While visiting a dojo during a trip last year, a student asked for advice related to eating. He was struggling with over-eating and its associated complications to his weight, health and ability to do kendo.
I struggled with a similar issue. Though it may flare up occasionally, things are much better now. Here’s a list of tips that have helped me on this journey that I shared with him. Please note the disclaimer below.*
The Main Tips
- Reading about healthy eating and asking people who “succeeded” how they managed helped a lot.
- Re-learning and re-incorporating the habit of “Intuitive Eating”.
- Listening to our body, our hunger and cessation of hunger – as babies naturally do that we may have lost.
- For example, eating “when” the body needs to. Eating “what” the body needs. Eating “how much” the body needs. It is a “mindfulness” approach to eating.
- There is a good book and website on “Intuitive Eating” by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch [TriboleResch] [TriboleResch_10Principles] and online articles such as [Jennings] [TriboleResch 10Principles] [UMich].
- Another helpful book is “Overcoming Overeating” by Jane R. Hirschmann and Carol H. Munter describing similar principles.
- Some quotes on Intuitive Eating are included at the end.
- Juice fasting.
- This helped considerably in the initial stages to reset my system and significantly reduce my cravings for sugar and over-eating.
- It is important, however, to learn and understand a number of aspects, including contraindications, with this approach before attempting this.
- Developing self-awareness (mindfulness).
- I initially had an unconscious habit of going to food if and when I got stressed.
- Becoming more aware – more present to the thoughts, emotions and body – while eating and in general has been instrumental in breaking that unconscious stimulus-response pattern and creating a space to select different responses.
- Drinking water to stay hydrated and to distinguish thirst from hunger.
- Drinking water before eating (e.g. 15 mins before) and not drinking much water, if any, during or immediately afterwards.
- This way, according to Yogananda Pramahansa in a booklet on healthy eating, we avoid diluting our gastric acids needed to digest food.
- Chewing our foods well.
- This helps me savor the taste of foods and better gauge when I feel satiated.
- Thich Nhat Hanh suggests chewing our foods until they become liquid.
- Exercising regularly and meeting with good, supportive and encouraging friends.
- Kendo has been wonderful in this regard.
- Eating less refined foods (including refined sugar, white rice or white flour) and more unrefined foods (e.g. fruits, brown rice, whole wheat flour, vegetables, nuts, beans).
- Meditation, Soft Eyes, Mindfulness, the Awareness of Awareness.
- These practices have brought about an increased awareness of the self, the body and thoughts which helps considerably in this and other areas of life like kendo.
Some Quotes on Intuitive Eating
- Intuitive eating is a philosophy of eating that makes you the expert of your body and its hunger signals. – Ann Jennings [Jennings]
- Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, from their book Intuitive Eating:
- Learning to honor this first biological signal (of hunger) sets the stage for rebuilding trust with yourself and food.
Listen for the body signals that tell you that you are no longer hungry. Observe the signs that show that you’re comfortably full. Pause in the middle of a meal or snack and ask yourself how the food tastes, and what your current fullness level is.
- Find ways to comfort, nurture, distract, and resolve your emotional issues without using food. Anxiety, loneliness, boredom, and anger are emotions we all experience throughout life. Each has its own trigger, and each has its own appeasement. Food won’t fix any of these feelings. It may comfort for the short term, distract from the pain, or even numb you into a food hangover. But food won’t solve the problem. If anything, eating for an emotional hunger will only make you feel worse in the long run. You’ll ultimately have to deal with the source of the emotion, as well as the discomfort of overeating.
- Intuitive Eating is about becoming more attuned to your body’s natural hunger and fullness signals. [UMich]
- 腹八分 – Eat to about 80% fullness. – Proverb
Looking back, I believe the main culprit for me was the mindless consumption of food (and, in particular, the sweets and desserts) to cope with stress and anxiety – which in turn are largely by-products of the thoughts in this mind. I had no idea of this blind spot for many years. Thanks to the above tips and many teachers along the way, now I can “see” much better and eat more mindfully.
May all be well with you.
[TriboleResch] Evelyn Tribole, Elyse Resch, Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program that Works, St. Martin’s Press, 1995, 2012.
* Disclaimer: the content herein is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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