Weight Loss Support - How much food is ENOUGH?

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11-24-2004, 12:04 PM
The article excerpts below describe a philosophy about food and satiety that can be very helpful, especially in this season of overplenty. A little background … Last year I began a sporadic practice of yoga. As most Americans do, I turned to the practice for the stretching, flexibility, and balance skills it teaches. What I didn't know is that physical practice is just one of eight branches of the yoga discipline. The other branches provide philosophies and guidelines for living in a balanced, useful, healthy way. (You can read more about yoga at What Is Yoga (http://www.yogajournal.com/newtoyoga/820_1.cfm).).

While I still focus on the asanas, the physical poses of yoga, I have found learning about the other branches very interesting. I subscribe to Yoga Journal, and get weekly emails from them. Below are excerpts from one of today's articles; you can read the whole thing at Enough Is Enough (http://www.yogajournal.com/health/1384_1.cfm?ctsrc=nls128).

Enough Is Enough

Yoga inspires us to eat healthy foods, but too much of even a good thing is bad for body and spirit. Here's why it's worthwhile to practice aparigraha (greedlessness) at the table.

By Victoria Moran

"Don't worry about changing your eating—yoga will change your eating." This is what my first yoga teacher told me back when I was so young and flexible that even the extra 30 pounds I was carrying didn't impede my asana practice. The comment was prophetic—up to a point. As my practice progressed, I started eating whole-grain bread instead of white, and brown rice instead of Rice Krispies. I became a vegetarian. But in terms of sheer quantity, I ate as much as I ever did: snacks, seconds, the leftovers I couldn't bear to "waste," and so on.

As a committed yogi, I'd already begun to explore how the yamas (restraints) and niyamas (observances)—the ethical underpinnings of yoga, pertaining to issues such as nonviolence, sexual responsibility, and honesty—could help me transform my life. But skillfully applying the yama aparigraha, or "greedlessness," was beyond me. I understood the concept in theory—the importance of unselfishness, not hoarding, not taking more than we need or can use. But I had a hard time exercising aparigraha when it came to menus, picnics, and potluck suppers. I didn't like to think of it at the time, but those 30 pounds were made up of calories I hadn't needed and was, in effect, hoarding.

What's for Dinner?

… "Greed comes from a poverty mentality," says Cyndi Lee, founder of OM yoga in New York and author of Yoga Body, Buddha Mind (Riverhead, 2004). … "A poverty mentality is feeling like you don't have enough, so you try to get more. If you go out to dinner and somebody wants to taste your food when they haven't even tasted their own yet, that's a poverty mentality. It causes a person to want more—more food, clothes, compliments, attention, anything." Curiously, affluence can breed this poverty mentality as efficiently as lack can, especially in a media-dominated society saturated with the message that acquisition and consumption are the keys to power and pleasure.

Mixed Messages

When it comes to food, the temptation to be greedy comes packaged in our culture as a curious pair of opposites: a dessert may be "delicious," "decadent," and "to die for," but having it show on your body is taboo. This sets up a yearning to both indulge and deny ourselves. Excessive yearning flies in the face of aparigraha. And this kind of want is a double-edged threat to the serenity we get from all of our yoga, meditation, and pranayama.

"If you're confused because of the messages you're getting, your ability to make skillful choices is undermined," says Scott Blossom, a Northern California yoga instructor, doctor of traditional Chinese medicine, and longtime student of Ayurveda. …

Saying Whoa

Having said all that, how much is enough? According to [Dr. Scott] Gerson, "Ayurveda observes that after any given meal, the stomach should contain approximately 50 percent solid food—the amount that would fit comfortably into your outstretched, cupped hands—25 percent liquids, and 25 percent air—a necessary ingredient for any process of combustion, which is essentially what digestion is." To know when you've reached these amounts, you have to develop an awareness of digestion and learn to read the body's signals of satiety.

This attention is crucial, especially for people who find that in attempting to cut back, they're more likely to cut loose. "It's a process of being sensitive to the experience of eating and its aftereffects," Blossom says. "We want the body to feel satiated and the mind to feel content. The yama aparigraha is the other side of the niyama santosha [contentment]. The two are connected. What makes the body happy is to get all the elements that support its tissues. The mind is satisfied by the colors on the plate, the artistic presentation of the meal, and, at a deeper level of consciousness, food prepared with lots of love."

