“One cannot think well, eat well, sleep well if one has not dined well.”
A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf, 1882 – 1941
I had never attributed my poor diet with my mental depression back in 2007. It wasn’t until I used cooking as a mechanism to manage my depression that I enter a revolutionary world of healing through food. Your diet does affect your mood and emotions, as well as your physical body. I have put this section under SOCIAL DRIVE as the digestive system is linked to the Solar Plexus and the elimination section (bowels) is linked to the Sacral Chakra. Without a healthy body, a healthy mind or balanced emotions, we cannot perform optimally to reach our goals.
No doubt that like you, I have been on diets since I was 16. I ballooned up to 16 stone when I was pregnant with my son 20 years ago and it is only now that I have lost 4 stone, coming down to a weight I am very comfortable with, for the first time in my life.
I what to share this weight loss formula with you. It combines western dieting with eating principles, detoxing and Ayurveda, supplemented with yoga, meditation and soul-work. I can absolutely guarantee that if you did ALL of these things, then you WILL lose weight and maintain it.
How do I know? Because back in March 2020 and for the duration of the Lockdown, I ‘walked my talk’ and did everything in my SUCCESSFUL LIFE BALANCE model and without consciously wanting to lose weight, I lost the 4 stone. It works. Even if you do not want to lose weight, you may want to give your body a cleanse, to release toxins from the body. And my formula works well to do this also.
- Make dietary changes slowly
- Follow Ayurvedic principles of eating
- Week 1: Intermittent fast every day
- Week 2: Eliminate foods you are intolerant to
- Week 3: Reduce foods and beverages that are known to harm your body
- Week 4: Substitute known intolerant & harmful foods
- Week 5: Reduce portion size
- Week 6: Detox week
- Walk or do some physical exercise daily
- Do yoga daily
- Meditate daily
- Encourage the release of emotions
- Stimulate lymphatic drainage
MAKE DIETARY CHANGES SLOWLY
I now realise my biggest mistake all these years has been to crash diet or go on a Slimming World diet only to go back to my usual eating habits, putting the weight back on. If you follow my formula, all this will become your ‘way of life’ and you will lose weight and maintain your healthy body weight. But do it one step at a time. I recommend one change a week. (Apart from yoga, meditation and physical exercise, which you should introduce from the start in the quantity you are comfortable with). I have a lot of recipes in my HEALTHY EATING section which may help you along your journey which you can tap into. My recipes are broad, so substitute based on your personal requirements.
FOLLOW AYURVEDIC PRINCIPLES OF EATING
Ayurveda is an ancient way of eating, from the South of India. In Sanskrit, it translates as “Science of Life”. I am not qualified to teach you the full Ayurvedic Method of eating as your Dosha energy would need diagnosing. But there are many practitioners in the UK and books which can be purchased to increase your knowledge. However, I will outline 10 basic Ayurvedic principles of eating which I follow and I find work:
- YOU HAVE ALL THE ANSWERS, you have just got out of the habit of listening. Listen to what your body feels when it eats or drinks something; are you intolerant? Don’t stick to rigid, faddy diets. There is a reason why your body craves the carbohydrate loaded pasta – it may need to feel grounded and comforted.
- LIKE INCREASES LIKE & OPPOSITE BALANCE: You are exhausted (heavy quality) so you turn to two shots of coffee (light quality). But this makes you feel more exhausted after a ‘crash’ and you find it hard to sleep at night. Use Peppermint Tea or Peppermint Essential oil instead to balance out.
- THIS IS NOT A QUICK FIX: This goes back to my ‘make dietary changes slowly’ suggestion. If you withdraw coffee from your diet and you have a headache, it’s because you may be experiencing a ‘healing crisis’. Stick with it and as the caffeine toxicity fades, so will your headaches.
- FOLLOW THE RHYTHMS OF LIFE: Late Winter into Spring (January-April) is KAPHA season when your body will feel ‘heavy & muddy’. This is an ideal time to detox. And so is Autumn into Winter (September – December) which is VATA, cold and dry. Eat your main meal at lunchtime as this is PITTA energy, hot and fiery, so your food is easily digested. Also, eat foods which are in season, as this is what your body needs and digests better at the time, lettuce in Spring, root vegetables in Autumn.
- EAT ALL OF THE FOOD GROUPS. Ayurveda identifies 5 food groups which you should have each day to satisfy: SWEET, SALTY, SOUR, PUNGENT, BITTER and ASTRINGENT.
- FRESHNESS IS KEY. Leftovers are considered ‘tamasic’ which is lifeless or stale energy which is not useful. Canned and frozen foods are the same.
- DON’T EAT TOO MUCH RAW FOODS as your body needs more ‘agni’ or fire (digestive juices) to digest.
- CHEW WELL FOR OPTIMUM HEALTH, as digestion starts in the mouth. It enables your food to be adequately digested and absorbed at each stage of the digestive tract.
