Friday, February 28, 2014

If You Want to Love Your Body...

"Your body doesn't matter."

Profound words from L.A. yogi Bryan Kest (famed for coining "power yoga"), who was giving a workshop in town last week. Me - pregnant, tired, sweating in the heated room - I felt my body relax when those words rang out.

If you can see past some oxymorons between the whole mind-body connection of yoga and the concept of "your body doesn't matter," you might have the "a-ha" moment that I did. A weight was lifted off my shoulders when I heard that I can stop worrying about my body. It's there. It's aging. Let it go. You were made how you were made. You can ignore the advertisements for swimsuits and protein powders and even shaving cream. Your body is not what's important. Your body is not what's going to love and be loved and rejoice and transcend.

That's your heart.

...if only your mind can get out of the way.

I am not denying the importance of doing yoga poses to inspect your body for dis-ease sure to cause problems down the road. I'm saying, stop pinching your love handles in the mirror, and start looking at the thought patterns in your head talking sh** about your love handles. Those thoughts are a choice, and they are simply wrong. They are as addictive as sugar, and will ironically shame you into eating more of it. (I know I've tried to drown out the sound of my own thoughts in a pint of almond ice cream a time or two.)

So what happens when your thoughts stop? When there's quiet between your ears? You have room to breathe. You feel light. You feel like...taking a walk. Making love. Sipping tea. Devouring a casserole bowl full of luscious salad and berries. You are HEARING your body talk; asking you for what it wants.

By "ignoring" your body, aka quieting your thoughts about it, you are actually becoming more aware of its true nature. Not the shape and the stories about it, but the beautiful symphony of energy and function that your physical body truly is. It is perfect, even if it's "not." Your thoughts are the only things preventing you from KNOWING that.

Why don't you start by dropping the vicious thoughts and beliefs you've developed about food? A podcast called "Yoga Talk Show" recently featured nutrition guru Jonathan Bailor, whose lifetime of research has been widely quoted by experts from Harvard to Stanford. His concept (also a book) of "the calorie myth" establishes a reality that counting calories is about as accurate as "measuring intelligence by height." He said what we really need to focus on is eating for nutrients, and that happens "naturally" if you're consuming pure foods that come directly from the earth ("there isn't a bread tree"), while keeping in mind a few guidlines:

A suggestion for where to find Bailor's recommended nutrients
-Protein is not energy, but it repairs our body and we need it

-Energy comes from the carbohydrates with fiber, not sugar (both fiber and sugar are carbohydrates, but only fiber gives us energy. Sugar only substantiates a perpetual burning and craving of sugar)

-Fats are essential for satiating our appetite and providing nutrients, and don't necessarily induce fat retention; in fact, the more fats and less sugar you eat, your body will start to burn fat instead of ask for more sugar to burn.

Now, notice what your mind is saying right now. "Told you you shouldn't have had those jelly beans today, fatty!" or "Your diet doesn't look anything like that; you're a failure!" Well, Bailor discourages those thoughts. He says that when you let go of restrictions and move towards food you actually want (note: what your BODY craves, not your mind), then you don't have to keep track of what you eat or measure anything at all.

"Your body will start to function like a naturally thin person," he says, with your hormones and metabolism working to perpetuate health and even thinness.

The proof is in the past. Bailor points out that before the government gave us a "totally wrong" standard of nutrition and exercise (calories, food suggestions, etc) in the '70s, obesity and diabetes were not a big problem. But in the last 40 years, where we've been innundated with fitness products and fad diets, both diabetes and obesity have skyrocketed.

So we go back to basics. Not calorie-counting, just like our ancestors. Not following a food pyramid, just like our ancestors. Not stressing or thinking about swimsuit models and diet pills, just like our ancestors.

Turning off that stress - that need for control over the body - and enjoying a clear mind, is where you'll find health...and inevitably happiness.

And that has nothing to do with working out or calories.