Low carb diet, Mediterranean diet, Paleolithic diet, Atkins diet, Dukan diet, Raw food diet, Vegetarianism, Veganism, Pescetarianism, Juice fasting, Intermitting fasting….and these are just the first ones that popped up in my mind…
And then honoured books and documentaries, articles by respected news providers, social media feeds…which, of course, all prove each other wrong.
They all promise to make us lose weight and keep us skinny forever, make the world a better place and drive happiness…in addition, and first of all, they will improve life expectancy and decrease the risk for serious illness, such as cancer and cardiovascular diseases. All in completely different ways.
How on earth can we manoeuvre in this jungle and trust what a good diet is? Or even, simply, what we can eat or not…
Being a ballet dancer with a slower metabolism and an obsessive mind…I can tell you that I have explored the jungle…
I was not at all concerned with what was healthy or not, at the time… I had one focus, which was to be skinny.
When I was 13 years old, in the hottest time of my puberty, my Russian ballet teacher liked to tell me that I was FAT, every day.
I just moved away from home, I lived alone, danced all day and attended highschool at night. There were no Mum and Dad to help and protect, not any warm good foot waiting for me when I came home and no one holding my hand when I needed it…
What happened then? I went nuts. I realized I had 2 options; quit or really do something about it and…yes, I basically stopped eating.
My diet was fruit in the morning, most of the time no lunch (a large portion of caffeine was involved) and a vegetable soup in the evening.
Did I lose weight? Yes, a lot.
Was that good for me? For sure not.
On top of slowing down my metabolism for the rest of my days… I later suffered from stress fracture, amenorrhea (loss of menstruations), hair loss, and at the age of 18, I was diagnosed with having the same level of osteoporosis as an 80 years old Grandma.
Something had to change!!
Forced by my Mum, I started integrating more proteins into my diet…to then fall into the exact opposite.
The Dukan Diet, created by Dr. Pierre Dukan, consisted of pure lean / fat free animal proteins without any carbs, vegetables or fruits. The different components had to be slowly reintegrated during the following weeks.
I must say that the results were very impressive at the beginning, thanks to the obvious immediate water loss in the body, but I remember my stomach got stuck for days due to the lack of any kind of fibres.
Was that sustainable?? NO WAY!!!
In later years, before I studied any yoga philosophy or knew any “yogis”, I read a book: The China Study. (a book where Dr. Colin Campbell presents "a new framework for understanding nutrition and health, a framework that eliminates confusion, prevents and treats disease and allows you to live a more fulfilling life." This broad purpose is partially achieved by summarizing the evidence that favours eating only plant-based whole foods.)
Through this book, my interest towards food and diet changed drastically.
I was now concerned with finding a Healthy diet, rather than a skinny diet. I did enough searches and gathered enough information to believe it was worth a try.
I became Vegan.
At the time I was dancing between 8 and 12 hours a day, living in cold Norway and without enough time or energy to prepare good and balanced meals that could support my nutrition needs. Especially at that time, there were not many vegan options, other than a green salad if you wanted to eat out and about… and that’s what I ended up having most of the times.
In a few months I became so anaemic, I barely escaped the risk of being recovered in hospital…and instead of feeling good, light and full of energy, I was extremely tired, swollen and miserable.
For these reasons, I obviously had to give up my veganism and introduced a few animal proteins again.
It felt like another disappointment and added more confusion.
In the yoga world nowadays there is a big “pressure” on diet. It almost feels that being a vegan is a MUST. If you eat meat / fish, drink normal milk or love eggs… you’ll get “the eyes”!!
Many ancient texts of yoga stress the necessity of a meatless diet, and one that is free from alcohol or stimulants. From the Hatha Yoga Pradipika which clearly directs the practitioner toward a sattvic (balanced) diet of nuts, grains, milk, and ghee, to the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali that emphasize the importance of non-harming through the practice of ahimsa (non-violence), the bulk of the yogic compendium advocate vegetarianism and purity.
The book “Yoga Mala” from Sr. Pattabi Jois actually says that vegetables should not be consumed much as they’re unpleasant for practitioners, as well as sour, salty and spicy food.
So, where does all this “yoga veganism” come from when, in none of those Ancient texts, is it even mentioned or suggested to be one?
Having said that, I believe that a vegan diet followed and supported with enough nutrition and supplements (vitamin B12 and iron) is a very healthy lifestyle to follow.
A few weeks ago, I had a conversation with a good friend who has been struggling for years with his health due to inappropriate dieting.
Despite Doctors telling him that he was totally healthy, he knew that there was something wrong…and he kept trying and experimenting.
Finally, after years of hard work and disappointments, he found his way and he finally feels (and looks) like a million dollars…;)
He introduced me to this book “The plant Paradox” where another Doctor (Dr. Gundry) believes that what makes us sick is “lectin”.
Lectins is a type of protein abundant in raw legumes and grains, and most commonly found in the part of the seed that becomes the leaves when the plant sprouts but also on the seed coat. They’re also found in dairy products and certain vegetables.
What the real important thing is; apparently Lectins are resistant to human digestion. They are a in fact a toxic nutrient, making our immune system work to create antibodies to protect against them.
Once again, everything makes perfect sense, but how about all the vegetarian and vegan people that feel GREAT and overeat all kind of legumes at all time?
Once again, another contradiction.
I obviously didn’t come up with what is good or not to eat and I definitely don’t consider myself an expert in the area, but I do have a lot of interest in it…
What I believe, is that we are all different individuals, with different needs and different habits.
Living in India is very different from living in Norway, working in an office is different than running marathons, living a happy and relaxed life is different from being anxious and stressed all day.
There are so many extra factors that we don’t consider, which I believe take a huge roll on both our health and how we react to food.
Stressing on following a strict diet itself can be counterproductive to finding stability and real happiness.
My conclusion is to find balance, learn to listen to the body and its different needs, try out different things and most of all accept changes and don’t expect immediate results.
Move and be happy.
Let’s create our own “healthy and happy life” recipe.