The Perfect Diet
Oh how we search for perfection! It is a lofty goal, most likely unattainable. That’s because perfection means flawless. Perfection strives to create an artificial notion of what is appropriate and it is here that we get into trouble. Because the truth is, what might be appropriate for me, might not be for you.
However, there is one thing we can all agree on, and that is that eating a healthy diet is the best diet of all. Rather than seek the perfect diet, a better question is; what is the best diet?
Not a day goes by when a student doesn’t ask me what I eat to stay slim and in shape. My answer is simple. “I eat everything except processed and junk food.” There is always a look of shock. Everyone is waiting for me to give them the perfect diet that, if eaten, will give them perfection of body, mind and soul. The answer is simple: moderation and consistency. I watch how much I eat and how I eat, as well as I consistently eat foods that are healthy for me. I love good food so I eat to nourish my body and mind, not to fill a void in my soul.
In my book Spiritual Fitness I refer to the many things we need to do to live a spiritually fit life and one of them is to choose to eat healthy and natural in proportion. Moderation is the key to a balanced healthy life and balance is the key to spiritual fitness.
I have taught yoga for over thirty years. I practice many branches and among them is Anna-Maya-Kosha, or the yoga of examining how and what we eat. Yoga is a discipline that is all inclusive and no aspect, including eating, is ignored. Food, after all, is the substance that sustains human life. Like all aspects of yoga, we should seek the best path that supports and respects all of life. We should choose wisely because one type of food promotes life and another causes pain and illness. We truly are what we eat.
Remember this – calories in must equal calories out or weight gain and health issues will ensue. Once we take in calories we must burn them efficiently and effectively and this is accomplished through movement and exercise. Both improve digestion and digestion is how we get the nutrients from our food. Without proper digestion even healthy food would be useless.
If you eat when you are anxious and nervous the food will be tasteless and you will overeat. This is where we need to examine our state of mind and how it affects the way we eat. A little reflection and meditation might work. Food is full of light and sound. If we stop and listen it will speak to us through its smell and its taste. If we take the time to look at it we will see color and light. But if we are stressed and our thoughts are elsewhere, we will gulp and swallow, missing it’s essence by making it a negative emotional outlet. So reflect on what and how you eat.
Now when we think of yoga we immediately think vegan or a vegetarian diet. But that is not the principle of Anna-Maya-Kosha. What might be the “perfect” diet for me, might not work for you. A case in point would be something I share with the Dali Lama. The story goes that he was a vegan. He became ill and was losing his energy. It was suggested that he needed to eat meat. He began to eat meat and his health improved. I was a vegetarian, I too became ill, added meat and my health improved. However, just like the Dali Lama, I examine the meat I eat. I make sure it is clean and organic. I also eat moderate amounts.
As a Naturopath, my philosophy is to eat as close to the source as possible. Meaning we should try to eat local fruits and vegetables that are in season and freshly picked. Eat lean meats, fish and free range chicken. Eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day. Dairy and plant based proteins are a great source of calcium and other important nutrients. We need to get good fat into our diet, such as that found in salmon, flaxseed, olive oil, hempseed hearts, and oily fish. We also need complex carbohydrates that supply us with important minerals and vitamins, as well as fiber.
The nutritional guidelines for a healthy balanced diet are simple (based upon 2000 calories a day)
45-65% Complex carbohydrates – this includes fruits, vegetables, and grains
22-28 grams of fiber – again fruits, vegetables, and grains- think bran
10-55% Lean protein – fish, meat, chicken, legumes, cheese, nuts
20-35% Fat – Omega-3, dairy, olive oil
Now add to this a glass of red wine for antioxidants, shown to improve heart health, memory and immune functioning, as well as dark chocolate for the same health reasons and you will be pretty close to the perfect diet!
If you eat close to nature the nutrients you need tend to take care of themselves. Instead of the perfect diet, we should aim for whole and natural foods. When seeking perfection go back to the basics; eat a healthy diet that is achievable, sustainable, satisfying and appropriate for you. The path to perfection involves moderation, consistency, and a constant examination of what you are thinking, saying, and doing. Anna-Maya-Kosha calls upon us to examine how and what we eat because what and how we eat is exactly what we become. The truth is, the only way to eat the perfect diet is to eat a healthy diet. Then get up and dance!