The Golden Rules of Intuitive Eating

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What the heck does intuitive eating mean, anyway? In a modern-day world of fad diet madness, it’s incredibly to wade through the mess of slenderizing claims and oftentimes we find ourselves asking, “What should I eat?” What I suggest is a journey, back to what nature intended…intuitive eating.

 

It reminds me of a tale I once heard when I was younger. It’s about two men, one was Caucasian and the other Native American, and they were walking along when The Native American man asked his companion,

“Are you hungry?” The Caucasian man looked at his watch before answering,

“Eh, it’s about lunch time, yeah.” The Native American man gave his friend a quizzical look and shook his head.

“Only you white men tell by the time on a clock whether you’re hungry or not.”

 

This story has always stuck with me. Granted, in a world of work and hustle bustle schedules, it’s often not convenient to skip your lunch break because you’re “just not hungry yet” because the vast majority of us don’t have the luxury of defining our own schedules. I get that, and I’m not telling you to go hungry. I’m simply making an effort myself to ask the question before eating, “Am I really hungry right now? Or am I just eating because it’s ‘dinner time’ according to the clock?” It’s kind of an archaically simple concept for many of us these days, to eat only when we are hungry. But how do we manage to live that way in a world of über-convenience, and for those fortunate enough, over-abundance?

 

My suggestions for us are as follows:

  • Return to a plant-based diet. I’m not going to preach any particular style of diet to you because I believe that we are all fiercely individual and it is not my place to deny you the foods you want, need, or love. I just advocate for the abundance of energy and wellness I feel when consuming a plant-based diet.
  • Eliminate any foods that irritate you. Seriously. Stop eating ice cream if you are sensitive to dairy. It stinks, I know. Listen to your body; if something doesn’t sit right, if you don’t feel well after eating it, stop trying to force it. No matter how much you might love a particular food, respect your body and let it be your guide.
  • Drink copious amounts of water.
  • Eat slowly. This one can be hard, it often is for me, rushing around becomes normal and it’s hard to just slow down…but let’s try together.
  • Chew your food well. Maybe even shut your eyes. Knocking out a sense heightens the remaining active senses. Extract the rasa from your food. Rasa, according to Yoga Journal, is essentially the nectar of one particular thing. It is the “taste” in food, the “marrow” of an emotion, the “sap” of a human being. Full article, and far more clarity, found here: http://www.yogajournal.com/lifestyle/10.
  • Learn the difference between feeling satiated and feeling stuffed. We are conditioned to want to eat everything we’ve put on our plate or eat until we’re very full. You have permission to stop instead when you’re satisfied – most of us in this country are fortunate enough to know there will be food available again the next time we get hungry. No need to gorge oneself.

 

My suggestions are fundamental; I’ve read similar health commandments in bunches of magazines, but I suppose that’s what struck me most about creating my own list of golden rules…they are almost the same, every time. It’s because THIS is what works. No deprivation diet, no restriction, no uniformity, simply an individualized approach to simply listening to one’s own body. So, the next time you get the urge to look at the time before answering whether or not you’re hungry, pause…resist the urge to base your decision to eat on anything other than whether or not your body needs fuel. When you do decide to refuel, try and find a place to sit. Then lend your full attention to the meal, whether it’s three courses or just an apple. Intuition is a beautiful, powerful tool. Pairing it with the fueling and nourishing act of eating creates a force to be reckoned with. As a friend of mine says, “be a good mammal.” Put some sincere determination behind the act of intuitively eating and see how much better you feel. I suspect you will feel stronger, more energized, and far more in touch with your own body and mind. 

 

 

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To Retreat or Not To Retreat, That is the Question!

I am currently in the process of planning my return to Sivananda Ashram and Yoga Farm in the lovely, remote area of Grass Valley, CA.

