Figuring out how to eat can seem complicated. At 18 years old, living alone, I decided to try figure a way to eat that was simple, healthy and respectful of nature. These are the results – personal findings based on 3 years of research, trial and error and intuition.
Those were the times of hippies, California culture, East meets West and the first health food stores. There was a lot of information challenging the mainstream, and intelligent support groups, so it was’t hard to get outside the box and test conventional thinking that wasn’t making sense intuitively. The biggest influence on me was Viktoras Kulvinskas of the Hippocrates Health Institute in Boston, who advanced spiritual notions about our body as a temple, and the “hygienic health diet”, which was about less is more, not overloading the system and ensuring clean, efficient function of the body’s organs and energetic alive-ness.
This, and some of the other things I uncovered were obtuse by mainstream standards (but not wrong), and learning about them made it clear that in the West, our biochemical view of nutrition was quite limited, and there was more to good eating than measuring effects of chemical synapses. Interestingly, this many years later, this scientism approach remains the basis of our society’s orthodox understanding of diet. In fact, chasing around vitamins, proteins, trying to trick the body with synthetic replacements, excesses of salt, sugar, oil and preservatives, then treating the poor results with pharmaceuticals, has us in the age of cancer, heart problems, ADD and obesity.
Interestingly, our life span (in the affluent countries) has increased and the previous hard diseases have reduced. Mass production and state regulation has had some positive effects by bringing more food with less bacteria to more people. However, although we are living longer, we seem to have lost touch with why we eat, the energetic aspects, feeling the flow of life through foods, natural order, and respect for the intelligence and kindness of nature. And nature is letting us know it!
Some observations here about what food is, how humility fits in and one key influence that took us off track: European culture brought us the gourmet mentality – food as entertainment. This has influenced our thinking to the point many people approach food on the basis of whether it tastes good and fills you up, as the main purpose of eating. Gourmet aspirations were initially aiming high, with good ingredients and innovative recipes, and “food as art” but the focus was on whether the result was titillating, not necessarily healthy, natural or respectful of plants and animals.
This intrigue with taste-only has de-evolved our perceptions and led to the probably unintended long term effect of poorly imitating the intentions with “replacement” quasi-foodstuffs such as bad karma meat, empty white foods (white sugar, white flour, white rice), GMO soya and corn, and a high quantity/low quality of fats that deposit hard matter on the walls of our arteries. All of these seeped in strong tasting sauces to try make up for what was lost by adulterating the core quality and naturality.
Over time, this goal of eating for “satisfaction” remained as the key function of restaurants and food suppliers. The priority of profitability, and lowered aesthetic standards led us to empty foods that cannot be consumed without heavy dressings, and a diminishing interest in green leafy vegetables, good grains, body hydration and natural fibre. It has become a lifestyle, in fact an addiction for many individuals who cannot do without their white sandwiches, MSG/hormone meats, chemical Pepsi and an endless variety of sugared miks and “smart” drinks served in plastic bottles. All these were produced and marketed wrecklessly, in ways that harm our environment and contribute to global warming and pollution. That’s sad, considering what nature offers us, that would build our health and happiness, sweetly and lovingly.
As I see it, the key purpose of eating is as follows:
- An opportunity for love: to respectfully convene with, and exchange energy between our bodies and the environment, including our human, plant and animal community. This exchange is a primary interface where life force and Consciousness flows through us. As such there is a sacred exchange, a love relationship. Aware of this, we can appreciate a subtle but crucial aspect. of life-sustaining substances, selflessly provided and firing up life force in ways beyond our full understanding.
It implies the responsibility of best stewardship in how food is produced and prepared, how it is received and how it is used. It is also pragmatic because our appreciation inspires good actions.
- Materially, to nurture the body and sprit so we can have energy to be of service to self and others.
- To clean toxins and heal illness.
- To sensually and wholesomely celebrate and enjoy being alive.
Reading this, do you feel a smile rising inside?
If we want health, long life, love and happiness – wouldn’t this be the path towards it?
