Posts Tagged ‘practice’

Everything Is “Normal”

It’s common for us to feel like our disliked food behaviors are abnormal. How could we not? We look around and see everyone else eating “normally” while judging our own excesses and strange habits. With this judgement comes mental chatter and at times we might hate ourselves for “being” this way.

Here is the newsflash. There is no normal. And more importantly – many, many, many people have difficult thoughts around food no matter how they present on the outside. The woman in a size 6 next to you at the grocery store might have spent an hour debating over baked or fried chips. The guy behind you might be eating half of his groceries in the car on the way home.

So don’t worry about them – think about your own experience and don’t worry about the endless mental chatter about food. Just watch your behavior. You are normal. If you’d like to change behaviors that don’t serve you then you are free to do so. But let’s not get confused and think that in order to be normal, the endless annoying thoughts must stop. They may never stop. But here’s the catch. We have the ability to de-stress (a bit) so that we can clear just enough mental space necessary to not have all of those thoughts guide our actions.

So this month our mantra is “I am normal”.

Then we see if we can make some space in our normal mind with practice so that choice comes easily.

Loka Samasta Sukino Bavantu,

(May all beings be happy and free)

Brandt

Bring On The Light!

I live in the northeast and I’m happy to report that the days are finally getting a little bit longer. That said, even this mild winter is a long one. Every night I find myself wanting to curl up on the couch and eat warm, bready things. It turns out that this is normal because of our wiring – probably to keep us alive all winter long back when we were living outside. So don’t blame yourself or your “lack of willpower” for wanting to eat and sleep more. We do however have to look at our rhythms if we are trying not to overeat every day.

Here are some suggestions for where to put your effort:

Get up with the sun! Having more sunlight in your life will improve mood and set your natural rhythms to work correctly.

Practice in the morning. Asana, breath connection, prayer, meditation, music listening. Whatever starts your day in a centered, positive way will help clear your mind of the extra stress that the winter doldrums can create.

Go outside. Even if it’s an extra 3 minutes outside in front of your home or office.

Go to bed earlier. Give into being more tired and stop trying to keep yourself awake with food.

Drink more water. Especially if you spend all day inside dry, heated environments.

Practice smiling (even if you feel unhappy). It turns out that the act of smiling dumps happy chemicals into the brain.

Try some or all of these suggestions. Anything that you can do to promote a sense of well being will likely translate into less intense food cravings. Using your energy to add simple positive acts to your daily rhythm is your best bet for managing the more difficult eating behaviors.

May we all find light this month,

Brandt

The Reset Button

I often think that in the process of dealing with my food issues, I installed a reset button in my mind. The truth is that it doesn’t really matter what behaviors we’ve done in the past. The question is whether we can “press” the reset button and start again. The more skilled we become at remembering to reset, the better off we are.

Through my own process I’ve come to realize that this is the most important part of maintaining my weight. If I go on vacation and eat too much food that I rarely eat in my regular life, I make sure to find my button after a day or two. If I’m at a social event and eat what feels like the whole cheese tray – I hit the reset button. By returning to myself with a reset, these over-eating behaviors and tendencies don’t snowball and cause me to gain weight. It turns out that limited amounts or shorter moments of non-ideal food behaviors aren’t a big deal.

The main thing that allows this reset to happen is practice. A few minutes of breath and motion or meditation reminds us of our natural state. From this place we are living in choice and the reset button is easily accessible.

So add this to your practice. Worry less about what you did yesterday and more about what you have to do to find yourself today. Resetting is always possible.

Namaste,
Brandt

Yoga and Negative Self Talk

Many of us experience negative thoughts and emotions on a regular basis. The mind has the ability to conjure up negative things to say pretty easily. This often causes us to act in ways we wish we didn’t. We don’t stand up for ourselves, we act out of insecure mental spaces, and then of course, we eat. We give our negative mind space more fuel for self diminishing thinking and the cycle goes on and on.