Last September certain areas of life beckoned my recognition and I turned to my yoga practice for guidance. I was led, by fate I presume, to the beautiful farm retreat with a close friend with whom I had practiced before. We spent two nights camping on the property, waking at 5:30 to a soothing bell and the soft chant “Om Namah Shivaya, it’s 5:30…” We would then meditate for twenty minutes, the early morning light peeking in through the windows and falling on the edges of the silent room, bodies draped in soft scarves and wraps, eyes closed, bodies humming with peace…after meditation we would chant, and then the Swami would give an inspiration, uplifting lecture. I hesitate to even use the word “lecture” for his beautiful blend of spiritual, relatable, modern and thematic story-telling. It was more that, story-telling, than lecture. A “take what you will from this” type of verbal presentation in the fresh morning atmosphere.

From there we would go to our first yoga class. Sivananda yoga is a different practice from the Vinyasa Flow I’m used to, and it was difficult for me to bend my practice away from what I’m used to (an important lesson I learned about myself off the mat, an unwillingness to bend…we must learn to bend so as not to break); my heart has opened greatly in the past year and has embraced many styles of practice and now I look forward to practicing Sivananda yoga again with a year’s reflection in my medicine kit.

Post yoga we would retreat to brunch, which was a decadent spread of vegan, hearty, wholesome goodness. Lots of lentils, breads, soups, vegetables, potatoes, salads, tea and rices were served and tasted absolutely divine. In part due to the expert Ayurvedic preparation and in part because we’d be up since 5:30 and not eaten (that would be false if I let you believe that – Megan and I indulged in a Luna bar and piece of fruit each in the tent at 5:30 each morning before heading down to meditation…I cannot make it through four hours of my day without a bite to get my body going, I don’t believe it’s healthy for the metabolism either so…packing your own healthy snacks is a must).

After brunch, and the washing of our own dishes, was something called “Karma Yoga” which I expected to be another type of yoga, what a rookie move 😉 Karma Yoga consisted of kitchen clean-up, working around the ashram, watering the plants, turning the soil…etc. and it was a lovely concept. A spiritual place of beauty that is kept spiritual and beautiful by those who are present doing the work it takes to keep the land flourishing. It really is yoga. The act of beautifying what is in, around and part of you, because no one else will. It was a humbling and inspiring practice.

After some free time we would reconvene for afternoon yoga. The class would be the same as the morning. After that class we were feeling particularly drained and sleepy from the heat, the lower consumption of food and the lack of sleep. We took free time to do some vinyasa and reflective writing on the gorgeous meditation deck overlooking the lake before dinnertime. Dinner was another phenomenal spread of vegan Ayurvedic amazingness. A bit more free time elapsed afterwards and then it was time to refill our mugs of tea and congregate for evening Satsang, which is the same as morning time, with meditation, chanting and lecture.

We arrived on a Friday and partook in dinner and Satsang, then the next day was as I described, and the last day was as I described up until the afternoon when we did Kirtan (a delightful call and respond singing/chanting practice) and departed from the Ashram.

All in all, I was completely changed by my experience. Now, this is not a place to be “holier than thou” and act as though I was all blissed out and reached self-recognition and enlightenment during meditation. No. That did not happen. I had an “Eat Pray Love” moment during meditation where I wanted to crumble forward out of Sukhasana (simple cross-legged sitting pose) and wail into the floor, “WHY AM I THINKING ABOUT EVERYTHING THERE HAS EVER BEEN TO THINK ABOUT RIGHT NOW WHEN MY MIND IS SUPPOSED TO BE BLANK!?!?” The answer I came up with after months of reflection is not one you want to offer that hair-brained, mess of a self that is floundering in meditation amidst practiced yogis. No. Just be gentle with that poor fragile part of you, because the answer that you too will realize is that you need to meditate more. Do I meditate more? Not really. Sometimes. But not really. I’m coming up on a year since my retreat and I’m just now realizing how much it’s changed me. I’m just now itching to go back. I’m just now realizing I want to meditate more. But I’m going to meditate lying down, or walking, because that’s what allows my mind to quiet down. I urge you to make your practice your own. Naturally, don’t get up and stride out of Satsang to go do walking meditation because that would be rude. Try their methods, try to acclimate. Do your best. But in your own practice and your own life outside of the retreat, be creative. Find what works for you. So in the quest of answering To Retreat or Not To Retreat, I can only tell you that in a year’s time I’ve found it to be life changing and the first step in a long journey; one that I anticipate with a soft smile and a very open heart.

Why Am I Crying During Savasana?

