There has been a wave of dieting for a very long time! Healthy, not healthy, kinda sorta healthy- no matter what type of diet it is they never seem to really work, right? How many times have we begun a diet only to go back to the same habits as we had before, and in some cases even worse habits than before! We feel heavy, defeated, and like we have no self control. Its not an empowered place to be at all and it creates suffering.
While everyone begins their holiday diets, or begin thinking about it come Thanksgiving, I have been doing a lot of thought on mindful eating. I have put together a list in the hopes of giving you some insight on my own experience and to steer you away from dieting all together. Yes, you read that right, my advice is NO DIETING!!! While some of you are jumping for joy, others are calling me crazy, however I tell you no lies. Here is my advice for you on eating for Health & Wellness. No.1) Start a Meditation Practice
"But this has nothing to do with eating", I can hear you say! Actually, it can lead to a deeper and more meaningful eating experience. When you meditate the neurons in your brain begin to act differently, thus changing your thoughts and actions to become wiser with more intention. Once this has happened you will notice your eating habits begin to change. For instance, you might begin to notice after meditating that you eat salty foods when you feel stressed. You might notice also that when you are feeling sensitive or sad you eat a lot of sweets. Once you have meditated for a while you can start to curb that behavior and choose to actively avoid sweets and salt and rather go to a yoga class or walk your dog once these emotions begin to arise within you. When you begin to listen to the body on a deep cellular level, your habits begin to change slowly to become more mindful of your actions. For myself this was a gradual process but so powerful that I now eat a solely plant based diet as a result of my changed behavior. I no longer eat junk food, have cut out processed foods and sugar by 90%, and eat 2 raw meals a day. As a result I feel healthier and more clear, focused, and strong. Notice how I am not on a diet though, because I notice that when I force myself to do something I end up stressing not just my mind out but also my body. Instead I make decisions day by day to think healthy and I am very thoughtful of my choices, but I never force myself to do anything. This ends up giving me full power over my physical and mental health which is ultimately what it is all about.
No.2) Eat More Fresh Food
This goes right into nutritional education, and you are definitely encouraged to do your own research on this, but eating fresh means you are eating wholesome nutrients for maximum health. You can gradually start increasing your daily fresh food intake, such as salads with little to no dressing, whole fruits and veggies like apples or carrots, and a variety of juices and smoothies. You can eat fruits for breakfast, a veggie plate and Juice for lunch, or a large fresh salad for dinner. While I am not suggesting you get on a raw only diet, what I am advising is for you to introduce as much raw and fresh ingredients into your day as possible, the more organic the better. The great thing about this is you can customize it to your daily schedule. If you want to save money, buy seasonal and from the farmers market. You can eat whole fruits and veggies as snacks, you can create fresh juices, or you can blend up some smoothies. There are thousands of fresh and raw recipes online and from books to help you get creative. Try this out for a month and notice how you feel, integrate it into your journaling and mindful practice. When you buy and eat food, notice why you're buying it and if you are in a particular mood. This practice can substantially effect your health in positive ways.
No.3) Read The Ingredients List
This is a great practice for anyone to do, especially children. Knowing what ingredients are going into your body is essential to your wellness. It can seem overwhelming at first if this is not a practice you have ever partaken in, but over time it becomes like second nature. When buying packaged food, always look to see what it was made out of, then scan the nutrition box for things like calories and sugar. What I usually scan for are grams of sugar, preservatives, and dairy content. A general rule that I, and most people have, is if you cant pronounce it then don't eat it! However I take it a step further and say if I don't know what it is then I don't eat, meaning if the ingredient is so far from anything I know then I stay away from it. When you make a choice to read your ingredients you are actively partaking in your wellness and health education by default. You know exactly what you are eating and can make choices on what you continue to eat and what you can leave behind on the shelf. I began this practice several years ago as a way to become more mindful of my choices, and it has transformed my eating completely! I am not obsessive about it though, and that can become tempting if you let it. Again, this is a practice in mindfulness not obsession and negative behavior. If you become too obsessed about your food then you begin to cross over into eating disorder territory, which is very unhealthy. Be sure not to put pressure on yourself and push yourself into any habit that is not serving your highest self. The moment you find yourself upset about food is the moment you should take a step back and give yourself a break. No one is perfect and you shouldn't try to be. If you eat some junk food and a pastry its not the end of the world, its simply a choice.
Let yourself eat to live, don't live to eat!
Finally, Forget Body Image. In today's society we are taught that the way we look is more important than health and wellness. Just because someone is skinny doesn't mean they are healthy, and the same is true for the opposite. When I was younger I modeled and I looked very skinny but ate fast food, chips and soda, and candy on a daily basis. I looked healthy, by society standards, on the outside but was extremely unhealthy on the inside. Most importantly I was very unhealthy mentally, my mood was very imbalanced and I abused alcohol to control my depression and anxiety. On the flip side I now know people who aren't skinny, by some peoples perspective, but eat incredibly healthy food and keep their bodies active and fit, proving that you should not judge a book by its cover. Forget body image and simply focus on healthy habits. This can radically change your outlook on life and also help you to think more lovingly of yourself. Love is what this practice is all about!