Yoga begins with the belief that there is another way. Yoga is the union of all the parts of your mind. Not only the negative thinking mind but the other parts that access the larger view. At any given time your mind can see all your faults as well as all your strengths. It also has the ability to see the connection between itself and all other things. It can be said that Yoga is a set of practices designed to integrate your mind completely so that you are always working with its full potential.

This is why we practice. We move and breathe. We pause every day (or several times) to allow our mind to reintegrate. When we do this, an amazing thing begins to happen: We are able to see the big picture more clearly. The negative thoughts and emotions don’t end, but with practice, they are accompanied by positive thoughts and emotions. In fact, we begin to expand our mental landscape so much that we are inclined to ignore the negative thoughts all together. Then we can function from a place of clarity. No longer inclined to alter our mental state with food, we simply do what we need to do. That peace is the promise of yoga.

May we all find our practice today.

With great respect,

Brandt

To Carb or not to Carb?

There are endless opinions on carbohydrate intake and weight. In many studies, people who eat less carbs have lost weight. Of course, if we look at many of the participants in these studies one or two years later, the weight is back on (and then some).

So what can we reasonably conclude? Pretty much nothing. The studies have little meaning because participants rarely keep eating the same way. No system or diet is useful if it doesn’t help you maintain habits that make you feel better and have more energy.

So when I’m asked the carb question I usually ask my clients a few things:

What kind of carbs are we talking about?
Bread?
White flour versus whole wheat flour?
Beans?
White or brown rice?
Potatoes?
French fries?
etc.

Which of these foods leave you feeling clear-headed and energized when you eat them?
Which leave you dull and lethargic?

When do you eat these foods and what effect does timing have on their effects?

Can you experiment and come up with a way to eat certain carbohydrate-heavy foods that works really well for you?

For many people, eating less carbs than they are currently eating does help lift energy levels. Sometimes this takes the form of eating more whole carbohydrates (brown rice, whole wheat). Sometimes it eating smaller portions helps. Other times we discover certain foods just don’t work (bread and potatoes are common culprits). And sometimes it’s just timing (too many carbs for breakfast)

So ignore the press, begin listening to what your body is telling you, and the correct answers will come. Find a practice that relieves stress and builds body awareness to help you with this. And, as always, be gentle with yourself

Be a Food Yogi

What is a yogi, anyway? It is someone who has committed to following a path which leads them to a realization of their spiritual nature.

Okay then—what is this spiritual nature? Well, there are certain things we can say about it. First, it is always there even when we can’t notice it. We get caught up in our mind’s wanderings but that doesn’t change the fact that it exists.

Second, our nature is inherently peaceful. We know this because we have felt it. That moment when you are looking at the sky or ocean or (you fill in the blank) and everything is okay.

Third, it connects us to the world around us. As we feel or recognize this in ourselves, we also see it in the people and things around us. We feel less alone and more at home in the world.

So, what does this have to do with the way we eat? Plenty. As a yogi, we want our practice to extend throughout our day. Eating is part of our day. How and what we eat can directly affect our ability to feel our connection to ourselves and the world around us.

As we shift into eating foods that give us more sustained energy and promote peaceful mental states, the experience of peace is more readily obtained. As we get used to slowing down and taking a few breaths before we eat, we find ourselves able to enjoy the nourishment process. This pleasure from eating allows us to fully integrate the eating process into our spiritual path.

Ahimsa (Non-Violence)

There is a concept in yoga that one should be non-violent in thought
and action—and that by doing this we bring peace to ourselves and
those we come in contact with. One behavior I’ve noticed we humans do
is eat foods that harm us. Often this comes in the form of foods that
drain our energy, and therefore our ability to be our most authentic
selves. By not sharing this fantastic energy with ourselves and
others, we are bringing less peace and more harm to the world.

If flour is your problem, then the bread you eat at lunch every day
makes it difficult to be kind to your coworkers at 3 pm when you are
crashing from it. If sugar is your issue, having some late at night
impedes your ability to wake up in a positive mood and enter the day
on solid ground.