- DON’T DRINK TOO MUCH WATER OR BEVERAGE AT THE MEAL. This dampens agni fire (digestive juices) impeding good digestion. Hydrate one hour before and at least one hour afterwards. Do keep hydrated through the day, though, as it prevents fuzzy thinking, muscle cramps and constipation.
- TRY TO LIMIT THE AMOUNT OF RED MEAT & DAIRY YOU EAT. A vegetarian or vegan diet is nothing new. If you don’t feel like eating it, just give it a miss.
- EAT SMALLER PORTIONS IN A RESTFUL ENVIRONMENT. Try not to eat too much too often and slow down your eating, ensuring you take time. Eating in a stressful environment increases anxiety, which causes the nervous system to release stress hormones divert blood away from the internal organs to the extremities ready for ‘fight or flight’.
WEEK 1: INTERMITTENT FAST EVERY DAY
Limit your eating window to just 10 hours a day, 8 hours is best. It will immediately start burning fat stores and will slow down the ageing process. Here is how in a nutshell. In each body cell are mitochondria, which work to increase or decrease the flow of energy in your body. They also promote the regeneration of new cells as old ones die. But most crucially, they produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is the energy that is required for you to move your body. But this is the negative. Whilst doing all this they produce waste in the form of free radicals. And these are not nice. They kill cells, including mitochondria, causing cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s. To prevent your body from being overloaded with free radicals, you need to consume antioxidants and you need to give your mitochondria a rest by not eating constantly: fast. Whilst the body is fasting, it looks for energy and finds it in the liver as a glycogen store. It depletes that, then looks for energy elsewhere, in our fat cells. Hence we lose weight. I only eat after 8am and before 6pm. And I feel great. For more information, read this brilliant book: The 8-Hour Diet by David Zinczenko.
WEEK 2: ELIMINATE FOODS THAT YOU ARE INTOLERANT TO
It is thought that over time the body can become intolerant of certain foods, failing to digest them properly. This can give rise to symptoms such as headaches, fatigue and depression. Food cravings or symptoms such as headaches after withdrawing a food from a diet can be signs that you are intolerant of the food. Culprits can include milk, citrus foods and wheat. It can be hard to identify what you are intolerant to and can take a while if you go on an elimination diet. So, can I suggest that you take an intolerance test. I have used INTOLERANCE LAB, who I found are accurate. It is a simple strands of hair test. As soon as you get the results, eliminate everything on the list. I attribute this to the majority of my weight loss and I feel 100% better.
WEEK 3: REDUCE SALT, SUGAR & ALCOHOL
I have said reduce, but what I really want to say is ‘eliminate’ as I know it will be better for you. But this is real life and balance is key. Reduce as much as you can: SALT, SUGAR & ALCOHOL, they all do harm to your body.
Sugar – imbalances hormones, mood, energy, blood sugar and suppresses the immune system. It also ages. Eat dates, fruit or sweet potatoes for a sugar kick.
Salt – Whilst we need a certain amount of salt, try to eliminate it and take Magnesium Salt tablets as a supplement for the salt you require. Salt increases blood pressure and causes oedema swelling.
Alcohol – where do I start? It causes weight gain, overeating, malnutrition, heart problems, brain disorders, cancer and ages you terribly.
WEEK 4: SUBSTITUTE KNOWN INTOLERANT & HARMFUL FOODS
No matter what your intolerance test comes back as, whilst you are on your reduction or cleanse substitute known foods that are known to react with the body, creating an intolerance. You may find, like me, that you prefer to not have these again; I know I feel 100% better without these in my diet.
Tea, coffee and other caffeinated drinks – these inhibit the absorption of vitamins and minerals, so substitute with herbal teas.
Fried, processed & fatty foods – all create free radicals which harm the body, so grill, boil or dry stir-fry instead.
Convenience and genetically modified foods – eat whole foods, preferably organic.
Wheat bran cereals – can scratch the lining of the colon, so opt for oats instead.
Dairy products – these increase the mucous in the body so not good when doing a cleanse – opt for soy or almond milk. Alpro is my favourite brand!
WEEK 5: REDUCE PORTION SIZE
This was the turning point for me. I have a huge appetite and I am a ‘feeder’. But portion size is so crucial in losing and then maintaining a healthy weight. You may want to check your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) to see what your accurate intake of calories should be per day. From there you can start to work out your portion sizes of all the food groups. I stick to the principle of a third of protein, a third of carbohydrate and a third or vegetables/fruit. Just have three meals a day with two snacks. That’s all you need and all you can eat during a 8/16 or 10/14 intermittent fast.