With awareness, we start to see what is appropriate from one meal to the next, one day to another, an early stage of life to a later one. "The answer to ‘What's enough?' is a moving target," Cyndi Lee says. "It's about watching your mind, seeing if you're being indulgent. You get to decide in each moment instead of building a judgment system that creates rationalization and resistance: ‘I can't ever have dessert because people are starving and I'm short and it'll go straight to my butt.' Then it's a rule and it's dead, no longer connected to your own wisdom."

Making Friends with Food

… When moderation—without self-denial—is the norm, the body and mind join forces to help maintain this pleasant state. "It's not to say you can't overeat every now and then," Ippoliti says. "Have the extra helping or the ice cream if you want, but have it with great joy: ice cream with ecstasy! Then, if you're connected to yourself, you'll find yourself craving healthy foods or less food. You'll come back into alignment, because that's where you're most comfortable."

… It is true: Yoga can change your eating. You just have to care enough about yourself to let it.

A Side of Mindfulness

When you bring the light of awareness to your eating, you'll develop an inner sense of what truly nourishes you. If this kind of focus doesn't come naturally to you, you can start with just one or two elements of mindfulness at a time. The following suggestions can help you cultivate a body that is well fed by an intentional mind.

Take a moment of silence, or actually say grace, before eating.

Sit down for meals and slow down to savor them.

Choose foods of such high quality—fresh, organically grown, thoughtfully prepared—that nutrition is optimal and satisfaction comes easily.

Experience with full consciousness the pleasure of eating, the comfort of having plenty but not too much, and the energizing lightness that comes when the stomach isn't full.

Let go of fear—fear of eating too much or weighing too much, fear of being an imperfect yogi or an imperfect person.

Seek help—if eating too much is a long-standing and baffling problem—from a nutritionist, therapist, or support group as an adjunct to the ultimate authority, the wisdom that resides within.

12-14-2004, 06:40 PM
Thank you for that...

I've been interested in yoga for some time now but feel I need to lose at least 30lbs in order to practice w/out hurting myself.

Take care

12-14-2004, 08:29 PM
I've been interested in yoga for some time now but feel I need to lose at least 30lbs in order to practice w/out hurting myself.

No no no. ANYONE can practice yoga at any weight. I thought that I would never be able to do some of the moves when I started a beginner's class. Now with my type of person though, yoga is just too danged slow paced for me and I didn't stay with it. But I still use the beginning moves I learned for stretching, and I get deep into them now, like I thought I'd never be able to do. I was able to get into those poses while still quite overweight. My yoga instructor assured me that weight had nothing to do with it.

12-14-2004, 10:39 PM
Really? Huh. I feel so limited at this weight, I have no range, I'm not limber at all and I feel like I could pull a muscle easily if I hold a position... Plus with the extra fat, it's hard for me to do certain moves, it just feels impossible.

How would I be able to do it at the weight I am now?

That would be great if I could get into right away instead of waiting to drop 30lbs. I always felt I needed to get fit first before starting yoga so I don't hurt my bod.

Is there a good tape or book for beginners who are overweight that you know of?


12-15-2004, 11:01 AM
I haven't tried any of the tapes/books. I picked up a Pilates for Weightloss video once and gave it away because it bored me to tears. But it had 3 people doing beginner, intermediate, and advanced moves. And you followed the one you wanted. But yoga and Pilates are just too slow-paced for my personality. The class was easier to deal with for me than a video and I still didn't stay with it. I did the class for about 3 months. A class would probably be the best if you can, because you'll get one-on-one coaching.

My instructor always impressed on us that we don't need to force into a position. Go as far as you can and breath into it until the day you can do it. You don't have to do it right away and aren't expected to. And if one move seems to hard, do something different while the others do that move. She actually said I was a Type A personality...meaning I wouldn't let a move defeat me and that I probably forced some moves when I shouldn't have. LOL She kept trying to get me to slow down.