To follow such a path, it is likely some habits and strong preferences (conditioned by culture and industry) would need to be challenged. I can say from experience that switching to brown rice, whole grain bread, quality oils, no sugar in tea and coffee, coconut milk instead of dairy milk, more greens, eliminating bad meat and chemical additives…is not painful. It is fun!
These are some of the immediate benefits (in the context of also practcicing good sleep, exercise and positive thinking):
A. New tastes for subtler flavours and natural things quickly takes over from a previously lower, duller awareness.
One’s sense of smell returns, bowels start working, empty food starts to taste empty and bad food starts to taste bad. Plain natural food starts to taste delicious.
B. Seeing through and discarding prior delusions about what food is and how inappropriate it is to harm the body-mind. One’s clarity increases, inspiring you to challenge other (non-food related) lossy patterns you carry, such as behaviours or avoidance. It’s a freedom feeling!
C. You may still want to break the rules occasionally, it is human to do so, but you will be less inclined to want to eat bad things so often. As toxins reduced in the body, cravings reduce. As body becomes more supple, the stubbornness of bad habits loosens its grip.
D. You are likely to sleep better, and have more energy – central nervous system feels less “jagged”.
E. Your eyes, skin, hair, breath and body shape will improve. Too skinny before – will gain weight. Too fat before –will loose weight. The body’s ability obbalance itself is enhanced.
F. Chronic health issues will likely improve or possibly fall away. Before, you were adding drugs, herbs, supplements, psychotherapy and what have you, to target specific health issues, while continuing to eat, breath and exercise in lacking ways. Healthy foundations trumps all that.
So, setting about the task of learning these approaches, I researched, interviewed practitioners and personally undertook the following diets, each for three to six months, over a three-year period:
Hygienic Health Diet
-fasting and juicing transition periods without hard food, to clean internally and cure us of imbalance and disease
-eating foods that keep us clean and continue to remove toxins:
-fully vegan, fully raw, things like sprouted seeds, lots of fruit, the water from soaked wheatberries, not much oil
-eating foods closest to their sun source, fresh and entirely unprocessed
-reverent love and respect for these gifts from nature
-drink lots of clean water
-Based on yin yang energies held in best balance (yin/yang 3:1 to 7:1 depending on circumstances).
-Yin is masculine, cool, moistening, vegetables, cool colours, lungs, darkness, earth. Yang is feminine, warm, drying, animal foods, warm colours, large intestines, brightness, heaven.
-Since brown rice and buckwheat already have best ratio, one eats a meal with lots of one of these grains and small amounts of of added foodstuffs. These is still echoed in Asian food, but has been corrupted by making the rice white l, or replacing with white ruce/white flour noodles, and adding much sauces, disrupting the energetic flow and creating an unsustainable narrow-spectrum experience for the body creating bloat and health problems.
-The exact Yin yang balance needed is affected by season, the individual’s constitution and their current state. Yin yang balance can be altered by heating or cooling a food, making it wet or dry, cooking it in wood vs. metal.
-This has little to do with medical nutrition theory. It is a different, valid system long predating Western science.
-India’s healing food wisdom based on ancient scripture of the Vedas.
-identifies specific constitutions of personality types – physically, psychologically and emotionally.
-One eats food that balances their out of balance tendencies on two levels – those they are born with and those of their current state.
-Foods come in six flavours:sweet sour salty bitter pungent and astringent. All these should be present in a meal but in proportion to your needs as an individual.
-Butter is reduced to eliminate its animal content, producing ghee, which will last a long time without turning rancid, and is used as an oil for everyday cooking or as a base for medicinal herbs.
-Deep understanding of herbs and spices to assist the body. Example: turmeric as a natural antibiotic.
-Includes powerful cleanses such as panchakarma where herbal enemas and inhalations are administered to reset the immune system and are combined with massage and pure diet to remove toxins, make brain waves more coherent and reduce metabolic activity.
-In full application, particularly if healing a severe illness, ayurvedic diet strictly prohibits refrigeration of foods or any impurities/unnatural processing.
