Updated: Feb 18, 2019
How can you introduce good food into your life in a way that is tasty, healthy, and doesn't require for you to do endless online research?
What is the conscious athlete's approach to nutrition?
How do I know what I’m eating is right for my body? How do I know my eating habits are good for me?
How to I put myself on the right path when it comes to eating.
“"With so much info on the web about nutrition, how can I even begin to have a concept of what's good for me?
That is a very common question to ask these days, we are after all in the "age of information".
Regardless of the "correct answer", if you ask these questions - this is an article you should read.
I would like to open your eyes a little bit about something I call “Body Intelligence” when it comes to food, and perhaps even offer you a way to deal with all the huge mass of information and “expert” opinions about nutrition that are out there on the web.
The Three Measurements of Ancient India
A large discussion of what is “good” vs what is “bad” for us to eat is always in our minds, but the answer is never that simple. I believe the problem in our ability to distinguish which foods we should eat firstly comes from the categorization we make. Instead of food that is either “good” or “bad”, let’s look at it from a different perspective - the ancient Indian perspective:
Life and all that is derived from it, according to the Bahgvat Gitta, can be divided into three categories or measurements - Goodness, Passion and Ignorance. The same measurements can be applied for the food we eat, and it’s much more productive to use them instead of simplifying it with “good” or “bad”. I’ll explain:
Food in the measurement of Passion would be food that is a little bit “too” of anything; Too spicy, too salty, too sweet, a food that will represent our wanting for a great culinary experience I would say. Food that is in the measurement of Ignorance would be food that is by definition bad for us, but we eat it not knowing it is bad for us, (at least not knowing “hard enough”). For example: If you are a menace when it comes to gas from the back end, have no idea why you fart so much, almost killing your loved ones each day, and yet you keep eating cheese and drink milk without even remotely thinking about the option that lactose intolerance is what possibly causing you bowels to become so irritated - you are probably ignorant to the situation. Food that is in the measurement of Goodness would be food that is, well, good for us. It is not too salty, or too sweet, not too ripe but not unripe as well. In short, it is food that is not too much of anything. But whenever we eat something in the measurement of goodness, we have this weird feeling that it was probably a good idea.
(Just for illustration - compare the feeling after eating a bag of chips and drinking a bottle of coke to the feeling after eating a giant salad and drinking a cup of fresh orange juice.
Now that we no longer look at food in “good vs bad” mode, we can continue...
You might say “hold on, there are things that have intense and delicious taste but are still deemed “healthy”, what about those?” Well, opinion over what specifically is considered “healthy” is very much divided between experts, some people will even go as far as argue that vegetables are unhealthy. But… I’m not here to talk about that today. I’m not even here to talk about anything specific that you put in your body or how much of it you put in, because even that is debatable. I’m here to offer you an exercise in body awareness. This exercise can start immediately after your next meal, continue in the next hours of your day, and if you find it useful - maybe even use it for the rest of your lives. It doesn’t require you to buy anything, document or write down anything.
With this exercise, provided that you do in fact have some sense of self awareness, you will be able to know exactly what is good for YOU, and the more you do it, the better at it you get and the more accurate feedback you can receive from you body.
The exercise is called E.R.O. and it’s not some new way of viewing the world, it is simply a way to define and amplify existing abilities that you already possess. E.R.O consists of three easy steps to remember throughout your daily routine, that also make a great mindfulness exercise. These steps are Eat - Reflect - Observe (E.R.O! Yay).
So, without further adieu, here is how to E.R.O your day:
As simple as it sounds, but not really. Eating is a process that starts long before you actually place food in your mouth. It starts from the moment of buying the food at the supermarket, through the process of cooking, and up until actually consuming it. Making sure you buy the best foods you can afford, eating them fresh and not frozen or re-heated, and preferably cook everyday. In the cooking process - be mindful to how it will serve you and your goals best. Being mindful to the amount of oil or sugar you use is a good example. Not to overcook or undercook your food is also a good example. When getting to the actual act of eating - make it special. Don’t eat with your smartphone, while on Facebook or while texting. Don’t eat while watching TV or while walking in the street - give your food the special moment it deserves. Eat out of clean dishes, not from takeout boxes or microwave containers. Don’t make your meal some “background activity”, give your meal a proper stage. Give it the respect it deserves, be with your meal. Put all your senses into it - Taste, Smell, Vision, Touch, Hearing. Feel what eating your food feels like. Maybe say a little prayer or a mumble small “Thank you” before eating, just to remind yourself this food isn’t for granted, and a lot of things had to happen so it can sit there on your plate.
