Monthly Archives: March 2013

Phase 1, Step 2 (exploration): The Cook

2. The Cook
The Cook who fed the man who became the Buddha

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According to the Buddhists texts Siddhartha Gautama, hoping to reach enlightenment spent 6 years undergoing extreme deprivations, subsisting on one grain of rice a week. He became so emaciated that the skin of his belly was touching his spine. One day he lost consciousness and his companions thought he was dead. But he regained consciousness and realized that extreme asceticism was meaningless.
Now at that time there lived a young woman named Sujata. In reaching maturity she had made a prayer: “If I get a good husband and give birth to a child, I will make an offering of a hundred thousand pieces of money.” Her prayer was answered. So, to prepare for this offering, she first pastured a thousand cows and fed their milk to five hundred cows, then fed the milk of these cows to 250, and so on down to feeding the milk of 16 cows to 8. This was to increase the thickness, and sweetness of the milk. She, then, cooked the milk with rice, while four guardian angels stood guard over the fireplace. She finally put the rice cake in a gold dish worth the sum of money she had promised to give away. She found the future Buddha at the foot of a tree, who was waiting for the time to go begging for food. The great being looked at her and she perceived he was a holy man. She offered him the dish saying “May your wishes prosper like my own” and departed, not caring for her golden dish. The future Buddha went to the river bank. After bathing, he ate the cake and disregarded the dish. It was his only meal for the seven weeks he stayed under the tree where he attained enlightenment. (summarized and adapted from the introduction to the Jakata in Warren’s book, Everyman’s life of the Buddha.)

For many women and men, cooking can be a spiritual practice

c Niderlander | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images photo: Niderlander | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

Cooking requires an opening of the senses first. We pay attention to the colors, to the smells, the texture of the food. It is an opening of our heart. We cook thinking about the pleasure or just the satisfaction of those who will eat our food. We find the joy of finding ourselves hungry and then satiated. It is an affirmation of our self-worth and a thankful prayer to the Divine Love and Power to feed us. We pay heavily for our busy lives. We give the power to unscrupulous companies to feed us with high amounts of sugar, salt and many additives to preserve the food on the shelf.
The only question you have to ask yourself this week, is” Are you ready to cook for yourself, and prepare all the food you eat, with a few exceptions?” I don’t think it is possible to lose weight, if we are not in charge. Before we look at what kind of food we want to eat, we must have the power to make decisions. Cooking does not have to take much time. For most of us, who have jobs, children –and no personal cook like Oprah or Jennifer Aniston- the only alternative to eating already prepared food is to learn to prepare a simple and healthy meal in 20 minutes. As I was mentioning last week cooking once a week, for the whole week is also a possibility. We will look more deeply at cooking in step 5 (see the post “A time for exploration” for the different steps) and you will have more chances to succeed in losing weight and maintaining your weight loss for years if you don’t make drastic changes for a few weeks. You need time to adjust: see post “A no-shame, no blame approach”).

cook with pot  ©Natie | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

So for now, simply look at how you are going to manage preparing your meals and snacks at home. If you are living with a partner and children start looking at how you can include each member of the family in the preparation of the meals. Try that. Cooking and eating will become, as it used to be, a family spiritual practice, even if it takes less time, fortunately, than it took in our old families.

file0001527574719 ©CByron | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

Phase 1, Step 1 of the journey (exploration) : Getting your kitchen and your life ready for change.

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Why we need to go back to home cooking

Is there a conscious effort of food production and distribution companies to make us fat? You can bet on it. When we start looking into it, it is worse than we can imagine.

During the last 40 years, the number of people that are overweight has increased significantly. An estimated two-thirds of all U.S. adults over the age of 20 have a BMI index over 30. http://www.ucdmc.ucdavis.edu/publish/news/newsroom/6748  (The BMI is a measure of a person’s weight/height ratio that can be calculated at http://nhlbisupport.com/bmi/bminojs.htm).  It is getting much worse: this percentage of people seriously overweight increased by 75% from 2000 to 2005.