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I love the idea of making fresh food that has no preparation or planning whatsoever- In the moment cooking!!! I put this together in less than 10min only using what was in the fridge and pantry. Here's the ingredients in no particular order:Kale, carrots, sprouts, tomatoes, avocado, raisins, red pepper hummus, chia seeds, quinoa, whole wheat wrap. That's it! The avocado was sprinkled very lightly with salt and the raisins just gave it the right amount of sweetness! The chia and quinoa were added in for a bit of crunchiness! All ingredients are organic and vegan! So good! Time to kiss the cook!!!
I've always been asked by many people what to do to stay healthy and fit. They ask me so many questions about health sometimes its hard to give them just one answer!
The truth is there are many different factors that lead to a healthy body and mind. Obviously I will promote yoga all day until my jaw hurts! But thats only one small part of it. While the asana aspect of yoga is very critical to health, its one small branch to the big 8 Limbed tree of Yoga. To break it down though, here are a few things that anyone can take away from the yogic lifestyle. So next time you're in a jam, ask yourself- What Would A Yogi Do?!
1) Eat Healthy and Mindfully.
Everyone knows to eat their peas and carrots, but have you thought mindfully about this? Meaning, when you bought those carrots did you think about where it came from, who grew it, and how? Doing this at the grocery will drastically change your habits. I promise! You can do your research before hitting the store to be better educated. Watching TED Talks on the subject, documentaries, and doing some google searches on organic food and sustainable practices will enlighten you. Food is so essential to our survival, but just because this side of the world is abundant in it doesn't mean its safe for you. If you eat meat this can be a life saver. Animals treated and raised properly can have a drastic difference in nutrition. Animals and plants also transfer energy, its the law of physics! Would you rather eat happy chickens or depressed and deprived chickens? Same goes for plants! I myself am a vegetarian, part time vegan, so I promote that lifestyle 100% but that doesn't mean if you eat meat I wont support you! It is still a good idea to only eat meat once or twice a week, not everyday. Protein is in abundance in many plants so don't be fooled by the ads! Eat peacefully and quietly, don't rush. Avoid eating before bed, even snacks, drink tea if you really want something in the tummy.
2) Meditate Meditation is hard. I wont lie to you! But what makes it harder is not doing it at all! Showing up every time, even if you dont want to, is the best way to tackle life and its challenges. Every day people are diagnosed with mental disorders. I cant help but wonder how many of those people could avoid those diagnoses if they started meditating. As a society we are constantly busy, physically, mentally and emotionally. Taking 15, 30, 60 minutes to be still and quiet can seem like wasted time! But I promise you wont regret it, you will see so much benefit. To get started, try lying down on your back and closing your eyes for 15 minutes a day. DONT FALL ASLEEP! Once you can lay there without moving or falling asleep, move on to sitting with crossed legs for 20 minutes. Find a meditation group or go on a meditation course or intensive. When I started I wanted to be immersed so I went to a 10 day silent immersion course! You dont have to do this unless you want a drastic change to your life! I did and it changed, and possibly saved, my life.
3) Throw away your TV!!!
Or at least watch less of it. A lot less! Like almost hardly ever! This will not only increase the time you spend doing much healthier things, but it will change your attitude too! I gave up TV 3 years ago and I will never go back! My attitude went from dramatic to stable within a few months. You will be surprised how you are soaking in all that bad energy from TV shows, ads, and movies. Part of being healthy is being mindful, and you cant be mindful if you are not aware how things effect you externally. If you want a change for the better, toss that TV out the window!!!! But if you want a slow change, only watch shows that are uplifting and educational. Im a big fan of Discovery channel, National geographic, and health shows. Comedy is good to watch in small doses, its very healthy to laugh! But dont laugh at someone else's expense. Racism, sexism, and violence is never funny and they degrade your mind. Truth.
4) Dont worry, be happy!
Stress is a huge sickness that starts in the mind and ends with decease! Many studies have proved that stress is linked to immune system failures and even cancer! Ever heard of panic attacks and mental break downs? Both caused by stress. Did you get sick but no one else around you is sick? It was most likely stress. A lot of the time we dont see how stress effects us until we are sick in bed or crying for no reason! When life gives you lemons, make lemonade! Dont worry, everything will work itself out. If you feel overwhelmed by everything, call a friend. Find a community. Meditation helps so much, so does yoga and playing with your pet! Do something positive with your time. Read a book, start a journal or blog, go to the woods and rest! Life is beautiful, you just need a reminder of that every once in a while! Positive thinking is actually a tool many are using now and it does work. Think of it as looking on the bright side! The grass might look greener on the other side, but all yours needs is some water and light and BAM- your grass will be beautiful in no time!
You can follow me on instagram (@elianayogini) and facebook (Facebook/elianayogalife) for more yogi insights! Om Shanti!