Early in 2008 I set off for a trip to India.
When I returned, I was 30 pounds lighter. The weight never came back.
A friend who knew me “before” and then “after” recently asked me how did this happen and as I tried to recall I noticed that it was not because of the yoga, or the trip, or the food, or because I starved myself, and certainly not because I was mean or deprecating to myself in an attempt to discipline my food choices. None of that had anything to do with it.
Releasing weight can be a drama or not, it can be hard or not—it depends on so many factors that I do not believe one single method can ever work for everyone.
But these steps worked for me:
There is no way around it, no matter who says that the US has an epidemic of whatever it might, or that I, or you, may need a diet or blah, blah, blah, it is all nonsense if we do not start at the beginning. Loving and respecting me enough to sit down and look at what was important in life was the very first step.
I know it may sound silly but I followed Louise Hay’s exercise of looking at myself in the mirror and saying “I love you”, to my own image. At first it felt silly, stupid even, and you know why? Because I did not believe it. But a few weeks into it I did start to believe that I was worth of my own respect, and it helped me get grounded in acting as if I loved myself until I did eventually fully believe in it.
2-Daily Yoga-asana Practice
I find that the release of the weight for me had to do with a “momentum” rather than a “get thin quick” mentality. By the time I took my trip I had been practicing daily yoga-asana for a year (6 times a week, 1.5 hours each day), and it had taken me 3 years to build up to such a strong and committed practice.
When it comes to releasing weight I find that it does not so much matter what kind of yoga one practices, but that one does. The simple act of getting on the mat every day sends the body the message that one cares. The body gets to be stretched, paid attention to, and aligned.
Throughout time my body began to take over, for example: it knew that we (body and mind) would have to enter kurmasana (tortoise pose) the following morning, and it knew that an empty stomach would make such exertions more palatable, and so it signaled me NOT to eat anything past 7 PM, a practice that has become a habit, because my body says so.
I find that people dismiss this quickly, so much so that I began to suspect it is a very well-kept secret.
When somebody wants to manifest something positive, then keeping the vocabulary clean (no curse words, no negativity), is key. It surprises me to no end to see, even in yoga circles, a tremendous denial of the power of the word. I hear people complain all the time, say bad/dirty/loaded words, and talk about their bodies with negativity.
Even as you read this, I will dare bet that you will either read through, or dismiss it promptly. If you are still reading you are probably ready to hear it. If you are, then do not allow negativity into you, in any form. This in turn has the effect of cleansing the mind and to release bad ideas, extra anger and extra weight. Think of a diet of words as a foundation, the bad ones are very high in bad fats and calories.
There is a reason why I call it “weight release” (except perhaps in the title of this post), and that is because phrasing it that way is more powerful since usually whenever we “lose” something we try to “find it again”.
Weight release can also be thought of as “cleansing”. What is necessary is to look at what is coming into our bodies and how fast it is coming out. If we are not going to the bathroom (both for number one and two) daily, then there is a problem.
Just as an example, there are easy-to-use enema bags that help ensure that the “pipes” are clear. When I talk to friends about enemas they usually freak out, and so did I when I first heard about them. However I was blessed to have a teacher in Thailand go over all of my fears and answer each one of them. Will it hurt? No, it does not. Will it be uncomfortable? Maybe but you are totally in control and can regulate the intensity.
Some people go all out and do a “colonics”. Movie stars do these frequently because of the glow it produces. I have not tried one yet, but I want to. They are not too expensive and have an even deeper effect. And hey! If they are good for movie stars they are good for me too.
5-When you are hungry, drink water first
A yoga teacher once said that to me. Most of us get the signal of hunger when in reality it is thirst speaking. I know I confuse the signals sometimes.
I have tried this many times, especially at mid-morning when I hear the stomach rumble with noise in what seems like starvation, and found that drinking one or two full glasses of water may not stop the feeling of wanting to eat, but at least will delay it. It will also hydrate the body, and help it with the elimination process.
While in India I felt a little scared about eating in restaurants because the quality of their water is very dangerous for westerners so, for example, eating salads (or anything raw) outside of the house was not an option. This forced me to start cooking, and I prepared lots of stews and soups with boiled vegetables and olive oil which I served with brown rice. I also learned how to make lentil dal, and kicheri, easy meals that are tasty and nutritious.