Obviously it is not just a personal but a social problem.  According to a major research by DA Cohen from the department of health, the most dramatic change in the last four decades is a greater accessibility of foods and a decline of the relative price of food. More important is the increase of money spent on food bought outside the home; from 24 % of food purchase in 1966 to 42% in 2006. People can control the amount of sugar and fat they use in their cooking, not in the snacks or restaurant dishes. Restaurant food is typically sweeter and more greasy. It is easier for the cook; oily food does stick to the pan. Sugar opens the appetite and it is therefore better for business, so there are a lot of hidden sugars:  in salad dressings, in pizza tomato sauce, and to a lesser degree in any prepared dish. Worse are the non-perishable food sold in gas stations, convenience stores, office buildings and drugstores. This kind food is highly processed, high in sugar and has low nutritional value.

People are artificially stimulated to feel hungry by an unceasing flow of images of food, without being aware of it.  The response of the brain to food images is the same as the response to images of drugs for drug addicts, with a lesser intensity. This response is automatic, not mediated by the consciousness. The variety of food offered has increased as well. Each year the food industry introduces more than 10 000 new products, offering minor changes in coloring and texture, but increasing the temptations to try something new. More than 65% of the items bought in the stores are unplanned purchases. Branding, a powerful marketing technique associates desirable qualities and characteristics to a specific product is more persuasive technique than we want to admit.

Unfortunately we have very little insight on how our environment influences our behavior.  I became aware of it by chance. After I left my parent’s home, I spend two decades without TV. When I decided to buy one, I started watching a specific program, introduced by an add for a hot dog sold in a fast food outlet. I had never been fond of hot dogs, but after two weeks of TV commercials, I found out that I was craving to eat one. So, I bought one, just to be disappointed by the taste. Finally, when it comes to food many factors such as distraction, information overload, fatigue, stress, ambiance, play a more important role than rational decisions.

We cannot have sane reactions to food and eating, in this insane environment.

If we expect to resist temptations presented to us a hundred of times a week, we are deluding ourselves. There will always be a convenient store open when we are feeling low energy, a new kind of cookie to try, a new restaurant in town to sample …and more. The only place where we can regain some sanity is our own home, where we can espouse a philosophy of simple living and eating.

Voluntary simplicity involves both inner and outer conditions. It means singleness of purpose, sincerity and honesty within as well as avoidance of exterior clutter…  it means an ordering and guiding of our energy and our desires, a partial restraint in some directions in order to secure greater abundance of life in other directions.  Richard Gregg

We have to set our intention to create our own food environment, reduce the clutter, make our own decisions about what we want to eat on a monthly basis. Imagine the time and energy we can save when we go to the store once a week, buy what we need, and stick with that.  (We will look in future posts how we can select food for both pleasure and a slender figure. The French can do it, why not us?)

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Reclaiming our kitchens

The first step is to look at our kitchen with new lenses, in a loving and critical way. The kitchen is where you will start your journey of getting thinner.  Keep your receipts and look at how much you spent on food prepared outside your home. You may have a kitchen that has everything … except you and the rest of the family.

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Can you prepare at home 80% of the food you are going to eat? It will require a reorganization of your schedule so you can cook, may be, two days a week, or even just one, and freeze your prepared meals for the week. Don’t underestimate the difficulty.  Don’t give up either.  You don’t have to change anything for now. You will be more successful if you take your time to make any change, even if it takes 8 weeks (see my post:  A  no-blame, no- shame approach)

If you have a kitchen which is cluttered, with cabinets and fridge overflowing with a variety of every kind of food, it is time to look at how you can simplify your life, have a kitchen easier to keep tidy and clean, and more hospitable.

Dr. Peeke, the author of Buried in Treasures, says she has instructed patients trying to lose weight to at least create one clean and uncluttered place in their home. She gives the example of one patient who cleaned up her home and also lost about 50 pounds.

You may not have a problem with clutter in any other rooms in your house, but if you have in your cupboards 5 kinds of cookies, instead of one, you have more chance to eat more when you are bored. Choose your favorite brand and think about not buying the others anymore. If you have a spouse, children and each one of you has a different one –worst case scenario- still look if you can eliminate some.

Do the same thing with each category of food. The next thing you will start looking at is the food you don’t use or love. Take a box and put the packages of non-perishable food in it and see if you are going to use it in the next weeks. Do the same with the food in the fridge. Put this food on a specific shelf.  In a few weeks get this food out of your kitchen.

