Diets Are Out

The pendulum has swung.  Dieting is out.  Healthy eating and being fit and strong is in.  Just like all pendulums, eating regimens tend to rest in equilibrium before another diet fad or scientific study comes along and starts it in motion again.  We’ve seen this dozens of times with eggs, coffee, red wine and chocolate.  It’s in, it’s out. It seems like the middle path is illusive.
Folks have become very rigid with their diets, which is a good idea, if that means limiting processed foods and sugar. But, taken further, some dieters refuse cooked food, animal protein, including milk and eggs, nightshades (tomatoes and eggplant), sugar, gluten, legumes, oil and grains. This would be considered “clean eating” and a certain NY City blogger with 70,000 followers found she was suffering from a serious eating disorder. Her periods stopped, her hair started falling out and her skin turned orange (from all the sweet potatoes and carrots). She was eventually treated by a psychiatrist for a serious eating disorder.
Not only are diets out, but fat is in. Both kinds–body fat and consumed fat.  Fat acceptance is everywhere aiming to alter the cultural biases and stigmas against the obese, like Roxane Gay’s NYT’s best seller, Hunger.  Fat consumption is making a resurgence with Atkins and Atkins-like diets which promote shifting the body into ketosis. Ketosis happens when you starve your body of carbohydrates, it’s preferred source of energy, and force it to use stored fat, resulting in weight loss.  High-fat diet allows ample eating of eggs, cheese, avocados, oils, butter, fatty meats, nuts. Recommended is even butter or coconut oil in your coffee or tea.
So, if one is to avoid “dieting” and strive for a healthy eating with a dose of exercise, what’s a person to do? While in the bookstore at Tassajara, the book The Buddha’s Diet, caught my eye.  I don’t think the Buddha was worried about squeezing into his 34 waist designer jeans, but he did try dieting. After leaving his posh life as a young man, he took on the life of an ascetic, basically starving himself. After realizing starvation was not helpful for enlightenment, he began teaching the notion of the “middle path” which is the cornerstone and Buddhism and can be the basis for healthy eating.  It’s said we should do everything in moderation, including moderation.
I like everything about The Buddha’s Diet book and if you’re on the weight-loss train, then you might also. This book is not about what to each but when. There is no counting calories or points. No green juice that gets delivered to your door or expensive tonics or shakes.  Meals do not become exercises in deprivation.  There’s no fasting like the monks.  You can eat anything you want but not when you want.
Have you noticed now often we eat?  We’re told a hearty breakfast is important (debunked) and not to skip meals.  We eat a snack between breakfast and lunch and then another between lunch and dinner and then more while watching West Wing or reruns of The Simpsons. Then there’s the boredom snacking while doing homework or chatting on the phone.  There’s even the fourth meal, introduced by Taco Bell (thanks a lot….).  No wonder we are consuming so many calories.  We were not engineered to eat all day and night long.
In the olden days eating a meal took effort and time– lots of time.  The makings had to be gathered or shot, cleaned, prepared and eaten.  Then there was the clean-up.  This was all done in the daylight hours which, depending on where you lived, was as short as 5 hours. There wasn’t time or refrigeration to eat whenever you wanted.
The Buddha Diet suggests a return to a more natural eating timetable. Next week I’ll explain more and share about my eating habits. In the meantime, if you want some homework, keep track of when, not what, you eat. I think you may be surprised.