Hi friends, nutrition continues to be our theme at Change This Week and today I’m excited to kickoff the weekend with a new guest blogger. Meet Alison Wilburn who has great insight on health and nutrition. I’ve had the pleasure of taking my first ever yoga class with Alison and am happy she is here to contribute today. It’s all yours, Alison.
When asked to write this piece, the first thing that came to mind is that nutrition is about more than food. Then I remembered a friend who spent a summer sun-gazing – a practice whereby you nourish your body with solar energy by staring at the sun rather than eating food. I had never heard of this until he shared it with me, but apparently it’s an ancient technique, originating in India, though observed by other cultures as well, and known in modern times as the HRM phenomenon based on a NASA study of a sun-gazer named Hira Ratan Manek.
Before I continue, let me say I’ve been around the block a few times when it comes to eating, exercise, and nutrition, and I’m still traveling. Nothing I say is meant to be a definitive answer only what I can share from my experience so far.
I grew up observing a mom who was overweight and always on a diet. To my best recollection, I went on my first diet in the 7th grade, though I remember struggling with issues about my body and weight even earlier. In subsequent decades I continued to go from diet to diet and exercise regimin to exercise regimin trying to attain more of an ideal body weight with only spotty and temporary results. Though, my tendency was to carry excess, I spent almost two years underweight, probably anorexic if it had been diagnosed, so I really have a full spectrum experience with this in many ways. And after years of working from the outside-in, what I found is the lasting shift came from the inside and worked its way to the outside.
When I really committed myself to a spiritual path, I began to have a connection with a different sense of myself and developed an awareness of the origins of my impulses and appetites – a discernment that allowed me to feel from the inside whether I was being guided by my higher nature or unconsciously following the conditioning of my personality. This had an immediate and lasting impact on the kinds and amounts of food I choose to eat.
One thing I’ve realized in the last few years especially is that gluttony is a common cultural practice in America. It’s a fact that an overwhelming majority of us simply eat too much. The second thing I’ve come to see over the years is that no one diet is right for everyone. And if I try to eat according to someone else’s plan, regardless of how “expert” they are, then I get pulled away from my intuition, which is my most trusted ally when it comes to eating what is right for me and only me. And let’s face it, those experts are changing their minds on a pretty regular basis. From Atkins to South Beach Diet, from soy to wheat protein, almonds to coconuts, the ideas about what’s best for us will be changing until the end of time. If you really think about it, who could possibly know better what’s best for you than you?
I know this might sound strange in a society given to putting our health in other people’s hands, but in my experience I have found this to be the case. Health is more than a numbers game about matching an external standard designated by someone else such as a cholesterol, blood sugar, or calorie chart. The word “health”comes from an Old English word that means wholeness. More and more people in the healing arts (even western medicine) are realizing that real healing has to take the whole person into account. So if all my numbers match a chart, but I’m unhappy, unfulfilled, and resentful, is that really health (wholeness)?
I also tend to go by the idiom that the exception proves the rule. And there are so many exceptions to the common notions about health and nutrition. One that comes to mind right away is known as the Roseto Effect based on the documented study of an Italian-American community in Roseto, Pennsylvania. Turns out the common denominator in this group of people living longer, happier lives than the average American (despite the fact that they ate what would be considered unhealthy food, didn’t exercise, many were overweight, and some even smoked) was the sense of connection and belonging they cultivated among each other. No one was isolated and the study concluded basically that connection is not only good socially, but also physically and has a direct impact on the human body itself. Spiritual teacher and author, Ram Dass, tells how his guru, Maharajji took an inordinate amount of LSD and it had no effect whatsoever. I know LSD isn’t food, but I think it’s very relatable to the topic in that it is a substance that is supposed to have a certain effect when ingested and in this case that effect was neutralized. What I draw from these 2 instances is that nutrition is as much, if not more about belief than it is about the properties of the food itself.
What I’ve also realized in current times with food being big business, often produced by those who care more about money than well-being, is that what I eat is about more than personal preference. There’s a domino effect that goes into play when I take a bite of food, so I strive to be mindful and ask: “Will this choice alleviate or increase suffering on the planet?” This has led me to a predominately vegan diet and I see that what I choose to eat isn’t just about me and what it will make my body look like, it’s also about the effect it will have on the world and the other beings in it as a whole. Finding a balance between those two aspects is key.
What I would like to impress upon anyone who’s made it this far in reading what I have to say, is:
Nutrition is an inside game.
Find ways to connect with your intuition, whether in spiritual study and practice, spending time in nature, or whatever else calls to you.
Notice how you feel before, during, and after you eat. This is a telling guide. Do you feel energized or weighed down?
Don’t be overly influenced by current cultural models of what’s right to eat, knowing they will change on you before you know it.
Look at the big picture when it comes to nutrition. Consider your whole being and the effect your choices have on the planet as a whole.
What I’ve shared here continue to be my guiding principles. I am at the most ideal place I’ve ever been with feeling balanced and at peace with what I eat and the way I feel in my body. I have levels of freedom, energy, and strength that eluded me for many years. There’s nothing that would make me more happy than to see everyone walking around in a body that they felt truly good and alive in. If you’re not already, I hope you will be one of those individuals who finds that kind of freedom here and now. 17th Century philosopher, François, duc de La Rochefoucauld, wrote: “To eat is a necessity, [though things like sun-gazing bring even this into question] but to eat intelligently is an art.” Let what you eat be an artful expression of you, a beautiful, balanced depiction of who you are at the deepest level.
Alison helps others through the avenues that have been most profound in her own experience. In 2013, she created Lightwave Healing & Yoga as a channel to offer yoga, healing, and insights on eastern and western spirituality, quantum physics, and ancient wisdom.
Alison is very grateful to share her life with a mindful/yogi husband, 2 beautiful stepdaughters, and a couple of furry critters. When not engaged in service, Alison can be found practicing yoga, running or hiking the SoCal trails, or geeking out on an Einstein biography.
To recieve Alison’s Daily Lightwave (an inspirational soundbyte she publishes everyday), or to find out more about her yoga teaching schedule or special events, visit her on Facebook and Twitter.