This will create a unique connection between you and your food, and will give your food a special place in your life.
By default, you body will derive more from the food, and you will be much more mindful of what it is you put inside of yourself.
Once your meal is done, give yourself a moment. Before moving on to the rest of your day, take a few minutes to sit down and think about the contents of what you just ate. It might seem a bit stupid to sit for 3 minutes and think about potato salad, but in my experience, sitting and mentally breaking down your meal to its ingredients can be amazing and even life changing. I invite you to see how everything you just ate sits with you physically (Check in: are you feeling heavy or light? Energetic or tired? Sweaty, stuffed etc.) and mentally (maybe you are happy, sad, angry, stressed, calm, nostalgic, whole etc.). Doing this can make you be more aware to how your the physical side of you reacts to the meal - you will know if you ate too much or too little, or if what you ate resonates well with your digestive system etc. You will also be more aware of how your “spiritual self” - all that is you that is not physical, accepts the food you just ate. After a while you will develop a sense of awareness and proficiency, and will be able to compare certain meals to others and see which ones resonate in what way with your body. For me - I can now instantly feel how milk give my belly the creeps. The other day I drank some Chai with milk, and after no more than 3 sips, my stomach was yelling at me to stop. I stopped, and probably prevented a few hours of guttural unpleasantness and social embarrassment.
Now this is the hard part. Observe yourself throughout the day, and see how your body acts. Watch your bowel movements (you don’t actually have to watch your poo, even though it’s an AMAZING indicator to how your body reacts to food. I simply advise to be mindful to how your tummy feels), watch your temper throughout the day, watch how heavy or light you feel, watch how overall energetic you feel in the workout and after it. Food affects our subconscious mind in such a distinctive way, that our feeling are directly influenced by what we ate. It goes unnoticed many times, so when you are under a certain mood, make the connections to what you ate today, make the comparison also to what you ate several days before. Have this 24\7 body awareness where you check in with your “gut feelings”, as well as your moods and physical sensations, and be aware that food has a huge effect on them. Observation can go up to 3 days after eating a certain meal, and it requires a bit more attention that the other two steps, but it is the most accurate one because it is operated in the long term effects spectrum. Seeing how you feel after each meal can eventually make you notice certain patterns (e.g. “Always after I eat X I get tired.” or “When I eat Y I become aggressive” etc.), and then filter out things your body doesn’t like, and keep things your body does like.
I mean, if an “expert” tells you lentils are good for you, but every time you eat them you feel heavy and tired - what good is the experts opinion in relation to you? Absolutely nothing.
I would like to emphasize that when I say “your body” I mean your physical BODY. Meaning - “I” really like to drink chocolate milk, “I” do. But my body shares a different opinion, because after I drink it I have several visits to the bathroom which “I” don’t approve that much. Same goes for potato chips - “I” like the flavor, it’s the greasy and heavy feeling my body gets after eating it causes me to realize it’s just not something that is good for me.
This exercise is not some new breakthrough in the market, it is just something that I use and teach people to use so they can monitor their own lives and diet plans in ways that are best for them. Psychologists say that in order to make something into a habit, it needs to be done for 41 days. I don’t know about this number, but I do know that when you use E.R.O for a some time, you gain some amazing tools in relation to the food we eat and how we use it, overall body connection and the success of our diet plan. Once you have been doing E.R.O for a while, you can see how food takes effect on your body precisely when the effect happens. You can change eating and nutritional habits “just for the sake of experimenting”, and be aware of the short and long term effect it has on you. (e.g. Going Keto for 3 weeks and really know how it feels to YOU, or doing intermittent fasting for a while and see how your body actually reacts, and not how some article or some YouTube video told you it feels like). You can change diets and try new things and really know how your body reacts to them, you can grow your own set of values in everything that comes to the food that is good for YOU. You can develop a deep relationship that you never before had with your food, and learn how to use
food to fulfill your goals and ambitions.
But most of all - It’s a key to make peace with just another area in your life, and one step closer to live a calmer, accepting healthy and conscious lifestyle.