sea salt, tomato and sprouts with some strawberries on the side. Before I ate it, I looked at this beautiful plate filled with colors, and 4 different fruits and veggies and thought to myself “how sad it would be for my clients to think this is an unhealthy option because there is a piece of toast in this scenario”.
I promise you, most of us are overweight not because of carbohydrates but because we eat too much food, bottom line. It doesn’t matter if it’s too much egg white omelet, or too many nuts. We completely over estimate how much food we need to thrive. We feel we need these strict diet rules to help us get to our ideal health and they wind up driving us crazy and making us feel deprived. Practice only eating when you are physically hungry, and asking your body what it truly wants (you may be surprised when the answer is green juice instead of potato chips) and allow all those diet rules to slowly fall away over time. Trust yourself. If when you read this you think that this would never work for you and you need rules or else all hell will break loose, then you simply just need a little help aligning yourself with your inner guide! When we are energetically at peace with ourselves, we want to put nourishing foods in the one and only body that we have to carry us through this life. Break some diet rules today and instead practice going within and eating more consciously. Avocado toast for everyone!