Oh, Savasana…I like to refer to certain yoga classes as “the onion type.” While some yoga classes leave me bursting with energy, and others leave me draped in a tranquil blanket of serenity, there are also the ones that blend heat-generating asanas with meditative, introspective philosophy. Throw in the soothing, gentle voice of a really stellar instructor, and I don’t care if it’s my birthday or if I’m leaving for Disneyland after class, I’ll discover salty tears creeping out of my eyes as we lie our bodies down for the final resting pose: Savasana.

 

What is it about Savasana that excavates such powerful emotion? My personal view is that “the onion type” of yoga class is one that figuratively peels back your layers one by one. The sequencing of asanas scattered with reflection and blended with the careful placement of restorative poses, plus an instructor who just seem to be speaking directly to me (it’s like a horoscope…how do they KNOW what I’m going through?!) leave the heart gaping wide open and pulsating with raw emotion. “Inhale, and exhale. On the exhale, sigh ‘let…gooo…”

 

It was my experience just last night that a particularly tender and serene woman was substituting what happened to be my very first Jivamukti yoga class at Indigo Pilates and Yoga in Pleasant Hill, CA. She had the soothing voice of an angel and was brimming with inspirational knowledge on Sanskrit and philosophy. She went from student to student adjusting gently and even massaging lower back, neck, shoulders. There was even an aromatherapy rub placed strategically on pressure points that ignited the senses and, consequently, the urge to sob gently with my sticky face buried into a bolster. I’m about to cry again just writing about it.

 

Point being, “the onion yoga class” is one that allows us to strip away our layers. While the triggers are all there within the class, we are the ones who do the peeling, who do the inner work that leads to the state of overwhelming emotional connectedness. We step out of the world’s chaos and into a cool, dimly lit studio after a long day of being who the world expects us to be. I even experience the onion class here at home, in the morning, on my bedroom floor with Ashley Turner’s yoga DVDs. The deep and profound appreciation for one’s own body within a yoga class is something no other form of physical exertion can really induce on this level, in my own personal experience. The simple phrase “let go” calls out passionately to everyone in a different way. Whether you are still in love with someone with whom a relationship simply isn’t working, or you’re in a job that is leading you astray, or you’re holding onto a belief or action that is no longer serving you…”let go,” means something different to everybody. Just as every single yogi’s practice is intensely their own, “the onion type” of class will trigger us all in different ways. Last night I asked myself, “What am I sad about?” My brain dutifully began to dart from idea to idea. Could it be “a, b, or c?” it asked me concernedly? Life was okay last night, everything felt pretty even-keel, so what on earth were the tears for?

 

My answer is this: sadness, fear and joy are all emotions that produce an urge to cry. But how fiercely beautiful is it that a physical practice that calls forth one’s body, soul and mind at once can generate such powerful results even when life feels great? No single emotion caused my tears, just the practice, and there was no specific sentiment attached to them. Just as twists and forward bends and asanas stimulate positive physical reactions within the body, so does the practice to the mind and soul. I consider these tears, whether they are attached so some emotion or not, to be cleansing. The body is literally purging itself of toxins, flushing out the emotions you carried into class and welcoming the fresh, new emotions you will absorb as you leave your mat. The next time you find yourself experiencing an “onion yoga class,” perhaps instead of questioning the tears or trying to analyze them, just thank your body. Thank your soul. Thank your mind. Thank them for being receptive to emotions, insights and to the practice of Yoga. Thank them for allowing you to peel back the layers intimately and peer deeply into your own soul. Nobody can do that but you. That ability to emotionally connect with yourself is something that not every being is capable of; embrace it, embrace your heart’s openness and beckon into it all the beauty, light and love that your practice and your life has to offer.

