In my Tummy Bust, Sugar Drop, and Gutsy Yoga signature workshop series, I stress Ayurvedic diets. Not calories, but what is appropriate for you based on learnings from Ayurveda, as well as a myriad of modern nutritionists and integrative doctors.
In Ayurveda, each person is unique. Furthermore, what might be appropriate for you to eat when you’re eight, isn’t necessarily what you should be eating when you’re 80. Likewise, with Ayurvedic diets you need to alter your intake based on the weather, and other external conditions.
One thing is for sure. The Standard American Diet is SAD. Processed foods are made with so many artificial flavorings and additives, that they don’t resemble much anything grown in the earth. Over time, our tastebuds get used to what may be harmful. Thriving on routines, some wake up daily to savor eggs and bacon, while others scarf down coffee and a bagel with cream cheese on the go. Lunchtime favorites may be a sandwich and chips, or burger and fries. After all the carbs, fats and sodium, some may hunger for pizza and beer, or pasta and wine, for dinner.
The yogic or Ayurvedic diets are based on consuming foods high in prana (life source) and sattvic (neutral, non-mood altering). So a box of cereal that’s been sitting in the cupboard for a year or so has little prana, hence, isn’t going to give you much fuel.
Ayurvedic diets seek balance, in part, based on herbs and spices. For example, making your own tea with fennel, coriander and cumin seeds can be very soothing for many people. In the summer time, you may want to add fresh mint to your green juices or smoothies, whereas in the winter, cinnamon, black pepper, ginger and turmeric tea or golden milk may be more appropriate.
At the same time, we need to realize that there are more and more food allergies and intolerances, most of which are to a few food groups, which are easy to avoid, especially if you’re following a yogic or vegan diet.
Usually, food allergies present with “normal” responses such as gas, bloating, itchiness, cravings, headaches, fatigue, irritability, or dark circles under the eyes. However, some can be fatal. Food sensitivities, i.e. gluten intolerance, are harder to diagnose.
A journal can help you identify what culprits are in your pantry, and what makes you lethargic or cranky.
Oprah’s longtime coach, Bob Greene is an author of several bestsellers. He recommends journaling as a powerful way to combat food addictions. In “The Life You Want,” he writes “…certain foods set off an explosion of feel-good brain chemicals, so you go back for more…the pathway in the brain from trigger to treat is well worn…breaking the habit may prove tough…Addictive foods tend to have pumped-up flavors, tastes and textures…It’s hard for your average blueberry or orange..to compete.”
People joke about their morning coffee, or how candy wires the kids. Yet, because caffeine and sugar are part of the Standard American Diet, many accept these mood altering foods as normal.
Joel Fuhrman, M.D. says the drug of choice for most Americans is food. The father of the nutritarian eating explains that when our bodies absorb toxins routinely, we rely on them. We are addicted to them, and have a hard time not consuming them. Giving up sweets, java, bread, cheese or even processed foods can cause irritability, cramping, low fever and spasms, as you go through withdrawal.
JJ Virgin, author of “The Virgin Diet,” recommends a 21-day detox to monitor your reactions. JJ recommends eliminating sugar and artificial sweeteners, soy, gluten, eggs, peanuts, dairy, and corn from the get go. After three weeks, you can re-integrate one food at a time, monitoring your reactions.
Deepak Chopra, M.D., in “Grow Younger, Live Longer,” suggests a log to identify toxic emotions and toxic foods. “Studies have shown that journaling about upsetting emotional experiences can improve your immune function, as well as help you gain clarity and insight. Toxins must be identified and eliminated from your body, mind and soul.”
Bob Greene adds that people should identify emotional triggers. It may be a time of day, such as when you’re cooking in the kitchen, or when the kids are asleep. Or, maybe it’s when you’re on deadline.
Whether it’s a computer spreadsheet, a spiral notebook or a hard bound journal, I encourage my yoga therapy clients http://thenamastecounsel.com/offerings/ to record the following for at least a month.
- Sankalpa. Start with a positive intent related to diet and health.
- Digestion. Note any discomfort, gas, bloating, etc. List frequency of bowel movements, size and shape, and any abnormalities.
- Liquid intake. How many cups of water or herbal teas did you consume, daily? How many carbonated or caffeinated drinks? Sugary drinks/juices?
- Food intake. List details, based on your personal health needs. Charts can include food items, portions and times consumed, calories, carbs and sugar loads.
- Exercise. What physical activity did you do each day, for how long, and what level of exertion?
- Meditation and/or breathwork. Both are important for lifestyle change. Note what practices you did, and for how long, each day.
- Sleep. Include the number of hours, and quality of your sleep, each night.
- Weight. Weigh yourself once a week, upon rising.
- Blood pressure/blood sugar. If you have high blood pressure or blood sugar, conduct frequent self checks to notice spikes or dips.
- Energy level and mood. Did you feel energetic after eating that piece of chocolate? Were you depressed the first week? Release your feelings here.
Whether you want to settle your tummy, lose a few pounds, or better regulate your blood sugar, food journaling is an essential piece, along with attention to principles of Ayurvedic diets. Contact me for more information or to register in one of my therapeutic workshops.
Note: Another version of this article originally appeared in Yoganonymous on January 13, 2016.