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I’m often asked, “How do I stop eating sweets?” I would answer: Don’t stop. Instead, find a more peaceful expression of your desires.
Often we crave specific sweets. These cravings may come from life-long food habits. They may arise from many natural desires—the need for sweet foods, the need for more energy (or more sleep), the need to suppress feelings that are too strong to handle. It is important to calm the mind in these situations so that we can see clearly what our true need is, and address it in a sattvic (peaceful) way.
When a strong craving arises, try this:
– Observe your breathing—allow calm to enter.
– Ask yourself—what do I really want? Be specific—if you want chocolate cake, is it sweetness, cake, chocolate, more energy (or sleep) that you truly desire?
– Then ask, what is the best way to satisfy this craving? Cake, a sweet tea, a small piece of dark chocolate, a nap, a walk?
I would also suggest bringing balanced, integrated sweet flavors into your meals. Adding the sweetness of whole foods to your plate is a great way to acknowledge your sweet tooth. Sweet potatoes or roasted fruit are fine sweet additions.
Another healthy way to go would be to make a substantial, nutritious, and sweet dessert that is part of your meal. If your dessert is made from real foods, it is perfectly reasonable to have it be half your meal (see this recipe for banana chocolate pudding, for example).
I like to think of the gentle and sweet feeling these foods give to me and bring that feeling into my asana practice. Bringing a light, gentle, positive feel to your morning practice will certainly improve it. We may also find the pull of non-beneficial sweets not quite as strong.
Peaceful Weight Loss Through Yoga
I have learned to really take care of me and do things to better myself. I am no longer doing it for anyone else; I am now doing it for me. I don’t feel so stuck anymore, which is a totally euphoric feeling. Thank you for opening my eyes and helping me to see the person that I really am, thank you for showing me a healthier lifestyle for my mind, body and soul.
— P.C., client
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Peaceful Weight Loss in February
Timing is everything. So when is the best time to shift our lifestyle? And should external factors influence our decision? Of course they should. Schedule, weather, work, family … all these things and more come in to play when making big changes in your life. To fight against the current, so to speak, only makes us more stressed.
I’m writing this newsletter in New York during a blizzard. It is cold—my wife feels like baking—I’m going to be inside all day. Is this the best time to start a raw foods diet? Is it a good time to start a cleanse? Of course not.
If the weather is cold where you are, and you are just starting to investigate new ways to find a good weight for yourself, I would do the following:
* Work on food practice that coincides with the season. Winter is a time to eat a bit more, and to eat heavier food. Clearly identifying foods that satiate you keep you warm without bogging you down is a great idea.
* Focus on buying, cooking and eating foods of the season. Sweet potatoes and winter squashes are delicious and perfect for the weather.
* Unstick yourself from food patterns that don’t serve you during the season. You may love yogurt and fruit for breakfast, but at leasty entertain the possibility that a hot ceral might be better for you these months.
* Asana practice, being an indoor activity (usually), is particularly useful during this time for keeping your mood up and getting enough exercise. Most of us walk less in wintertime.
* Winter is a natural time to get more sleep—slow down; be more ambitious as the weather gets warmer.
Why? Surrendering to nature at this time will lessen our stress levels and allow us to function more smoothly. Weight loss, like the seasons, is about change. Change comes not from force, but from allowing things to happen.
Allow yourself to be appropriate for this season and you will be rewarded with a body that is willing to change appropriately also.
Okay – the holidays are over and we’re back to our regular routine, with New Year’s resolutions in place. Were they the same as last year’s? What have you changed? Have some been “broken” already?
May I suggest keeping this year’s resolutions positive, and adding the following:
I will nourish my body
I will nourish my mind
I will nourish my spirit
By focusing on these resolutions, other things you want to change may fall into place naturally and easily. Nourishing one aspect of ourselves feeds the others – so it is simpler and easier than you might think.
I will nourish my body
Simple food that makes us feel well. Eating to the point we are satified physically but not too full. Getting enough sunlight, light and fresh air so that we are energized. And exercising in a way that promotes health and the release of tension in our bodies. (might I suggest yoga asana smile
I will nourish my mind
Engage in study of a positive interesting subject. This can be anything from the yoga sutras to Spanish as long as it feels like your mind is becoming sharper, clearer. Interesting conversations with others also are good if they are done with the spirit of promoting greater understanding, peace and community.