And it takes patience. Some of the gals in that beginner class had been there over a year. But she definately said that weight should have no bearing on how well you can do a move. That has everything to do with how limber your muscles are I suppose. And if you work at limbering them up through yoga, you'll be able to get into positions you didn't think you could.

12-15-2004, 11:02 AM
BTW, I didn't precisely take yoga for the exercise, because again, it seemed too slow-paced for me to be considered as much exercise. I took it for stress reasons. I never could get the whole mind-body thing anyway, which is probably another reason I didn't take to it too well. But it was relaxing while I was there.

12-15-2004, 01:43 PM
I'm taking a class through work (free, the instructor was just certified to instruct and wanted some guine pigs ;) ) and as it's my first yoga class I was nervous too. I have to say, I was VERY impressed witht he relaxing/limbering qualities. I still can't touch my toes, but hopefully I'll get those hamstrings loosened up someday.

That was off topic. What I meant to say was that the instructor is constantly impressing on us the importance of only doing what we're comfortable with, not pushing too hard, and "if it hurts, don't do it!" He frequently gives both easier and harder versions of a move, and tailors the class to the participants. For instance one of the gals was in an accident and wore a neck brace on the third week, and she had mentioned previously going to a chiropractor, so he focused a class more on stretching moves.

I would recommend an instructor over a book or tape, just because of that one on one consultation & customization, especially if you're not sure about yoga. But if you can find a tape with beginner, intermediate, and advance like the one described above, that sounds ideal too!


12-15-2004, 02:22 PM
I started doing yoga when I weighed almost exactly what you do. The point of yoga -- or any type of exercise -- is to learn and grow, not to start out already able to do it perfectly. Yoga is especially good for meeting you where you are and you go from there. It's called Yoga PRACTICE, not Yoga Perfection. Even for experienced practitioners, there will be days when some things come less easily than usual. The language of yoga is very instructive in the philosophy. Instead of saying, "If you can't do XYZ ..." an instructor will say, "If XYZ isn't available to you today ..." What a lovely, positive way of looking at things.

When I started I was not only overweight but I have VERY bad knees and had the flexibility of a pine board. That's OK. In each pose, you simply take it as far as you are able. Go far enough to challenge yourself, but not so far that you hurt. Each person in each class is at a different level of fitness, ability, and skill. Even though I am still overweight, there are poses I can do more easily than any man in my class, and they are all much more fit than I am. On the other hand, there are poses they can do more easily because of their superior body strength. I still have a devil of a time with anything to do with balance, but I'm an ace at twisting poses. Etc. Every person has limits, so you just meet those limits and try to push them back a little over time. In my very first class my body was able to do things that I did not think were possible, but I tried it (with the expert instruction of my teacher) and what do you know -- I could do it! Just this week I did a pose that I never ever thought in a million years I'd be able to do, a pose that frankly frightened me a bit. OH MY GOD what a feeling that was to do it, and even take it further than I thought I was willing to try. That is yoga practice.

In the year of my sporadic practice my forward reach increased 3 inches! (This is measured by sitting on the floor, legs straight out in front of you, and reaching for your toes.) I STILL can't touch my toes, but I can reach a LOT further than I could a year ago. I, too, started yoga mainly to work on the physical aspects of flexibility & give my body a good stretching workout. However, I've gone beyond thinking of it as "exercise" -- it's so much more than that. It's about learning to love and respect your body, about calming the mind, about spending time focused on one thing. I read something recently that discussed how, in this world of constant multi-tasking, yoga could only be done as a mono-task. You can't really think about other things as you do when you're doing cardio or weight training. This has an amazing rejuvinating affect. Sure, there are yoga classes that are fast-paced and meant to be "exercise" but I would never want to do them, because for me that's not the POINT. The point precisely is to slow down and work deep and focused, rather than to "work out."

As for tapes, I do have several that I like but I do recommend going to some classes first. I think I would have found the videos frustrating if I did not already have class experience with a good instructor. Another thing you might do is pick up a book called Yoga for Wimps. This is sort of a pre-beginner instruction of some great poses, grouped according to intent. They are mostly precursors to the poses you would find in a beginner's class, but if you are truly a beginner they are a great place to start. The book also explains the overall yoga philosophy of "yoga practice" that serves as a nice introduction.