by Juliette Aiyana, L.Ac.
© 2006. All Rights Reserved.
Throughout the holidays many people have over consumed rich, fatty, sugary foods more than they should have. To bring in the New Year, many people have resolved to go on another diet. Are you one of those people? Those extra holiday pounds added to the rest of the weight you want to lose makes dieting seem like an overwhelming task. Which diet will you chose: Atkins, Fit for Life, The Zone, Weight Watchers, Raw Foods, Juicing, Cabbage Soup?
It's usually with an anguished moan that we declare we are going on a diet. But, weight loss doesn't have to be a chore. We can make it much easier to lose weight and keep it off when we shift our perception about dieting. The most important shift is the realization that dieting doesn't have to be about deprivation. You don't have to live on bland salads, eating only soups or prepackaged diet plan meals, or go on controversial induction or crash diets to lose weight. Oriental Medicine advises quite the opposite. We advise balance, not deprivation, as the best way to achieve and maintain a healthy body.
In fact, even Western nutritionists agree with the Oriental viewpoint. Dr. Dean Ornish, author of Eat More, Weigh Less comments on the unhealthiness of high protein diets, "You can lose weight from fen-phen, too, but that doesn't mean it's good for you."
Katherine Tallmadge, nutritionist and author of Diet Simple, says, "I've found the biggest cause of overeating is under-eating. Most overeating is due to poor planning. It is amazing what a well stocked refrigerator full of delicious prepared foods does for preventing that stop to the fast food joint. Most of your cravings and uncontrolled overeating will be conquered when you feed your body what it needs regularly during the day and have the food at your fingertips when you need it. Studies show that you are most likely to eat whatever is in your environment. If you surround yourself with delicious, healthy, wholesome foods, that's what you'll end up eating."
I can vouch for the wisdom of Katherine Tallmadge because I prepare several meals to have at my fingertips. Every Sunday, I teach a yoga class in the morning, then I go food shopping. I stop at the health food store, the grocery store and maybe even the local Italian market. Then I go home, put on really loud music that makes me move, sing and dance around the kitchen while I get cookin'. I cook several meals in large batches that last me the week offering myself a variety of foods and flavors. Then I freeze some servings and store servings in the refrigerator to eat over the next few days and take to my office. I plan the meals and shopping list ahead of time. Experimentation with new recipes from some of my favorite magazines like Food and Wine and Gourmet keep my discriminating palate satisfied. Believe it or not those magazines have many healthful recipes. I also get recipes from Vegetarian Times , www.foodtv.com and my new favorite magazine Eating Well, which accepts no advertising and has wonderful recipes and informative articles. It also rates the degree of difficulty of the recipes as Easy, Moderate or Labor Intensive and gives you the caloric value, fat, cholesterol, carbohydrates, protein, fiber and sodium per serving.
What To Eat
Oriental medicine teaches us to eat whole cooked foods and avoid raw foods diets and juicing for every meal. Avoid overeating dairy products, many of which we westerners consider healthy diet foods like cheese, cottage cheese, and yogurt.
The reason Oriental medicine does not advise eating raw foods and juices and dairy products is because they are classified as cold and damp. It is said in Chinese Medicine that "The Spleen hates cold, the Spleen hates dampness." Cold and damp foods harm the Spleen qi. The Spleen is viewed as the vital organ for the digestion and assimilation of food. It's job is to transform and transport food. It transforms the food into qi and transports the qi to other organs. When the other organs receive qi, they can properly perform their functions in preserving physiological balance and harmony. When organ systems do not receive enough qi it causes disharmony which can lead to disease. We also want to avoid fatty, greasy fried foods, and over consumption of alcohol, (anyone out there have a beer belly?), white flour products and sugar, all of which are classified as cold or damp foods.
Don't Skip Breakfast
Many of my patients skip breakfast and wait until late in the day to eat lunch or even miss it, blaming a busy day at work. Then when they finally eat they gorge on whatever is fastest. But what happens physiologically when we regularly deprive our bodies of food then finally binge? Our body goes into a state of emergency and thinks that it has to store the calories we ate for future use. So it stores these calories as fat, an efficient fuel because it is hard to burn. And what if we eat a quick sugary pick me up like a candy bar or Powerbar instead of a meal?
The American Heart Association's Committee on Nutrition recently informed healthcare professionals that sugar consumption promotes obesity and raises triglycerides (blood fats). Sugar is a fuel that delivers calories with great efficiency, and any extra calories are converted into body fat for storage. Extra fat on the body usually produces extra fat in the blood along with added body weight (Eating Well, Fall 2002, p20). But if we eat regularly and avoid massive amounts of sugar consumption our bodies won't need to store as much. The body will use or burn the most of the calories instead of storing them.
Sugar is hard to give up because we love and crave sweets. It is in so many products we want to eat, even in some brands of bread!
Our sugar cravings date back 2 million years when we would seek out sweet foods dense with energy, like ripe mangos hanging from the tree, berries clustered on the vine and honey seeping from the comb. Thousands of years later, in a land of overabundant processed foods and sedentary lifestyles, that primitive impulse works against easy weight control and healthy energy balance. (Eating Well Fall 2002, p19). Our sedentary lifestyle is one of the reasons why I advise my patients that they must combine an exercise program with the dietary change. There is just no getting away with evading exercise to lose and maintain weight loss.
The USDA recommended daily allowance of sugar is 40 grams, but the average American over the age of 2 eats two times that quantity. Sugar addiction is a real and important issue. If you eat lots of sugar it is best to reduce your intake rather than go cold turkey. Sugar stimulates the brain to produce the opioid chemicals which in turn stimulates elevated dopamine levels. Elevated dopamine levels cause us to seek out more sweets, like a drug. This is same chemical process that a morphine or heroin addict's brain experiences. Fortunately for sugar addicts it is not as hard to quit. Although I have a theory that it is harder for people who are in recovery from drugs or alcohol to quit sugar, it can still be done. Try to reduce your intake by half for a few weeks then by half again for a week then in half again until you reach at least the USDA recommended allowance (or lower).
When I decide to eat sweets I go all out to satisfy my craving by going to a local bakery, gourmet or specialty chocolate shop. This way instead of buying a whole pie or cake I can buy one slice, or just 2-3 chocolate raspberry truffles instead of a whole box of cheap chocolate from the drug store. The result is that I lower the potential sugar and caloric intake and the superior quality chocolate or baked delicacy substantially satisfies my craving more than low quality grocery store or quickie-mart junk food. So basically I don't have to eat sweets as much or as often.
As you embark on a new way of eating, be kind to yourself if you slip into an old habit. Just acknowledge the awareness that you slipped and explore why. Don't beat yourself up. Instead ask yourself questions like: Was it because I had no food in the house that I went to a fast food joint? How can I prepare my refrigerator to avoid fast food? Was I feeling emotionally vulnerable when I ate that entire box of cookies? What else can I do to feel better in the future?
Finally, I'd like to direct you my article Our Food Relationships, which offers many other important recommendations for dietary change.
Good luck, be well, and remember that moderation and balance are the keys to successful, healthful dieting
Juliette Aiyana, L.Ac.
Aiyana Acupuncture & Chinese Herbs
41 Union Square West, Suite 519
New York, NY 10003
"I thoroughly recommend Juliette for acupuncture work! She is highly knowledgeable and spot on in her diagnosis and treatments."