Have fun and most of all take your time! Rome was not built in a day.

kitchen tgwl week 3

Week 2: A time for exploration

Tranquil Zen Retreat

Before you do anything about either your eating habits or any physical activity, wait and see.

A recent Stanford University study, by Kiernan and her colleagues, showed that people who were delaying the time they were going to start changing their eating habits by several weeks –up to eight weeks- were more successful than people who decided to go on a diet right away. They were also more likely to keep the weight off.   (New Research on Weight Loss from Stanford University School of Medicine  Published Oct. 31, 2013 in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. http://med.stanford.edu/ism/2012/october/stability.html)

It makes sense that knowing what to expect is reassuring and allows for some adjustment. Before you want to live in a new town it is better to spend some time there, visit the area, the town itself.

So I invite you to be a tourist for a while, so you can discover where thin people “live”: what their kitchen looks like, what they eat often or rarely, how they eat and with whom and what guaranties that they enjoy eating and moving, and stay thin.

Understanding the Process of Becoming Thin.

w2 3 phases

Food is Energy. Energy gives you movement. Movement is life and growth.

v  A. The Preparation Phase.

  • 1. Getting your kitchen and your life ready for change.
  • 2. The cook and the helpers
  • 3. Food and life

v  B. The Experiential Phase

  • 4. Checking in: hunger, satiety, taste, pleasure, habits
  • 5. Cooking and moving: Long and short meals. Exercising versus moving.
  • 6. Eating with others. The gym and other places of fun or torture

v  C. The Transformative Phase

  • 7. Serving the food.
  • 8  Eating the food
  • 9  Digesting the food and losing weight. A new rhythm of life

Before next week, I invite you to spy on your thin friends. See what they have in their fridge, their cabinets and their pantries. Ask them what they eat when they don’t have much time.  Listen to them telling you about their experiences about cooking, eating and exercising, as if you were doing research. Don’t ask for advice. They are not in charge of your weight loss.  You are in charge of this discovering process.

Next week: Looking at how you can get your kitchen and immediate environment ready for change.

A “no shame, no blame” approach: Why you don’t need another list of tricks

If it was just a question of information on food, exercise and weight lost, everybody would be thin in America. There is an abundance of tips, lists, recipes, advice, advertising and promises on the net. Some of the tips are quite correct, most of them are obvious, and all of them start with the promise that “You just have to do this or that, and you will succeed.” Well, most people are not stupid and can think by themselves that eating less and exercising more for example, will result in weight loss. Being exposed to a plethora of information, just information, only results in more guilt and shame in people who are overweight. Guilt is bad enough, it tells you did something wrong but shame is even more painful. It tells you that you are bad.  In a recent Ted Talk Brein talks about the devastating effects of shame when it runs unconscious. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=psN1DORYYV0. It can be recognized and transcended. Don’t you want to take another path?

The mystic Hafiz says:
You carry all the ingredients to turn your life into a nightmare
Don’t mix them!
You carry all the ingredients to turn your life into joy
Mix them. Mix Them *

Information is useful sometimes and I will share some with you but it is not the focus of this blog. The focus is to show what can lead you from belonging to the group of overweight people in America for whom eating is tainted with shame and guilt to the group of people who eat what they want, enjoy it and stay thin. It takes intention, understanding of what is at stake, and experiencing the thin way of eating and moving around.  This blog is focused on the process, not just the information.

I am not saying that you should be thin, but if you want to be, there is a path with different challenges at each step. This is not a difficult path, since many people are thin without effort. However taking it requires intention and being open to seeing differently.

For people who are overweight, something went wrong at some point: Each person has his or her own way to gain weight and maintain this surplus. It is much more difficult because it is a blind spot. It really works like the blind spot you have when you are driving. Everyone can see the big truck except you. It takes a different point of view to see it.

As we go through the journey of becoming thin, we can see how each person who wants to lose weight get stuck in one or several points. That the time where the dieters give up and the membership card to the gym stay in the drawer. If you choose to overcome this obstacle not by brute force, but by wisely walking around, you will lose weight and stay thin. Losing weight is not a question of will, but a question of seeing what needs to be done.

*in The Gift, poems by Hafiz,  translations by Daniel Ladinsky