Namaste (:

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“Doing what you love leads you to happiness and good health. Activities that make you feel free, connected, calm and capable reinforce habits that keep creating the same feelings. Activities that make you feel anxious, stressed, and not good enough also lead to reinforcing habits. The activity itself doesn’t matter. What matters is how you feel about it. How you practice is most important.”

http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-5128/Why-Exercise-and-Burning-Calories-Wont-Help-You-Lose-Weight.html

 

This is a great article on why pounding the pavement (or yoga mat, or bicycle pedals) will not help you achieve your fitness goals. Exercise is excellent for you, but not when it’s a forced punishment post overeating, unenjoyable, physically stressful, negative energy vicious cycle. Several things are addressed in this article, my favorite being the quote I put in the title. My second favorite being “you are what you eat.” This is undeniably true. Her truth-based approach to the harsh reality that no matter how hard one might exercise, the burn and exertion is no match for the damage one can cause consuming (and overindulging in) food and drink. Exercise ought not be done to burn calories eaten, but rather to rev energy and boost the desire for wholesome fuel. “How you live has to do with weight loss,” not what you do, Stiles says. And for those, like myself, not striving for weight loss but rather the maintenance of a healthy, balanced, and fit physical being, the rules are all the same. They’re the same, and they’re simple. Give this article a read if you are tired of the rat race and want to gain a little more insight in how to live a calmer, more healthful life.

From The Ground Up: How Yoga is a Foundation for Positive Body Image

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As I sit here grooving to YogiTunes, I cannot help but overflow with gratitude for how comfortable I feel in my own skin. I credit yoga for this sense of comfort. Why, you ask? Well let’s begin by saying that as a young woman who has struggled with body image since my teens, I can tell you that one’s actual physical structure really has very little to do with “body image.” As a child I was called a “bean pole,” I grew up with a girl who was teased for developing a hearty bust at age ten, and meanwhile the girl in the corner with beautiful eyes was called “fat.” Did any particular label hurt more than the other? No. Perhaps the girl who was called “fat” would have yearned to be called a “bean pole” and yet this term hurt my feelings. My friend who developed early was almost certainly teased out of envy, and yet it mortified her and caused her to cry at night and wear loose t-shirts. So, that being said, why is it that we allow others to dictate our own body image?

Body image is a profoundly personal and intimate subject, yet somehow society and the outside world manage to make it their business. This is completely within our control, however, and I’d like to call out to all hearts for us to turn inward and regain that power. Yoga, in my mind, is the practice of being in one’s own skin and moving through life with long, full, deep breaths. This is a practice that I take on my mat, and take off of my mat out into the world. When I’m on my mat, yoga is about listening to my body. I’ve practiced sporadically over the years, and I vividly remember my first yoga class at age twelve. The teacher spent a great deal of time explaining how to root down through the feet, using the pinky toe and the big toe to balance, rooting down through the “four corners” of the feet. Over the years my practice waxed and waned, but for the past year I’ve become a dedicated daily practitioner. That being said, in the past year I’ve learned to love and embrace my body as so much more than a physical manifestation of myself. I’ve learned through yoga that my practice morphs daily, monthly, even hourly, just as my moods and thoughts do. I’ve learned to listen to my body and feel my value through a heating Vinyasa practice, while also indulging in restorative poses and rolling around on my back on days I’m feeling low. I’ve come to see my mat as a place of refuge, a shelter from the storm, if you will. Whether I’m massaging my third eye into my Prana mat in child’s pose, or dripping beads of heated energetic sweat onto it through a challenging Ashtanga practice, I feel as though my mat is my little magic carpet. It’s a place I go to create, to manifest what is truly swimming around my heart: passion for life.

I suffered a life-threatening eating disorder in my late teens and spent the ensuing years deeply afraid that I’d never come to terms with what a beautiful, powerful mechanism my body is. I was terrified that my scars were so deep that I would never be able to look in the mirror and love myself unconditionally. Yoga has helped allow me to do just that. Most importantly is the awareness that we as humans change physically on a regular basis, particularly as women. The path of infancy, to childhood, through puberty, into womanhood, through pregnancy, into middle ages, over/under/around menopause, entering elderliness is a path that can be bumpy I’m sure. There may never be a time one looks in the mirror and actually sees a body that they deem “perfect.” But what is perfect, anyway? Yoga helps answer that question. Yogi and mind/body expert Ashley Turner says it perfectly in her yoga DVD; learn to “view the body as an instrument, rather than an ornament.” Society urges us to be ornaments, to get the latest makeover, to “perfect” ourselves in every way possible. Yoga gently leads us through the transformation from ornament to instrument. We use our bodies to perform the fluid dance of yoga practice, to cultivate deep Ujai breathing, and to feel one with the earth and with our breath. We pause from heated flows, as Kathryn Budig has her students do mid-flow in her Aim True DVD, and place the hands over the heart…“it is always there, and it is always wanting to work for you,” she says, “take a moment…appreciation.”