Also I understood that very often our bodies are starving for real nutrition. For example, I learned that taking spirulina supplements is a great way of supplementing the diet so as not to have to eat a pound of spinach every day, or that Niacin (a type of B vitamin) helps enormously in uplifting moods.
7-Take that overdue vacation, make it a real one regardless of how long
Taking time for ourselves seems impossible, but it is not. When a body is overweight, it is out of balance. When a body is out of balance it needs time for itself, to heal, to have an opportunity to assess what exactly is happening and what can be done to help it. As long as the time we give to ourselves is dedicated, focused time, it is useful, otherwise we are not nurturing our soul, and an un-nurtured soul produces an unbalance that usually manifests in us reaching for the ice cream.
I have noticed that people who say that there is absolutely no way they can take time for themselves are actually saying that their priorities do not involve taking time off, meaning, their focus is not on their own wellbeing but rather on other things.
Our bodies are determined by our genes and ancestors. It is important to respect nature. Yoga and these principles can restore our body to our original blue-print, to what our bodies would be like if completely healthy, but they will not transform us into super models. The real miracle in weight release happens when we shift perception, when we can accept our body as it is and treat it well, with respect, providing good nutrition for it, so that it can function at its peak, which also means, mind you, at its ideal weight.
9.-Choosing the middle path (satvic)
Trying to eat only spinach or only drink water with lemon for days or going completely raw overnight or any other extreme is not only unrealistic, it is also dangerous and guaranteed to never work because we are fighting against a very powerful force of nature: our own natural psychological tendencies, which have been ingrained into us over a period of well, think about your age, that long! In yoga this has to do with our “gunas” or psychological tendencies, of which there are three, rajasic or overexcited, tamasic or lethargic and satvic or balanced.
Forcing ourselves to be always balanced or satvic is in itself rajasic or out of balance in a forcing way because we are trying to machete our way through into the middle rather than respecting what is actually happening right now. Falling into denial is not the answer.
For example, a few months back I felt like eating marshmallows. These are not exactly healthy treats as they have gelatin and are full of sugar, but I was fortunate enough at that very moment to be listening to Richard Freeman’s Yoga Matrix and to hear exactly this, and so I ended up enjoying the marshmallows, which was, albeit counterintuitive, the most satvic or balanced thing I could have done. Interestingly, I have not felt the urge to eat them again ever since.
10-Attend a 12 step meeting
There is a cathartic effect in admitting our vulnerability to other people, as for instance when someone confesses to a group of people that he or she ate two pints of ice-cream the night before, or when someone says: “I am powerless over this”. 12 step meetings work because they are simple steps that demand enormous courage, of the type that can only be navigated with help from others who also happen to find themselves in a similar setting.
The benefit of 12 steps is that they open people up, they reconcile people with their own humanity, through them we find that what we think is “crazy” in us, is just as normal as it is in any other person, we all share a common humanity, we are all one, and I have yet to see a form of therapy that is more effective than people being brutally honest in a group, and under very specific regulations for sharing, with proper boundaries and respect.
Interestingly enough, it was a conversation with Carl Jung that led to the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous, and through that all related 12 Step Programs. [see comments below]
Recovering a healthy body may take time, but every day things speed up, there is a momentum that is generated by slowly adding more and more healthy habits and releasing the old ones that do not serve us anymore.
So what if it takes 6 months or a year, or three? I have seen with my own eyes fellow yogis practice for 5 years and then all of a sudden release an enormous amount of weight. In the end, the recovery of the original healthy body also happens by grace; we put all the healthy and nurturing elements in place, and then surrender to divine intervention, Gita style.
12.- Train yourself in trusting your instincts
Before every meal ask: “what is the most nutritious thing I can eat right now”? and trust, and let your body have it. Remember moderation, of course, but do go ahead. It may be decadent chocolate mud pie today, it might be baby spinach salad with fresh olive oil sprinkled with raw almonds tomorrow.
And so here is the embarrassing “before” picture. I was at about 148 pounds. just like all those “before” pictures this is a photograph of a photograph which kind of makes it look like one on those brochures that abound out there.
11 Mindful Tips for a Healthy Diet:
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