Sunday, February 1, 2009
I've been meaning to write about Ayurveda, yoga's sister science, for some time now. Simply, Ayurveda is for food what yoga is for the mind/body. Its premise is that everyone has a particular body type (or dosha), and that we should eat according to our type to create harmony within the body. It is unlike other diets that presuppose we are all the same; one size fits all.
If you would like to know more, and are curious as to your dosha, here's an excellent blog: http://www.franlife.blogspot.com
Until now I have been reluctant to fully incorporate this practice into my life. I have a difficult time restricting my diet for any reason. It probably stems from having been on a 'diet' most of my life. I have tried everything... before I knew any better, I tried calorie counting (down to less than 800 calories/day), the grapefruit diet, the protein shake diet.... I thought these approaches were synonymous with weight loss. I thought less food equalled less weight - as simple as that. How could starving oneself possibly backfire? It was until I ended up in the emergency room when I was 17 years old, having just run 7 miles on less than 800 calories that day. I exercised myself so hard on so little fuel, that I went into hypothermic shock. I had no idea what I was doing to my body, and nothing could prepare me for what happened after I started to eat again. I used to have half a cucumber for lunch, and thought it was normal. The price to pay in order to be thin. And for what it's worth, a lot of people in our culture have some form of eating disorder. Socially acceptable or otherwise...
So over the years I have put on weight, refusing to accept the weight loss fads that come and go. I have been searching for answers, doing the research and trying to find what's right for me and my body. Loosely, I would say I have adopted a 'naturalist' approach to food. I cook everything from scratch, using whole ingredients, organic when possible/affordable. I try to avoid refined sugars, try to buy only organic meat (when I can, directly from local farms), and minimize my wheat and corn intake. I strive for balance; not cutting one thing out in favor of another (i.e., high protein/no carb).
A book that truly influenced how I see food is Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma: http://www.michaelpollan.com/omnivore.php
A must read.
I am getting there. But I still have trouble listening to my body. Ayurveda asks that of you - that you stop eating before you stuff yourself, that you eat food that is alive and prepared with love, that you practice awareness of what you are eating as you eat, and that you eat the foods that are beneficial for your dosha. The concept is simple, yet in today's society of stress and long hours of work, it's hard to respect these teachings.
According to Ayurveda, my insomnia is partly symptomatic of an imbalance. So I have decided to follow an Ayurvedic Vata-pacifying diet. This includes warm foods with whole grains, dairy, sweet fruits, and well cooked vegetables. It will largely be vegetarian.
It will be an adjustment, but I am looking forward to seeing the results.