First we must use our awareness practices (like journalling) to
identify these foods. We then can use proper effort to reduce our
intake of these foods. And we can engage in our movement and breathing
practices to support us in this. In this way we practice ahimsa—and
the result is that the world becomes more peaceful.

loka samastha sukino bhavantu
May all beings be free and happy

As always, email me with any comments or questions.

Namaste,

Brandt

Working with Cravings

I’ve received a lot of questions lately concerning cravings for specific foods. So I thought I’d revisit the topic here.

Our minds latch on to the idea that certain foods are essential. Chocolate, soda, bread and cookies are common foods that people mention. What I’ve seen is that the mind is perfectly happy to redirect its cravings if given the chance. Truly listening to our body mind means taking apart the components of the craving and satisfying what lies underneath.

Take soda for an example. Are you craving bubbly water? Sweet flavor? Sugar? Nutrasweet? Is the craving the desire to clear your mouth of the flavor at dinner? Any of these are possible. If we contemplate what we are craving more specifically, we will satisfy it in a different, more focused way. Seltzer with fruit juice – an orange, a bite of sorbet, are all options.

As we move towards whole foods to satiate ourselves, our system functions more efficiently and clearly and the cravings lessen. Eventually, as we work with this, we see the difference between random mental craving and our bodies’ need certain foods. We are then able to truly fulfill our bodies’ needs without burdening it with excess input of no value to us. This clarity is available to all of us with just a bit of practice.

Eating for the Heat

It’s August – it’s hot. Our bodies naturally experience shifts in appetite with the heat. It is common to feel less hungry during the hotter hours of the day. The issue is that we then get really hungry later in the day. Our systems are thrown off and we eat too much, or foods that don’t serve as well. If this becomes a cycle, we find ourselves in a starve/binge pattern that throws off our whole practice.

Often, the solution is to eat easy cooling foods during the day. Fruit and yogurt, salads with seeds or nuts, cold rice or noodle dishes (easy on the heavy sauce) come to mind. Also, I can’t stress enough the importance of breakfast during this time. It will start your digestive system moving and allow you to be hungry for lunch.

The other part of the equation is to eat a reasonable dinner. Overeating in the hot weather makes us even hotter. So keeping dinner in check will keep you cool and allow you to stay with your practice of eating to feel good and maintain your energy. often in the summer I’ll have two snacks at 4pm and 8pm instead of dinner. This helps me to not be hungry and control my desire to overeat when the sun goes down. And, of course, don’t forget to practice. : )

As always, email with questions and concerns.

Emotions

Yogic emotions are energy. Our system is designed to let these emotions flow through our bodies. When we do this, we have a complete experience of these emotions and then the energy returns to its source and we feel at peace.

Of course, we have another possibility—we can suppress, block, or redirect our emotional energy. When we do this, the energy is not able to flow freely and gets “stuck” somewhere in our body. This creates stress in our system. When we do this regularly, we end up with a constant level of stress and anxiety. The emotions keep getting built up in our system with nowhere to go.

The most common way to suppress these emotions is through food. When intense emotions arise, many of us have the habit of eating to calm them. We actually believe it works because in the short term the intensity is dulled. We are, however, only contributing to the buildup of anxiety in the system. As we repeat this behavior, the anxiety we experience grows.

We need to have two experiences to change this pattern. First, we need to get used to feeling energy course through our bodies. Our physical practice gives us a place to do this. As we get used to this feeling, we begin to see it as normal and we find that we do not need to react when energy moves in our system.

Second, we need to have repeated experiences of strong emotions coming up and then subsiding without long-term damage. I’ve found diaphragmatic breathing, particularly while lying down, a good way to keep the system calm while turbulent emotional and physical states are happening.

As we experience difficult emotions fully, and prove to ourselves we are okay if we let them come, we are less compelled to stop them with food. And as we allow emotions to release themselves, our overall stress and anxiety levels are diminished. From this more peaceful state, we can see our full range of experiences and states clearly. And as our vision widens, we are more connected to that part of ourselves which is happy, clear, balanced, and at peace.

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