This journey of yoga solidifying a foundation on which body image might bob in the waves of positivity and healthfulness is life long. No single yoga class will get us there, but life is not a destination after all, it’s a journey. Though the wisdom of a single teacher, and the actions within a single class can be enough to flip the switch on, igniting within an individual what it is to be “perfect.” What “perfect” means is to simply be YOU; it’s the one thing no one but you can do perfectly. Build your confidence, build your practice, and build your body image from the ground up. Practice yoga in order to tolerate the exquisite, sometimes painful, and deeply meaningful consequences of being you.

1.) “Confidence is beautiful…” was found at: http://theberry.com/2012/04/10/need-a-little-motivation-33-photos/
2.) “Yoga is the practice…”  is from a Jennifer Galardi facebook post and can be found at: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10150755547771518&set=a.409660156517.200317.105713996517&type=3&theater

Okay, I have a confession…

I’m not a juice drinker. I never really have been, except for when I was little I guess. I liked my apple juice, drank OJ when I had a cold, had the occasional strong hankering for cranberry juice, whatever. I’ve just not been a juice drinker since my teens or any of my adult life. I just prefer to drink water, coffee, tea, sometimes smoothies, you get it…

Well, I have a confession…I was reading about Liv Tyler the other night and how we have the same birthday (way too cool for me to even get into right now) and, low and behold, the next topic of the article was her porcelain complexion. According to the MindBodyGreen article (my new favorite website, btw, which is now definitely set as my web browser homepage!), Liv admits fresh cucumber juice is one of the secrets to her fresh, glowing skin.

I have to disagree Liv, I think that’s genetics. You’re gorgeous by birthright, but I’m sure the cucumber helps…

And I do very much appreciate the awesome tip of how to gain some extra nutritious hydration, from the inside out. So today I picked up a new juice that we have at Whole Foods by Evolution. It had spinach, celery, cucumber, and maybe lime? It definitely was green, watery, and (to my tastes) quite delicious! I felt super hydrated and even a little full afterwards, liquid will do that though.

While I enjoyed my juice very much, I couldn’t help but immediately think, “I would NEVER go on a juice cleanse.” Not because the juice wasn’t delicious or because I don’t want glowing skin…I do want glowing skin, obviously, and this is actually finally a juice that’s up my alley! I think what I don’t care for about juices is how terribly sweet they are. They give me that sore, puckering sensation in my mouth from too much sugar – and it’s normally a ton of added sugar, mind you, which is just a big no-no in the realm of healthy living, let’s be real.

I am excited to have found a low sugar, high nutrient, not sweet, super refreshing, incredibly hydrating juice to occasionally add to my well-balanced, healthy diet. But would I go on a juice cleanse? HECK to the no.
Why, you ask? Simply stated, we as human beings are not meant to subsist on juice, for any length of time. I find the idea is a trendy fad and totally bonkers. Plus I’m really attached to chewing.

Let the Huffington Post explain what I’m trying to say in less of a “Hi, I’m 5” manner:

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/03/22/do-juice-cleanses-work_n_1372305.html?ref=tw

All that being said, I think it’d be cool to buy a juicer (because, honestly, I’m not interested in ever spending $5.49 on a green juice ever again, no matter how delicious today’s cucumber celery lime juice concoction was and how great it made me feel, a salad buried in cucumber could do the same). I’d juice low sugar veggies with skin on to maintain the fiber if I had a juicer. But, again, let’s be real, as a non-juice drinker I’d probably only drink one glass a week if that. And that does not a juicer price tag justify.

So, in the end, I liked my juice today. Juice fasts are horrid ideas in my opinion, I’d never do one. I could buy a juicer and make cucumber juice at home…OR I could just buy a ton of organic cucumbers and eat them all up! Om nom nom. I think the latter is fine by me.

Thanks for the tip, Liv 🙂