Vegetarianism / Vegan
-Respect for animals and environment – avoiding unnecessary suffering and waste of resources, for example beef needs too much water and grass to make it worthwhile, when we can live without it.
-Some believe our teeth show that we are not carnivores and that our minds are clearer, bodies more functional, less toxic when avoiding animal products.
-Is said to reduce aggressive tendencies partly from digesting less hormones.
-To be successful, requires sensible application -eat good combinations for protein productions, avoid chemival additives, eat a balanced diet, and don’t eat junk just because it is non-animal.
-Our bodies are attuned to our geographical climate and environment – example: our bodies are less confused when not eating Mexican mangos in the winter while living in Canada.
-Reduces pollution and wasted energy of shipping.
-Eating from local sources, food can more readily be wild, fresh, foraged and naturally hunted or from small farms that treat animals better or feed them more naturally.
-Taking notice of negative interactions of foods and benefitting from foods that, eaten in combination, enhance digestion and absorption so that full value of foods is used by the body.
-Eating foods in combination that provide all eight essential amino acids, which can build protein (without needing to eat “complete” protein such as meat or fish).
-Awareness of acidic vs alkaline digestive juices produced by the body. Not mixing alkaline forming foods with acid forming foods because the two juices work against each other impeding digestion and reducing absorption if the nutrients in foods.
-Frequent use of green leafy vegetables because they carry chlorophyll, anti-oxidants and vitamin A, which help all else to digest and function. Leafy greens mix well with most foods.
-Good combinations: leafy green and almost anything (but not citrus fruits or concentrated sweet fruits such as dates), leafy green and protein, leafy green and starch, starch and starch..
-Bad combinations: starch and protein, cooked food and raw food, palm fruits and anything (eat them alone), soak dried fruits before eating them
-Avoids chemicals used in growing/raising food, lowering the toxic load on our bodies.
-Tends to promote other positive practices
that go along with organic philosophy.
-To be successful in this, one must avoid tricky marketing. Example “organic” produced products with unhealthy ingredients added in, or packaged in soft plastic that leaches toxins into the food, or only one ingredient organic, but labelled organic.
Western Medical Nutrition
-Uses science to analyze biochemical food components and statistical data to determine what effect diet elements will have on the body. Breaking elements down to categories such as vitamins, minerals, fats, proteins, calories, fibre, etc., then identifying what quantities might be present in standard portions of foodstuffs.
-one problem is the prolifery of skewed information diseminated by parties with hidden agendas such as collusion with food manufacturers and allopathic medicine’s focus on living how you want and fixing it with drugs
-Doesn’t always distinguish between artificial or natural sources, nor emphasize reducing chemical additives.
-Turns eating into a complicated and rather imperfect process of calculation that has many flaws. Example: assumptions about what elements are likely in a foodstuff, may not be so if it were GMO or not fresh. Also, assumptions that the presence of a particular element in a food that a particular organ seems to need will aid that organ just because that food is eaten, has shown to be unfounded, even after scientific evidence previously concluded it were true. Also, shifting conclusions on what is healthy and what is not. Unreliable and exhausting for most people.
I found it difficult to do all of these together since the ideas conflict and any one system seemed either incomplete or too extreme to keep up, if not living in a community that practices it. However studying and trying them opened mind and heart to broader thinking. In the end, letting it all stay in the unconscious (having studied and tried it). Acting intuitively with a positive attitude of wanting to be (mostly) healthy and ethical, yielded thesethe happiest and healthiest results. Keeping it simple is very helpful.
What Are The Common Tenets, if we try to (respectfully) Merge These Teachings?:The Simplified Overview – An 80/20 template For Inspired, Healty Eating:
-eat fresh food including raw food
-eat a lot of greens and a lot of grains
-eat only whole grains – no white foods – try avoid baked products, pastas, desserts, etc., that use processed (white) foods
-in general avoid processed foods -go for the most original state, and do not tolerate chemical additives – they are powerful, accumulative, not made with wholisitc knowledge and unknown in bad side effects (or known and hidden)
-if eating meat, eat meats, eggs honey and cheese from animals that were loved, in natural habitat, free to run around, well treated and fed quality natural food. Avoid farmed fish.