I will nourish my spirit
A regular devotional practice is great. If that doesn’t suit you, activities that make you feel calm and positive can fit the bill. A daily walk in nature, sailing, helping others in need are all ways we can find our spiritual selves.
Weight loss can seem complicated, but I have found that focusing on nourishing these aspects of myself have great “side effects” The calm, happy, positive state it produces provides the perfect setup for your body to naturally let go of all that is unwanted.
Have a peaceful, joyful year.
I love to practice on Christmas morning. It helps me experience the day fully – and prepares me to fully enjoy my family and food.
It’s nice to keep your practice consistent through the holidays. It will keep you grounded and steady. The eighth not-so-great-made-by-your-office-mate cookie might get put down. The third glass of wine at dinner might not happen. Or it may become clear to you that another glass of wine IS just the thing. Who knows – we may even not worry about this whole food thing at all.
Practice is staying in the present. Clearing seeing what is real – what is now – what is in front of us. Ask yourself: am I really tempted? What is it that I want? Be prepared for any answer – it might be that cookie. It might be nothing at all. It’s all happening in the present. It’s all a moment by moment choice. Nothing to do with what you ate at last week’s holiday party.
The holidays are also a time to remember to have fun. With all the shopping, family, running around, we can sometimes forget. You’re not in your daily routine – take advantage of that. Try some asanas you haven’t done before – or go snowshoeing! Doing your practice in a new and fun way will help bring you back into the present.
Remember to stay in the present and truly enjoy your food, too. Eat a few sweets – taste the eggnog – breathe deeply and realize the awfulness of the annual green bean casserole. Have fun – move a little slower than you did last year, and you’ll eat a bit more consciously too.
May you have a peaceful, joyous holiday season.
Ah, Thanksgiving—our most food-centered holiday. If you are engaged in a weight loss process, it can certainly feel like an attack on your eating plan. But it doesn’t need to feel like that.
This day affords us an opportunity to work on our practice in a unique and focused way. This year, give some thought to these points and see if it helps give the day a new feeling.
Thanksgiving is a time of food abundance.
There will be food and lots of it.
You will eat food and lots of it.
Both of these statements may be true for you, and they are both okay. Our task for this day is to be conscious of the food you are eating by staying present while eating. If you catch yourself wondering if mom’s sweet potato casserole is going to put 5 pounds on you, you are not present.
Today is a day to enjoy and savor this food. Take a few easy deep breaths every time you find your mind wandering, and reconnect with the task in front of you—enjoying your meal!
Thanksgiving is a time to be peaceful with family, with friends and with yourself.
Most of us have both positive and negative aspects to our relationships with family—and with all that food around, it is possible to get negative emotions tangled up with our eating. This year, might I suggest a sankalpa—an intention or vow—to be peaceful.
Having a clear intention to keep the external environment (the dinner table) and internal environment (our thoughts) pleasant helps others to do the same. Slowing down our reactions to others often helps us stay in the present with this.
When Dad asks if you would like some more pumpkin pie for the 50th time—just like he always does— take a moment to remember that, along with anything else, he is being friendly. If he were someone else we would appreciate the offer and and politely decline.
When someone says, “I thought you were trying to lose weight” while you are having dessert, it is probably best to pause, gather yourself and say, gently, “Today is Thanksgiving.”
Thanksgiving is a time to remember the hungry.
Karma Yoga (selfless service) is one of the many paths to yoga. To give of ourselves without the intention of any gain brings us closer to a feeling of oneness with the world. This cultivates an inner calmness that translates into ease with ourselves. That ease and clarity allows us to make choices that benefit our mind, body, and spirit.
Dropping off some food; feeding a home bound person; donating time or money to a program that feeds people (such as http://www.bowery.org)—these are all ways to perform service. Sharing our abundance helps bring clarity in our lives.
I hope you all have a peaceful, plentiful day, and that you and yours enjoy each other fully.