-if eating meat, eliminate salt from the rest of your diet (replace it with moderate use of light, naturally fermented tamari or other natural things) and don’t use sugar at all – get used to the food unsweetened it will help y9ur body and your mind, or, allow yourself a moderate use of natural, minimally processed sweeteners. This is rarely necessary once your taste adjusts.
-avoid pre-made sauces or if using them, they should have hardly any ingredients, but especially no long syllabled chemicals – no MSG, no salt, no preservatives – just simple natural things, and few of them. Otherwise the body-mind gets confused.
-only use high quality oils that do not deposit hard stuff on the walls of the arteries. for cooking: coconut oil, ghee, avocado oil, butter / olive oil as a second choice / for not cooking not cooking: avocados, cold pressed olive oil, safflower oil, coconut oil
– never use: canola (GMO grains), modified palm oil, hydrolized vegetable oil, generic “vegetable oil”.
-in general, avoid heating oils, avoid cooking with oils (yes, less frying, more steaming/baking). Frying meat is particularly challenging to the system
– juice fast – this cleans out toxic build up and challenges one’s perspective that food is our only source of nourishment. It brings awareness that we are also nourished by air, breath, light, positive impressions, exercise/body awareness, cosmic energy, and resonance with other beings. I follow the famous “Master Cleanse” – learn about it fully, first, then start with one day, three days, move up to ten. Do it twice a year, and do smaller fasts more often – you will eradicate deeper out-of-balance conditions over time, you will allow the body to rebalance in general and profound ways, you will get in touch with what else we use for “food” besides the stuff we eat and drink, and you will learn some things about how the universe works, that school or your parents didn’t teach you!
-occasionally (yes, just occasionally, not daily), eat something “not healthy”. Ordinary chocolate, a burger on a white bun? It will help appreciate the healthy food, and stop me from getting too “precious”. It might taste good too (not likely, it’s hard to go back). Doing so in awareness is much less harmful than thinking pepsi is ok, and that eating is just to fill you up/not particularly related to health or happiness.
Eating junk as one’s “norm” – can be extra harmful because we are feeding a confused view on what us what. This permeates our life in other ways and the energy of that shows in our bodies, our mind, and in our heart. This permeates our relationships with others and with Creation.
The system I created for my diet, based on my body response and my beliefs, applied to the principles espoused in the holistic wisdoms described above (One could consider the world wisdoms, assess their own constitution, and create their own conscious diet). This is my example:
“Zen Compassion Diet”
-eat foods graciously with gratitude and respect.
-avoid foods that experienced unnecessary violence, such as animals kept in unpleasant captivity and/or tortured/fed toxic food/mutilated/killed painfully – same applies to plant foods : a white grain of rice has been robbed of its natural nutrition and fibre, a GMO grain has been mutilated.
-follows the Buddhist precept “do not take what is not given”, means don’t pick fruit early, let it fall, don’t overly process food but take it as it is provided, try to eat locally
-cook freely and creatively without recipe, use whatever is there, combining varied colours and textures. Don’t be too fussy, enjoy simple, use quality oils and don’t overeat.
-see food as a relative component of exercise, rest, meditation and devotion/celebration – it all works together.
Food Sharing In Community
People can be quite attached to their preferences, including their bad habits. In addition, some people aren’t interested in evolving. If you are lucky enough to find people who do want to support each other in staying on a positive track, as part of living together, guidelines around food can be a major part of the process.
A community can practice generosity and caring by sharing the cost of their food and cooking for each other, eating together. It’s a basic thing but very powerful. City living as a single person can leave one out of touch and miss the bonding and joy that is available there.
People may have differing diets, vegan, meat, gluten-free, what have you, and they can still share food. Simple healthful basics mentioned above are common to all diets. If observed, one’s quality of life could be increased. Body, mind, and spirit. Rules can be broken, but having these basics in place provides a framework for a positive environment and an uplifting home that will reflect, and affect, the rest of one’s experience and perspective.