WEEK 6: DETOX WEEK
You have very gradually changed your eating habits and should already be feeling some benefit. On the sixth week, you can safely do a detox cleanse without getting a ‘healing crisis’, or just a mild one. Toxins are stored in fatty tissue and as you break these down, toxins are released, causing discomfort as a healing crisis. It is not unusual to feel you need comfort food as this is the body’s protective mechanism. It wants to encapsulate the toxins in your fat cells again; don’t let it. Do this week-long detox. All week only drink lemon water and herbal teas at any time. Eat during your 8 or 10 hour window. Only snack on fruit. After this week, you can introduce other healthy foods and beverages. Here are some recipes suggestions for your morning smoothie, lunchtime meal and evening meal (substitute dairy with vegan substitutes):
WALK OR DO SOME PHYSICAL EXERCISE DAILY
I know. When you are overweight (20 years of it) then you think, ‘Oh what’s the point? I’m never going to lose weight just by walking’. Stop. When you are doing this formula, this is a key ingredient. During Lockdown 1.0 , Mum had to isolate for 12 weeks, so who was left to walk our dog, Mia, every day? Me. I started with 20 minutes each day, then went up to 1 hour and 10, until I got to the point where I dropped her home and went back out for a walk! You are working your body, getting fresh air, it’s free and it’s a time to contemplate life or chat with your walking friends. Or do other forms of exercise: swim, dance, karate, aqua, badminton. Just move for an hour each day.
DO YOGA DAILY
Start slowly and gradually, but start. If you don’t like the idea of ‘yoga’ like I didn’t, call it ‘stretching’. If you are not practised in it, then it can be really uncomfortable and makes you go dizzy. It did for me. But please keep practising it. I recommend 20 minutes each day and put on a beautiful piece of music called ‘The Devi Prayer’ by Vdovic and Craig Pruess. I have a very basic routine which I have laid out in the Diet & Exercise section of PHYSICAL BODY. Try it, as it works to unblock and balance each of the chakras. A good book to read is Anodea Judith’s ‘Chakra Yoga’. You are working holistically when you do yoga:.
Body – you are stretching out muscle groups, which moves energy or prana around the body, ready to use during the day; as well as keeping you young and supple.
Emotions – be ready for emotional releases which is good! Emotions are kept in the muscles. Stretching them out my release something that happened years ago. And you need to do this in order to move forward, especially if you are an emotional eater (as I am/was).
Mind – when you start your yoga, your mind will wander, but just gently remind yourself that this is your body’s time for attention, not your chattering monkey mind. Concentrate on each move and you will find your mind start to calm ready for meditation
Remember this: YOUR MIND BELIEVES EVERYTHING YOU TELL IT. Powerful. You tell yourself you are fat, ugly and stupid, when you are not. You may be overweight, need a haircut and not a brain surgeon, but you begin to believe your own hype! So, switch. Only say positive affirmations of what you want to be and most likely already are! I felt silly doing it at first, but eventually my body got so used to being told it is ‘lean, healthy, strong, powerful, grounded’ and my soul that it was ‘beautiful, caring, loving, loved and kind’ that my mind ONLY believes this now. And I’m telling you, that is so empowering. When you reach for the chocolates or a biscuit, you will notice that you start to reject it, as you will respect yourself so much to decide not to ‘abuse’ yourself anymore with harmful foods. See ‘Affirmations & Gratitude’ in the EMOTIONAL COMMUNICATION section.
When you meditate, you are working on another brain wavelength: Alpha and then into Theta. Here you are deeply relaxed, not quite asleep, so you feel the benefits of being in a relaxed dream-like state. I talk more about meditation in my Mediation section of MINDFUL CLARITY. Ideally, meditate in the morning, on waking after yoga, and it will then put you into a centred and calm frame of mind for a productive day. If you are calm, not stressed, less cortisol and adrenaline in your body are going to be causing you to maintain or gain weight. You are also less likely to binge or comfort eat.
ENCOURAGE THE RELEASE OF EMOTIONS
I have left this until last as it can be the most frightening, but it is the most important. Conventional ‘diets’ or eating plans just talk about calories in and energy out. We are more than that. We are our emotions. And if you are completely honest with yourself, it will be the reason why you have put weight on. Emotional eating when we are upset or lonely, protection from the pain, eating our emotions, or running away from them, they are still there when we open the fridge door or empty a wine bottle. So, I strongly advise that you do the emotional work of my EMOTIONAL COMMUNICATION section, particularly the R.A.I.N Technique. I advise that you see a Counsellor to help you if you have deep-seated issues. Until you learn to release them then you will yo-you or find it very hard to lose the weight. During these past years, I have done a lot of inner soul work and faced some very dark demons. It’s scary. Have courage. You have one life, live it well.
STIMULATE LYMPHATIC DRAINAGE
Your lymphatic system is a system of lymph vessels extending to lymph nodes around the body in your neck, armpit and groin. It is part of your immune system, having the purpose of helping your body be free of infection and disease. The lymph fluid in the vessels carry bacteria, viruses, damaged cells or cancer cells from your body tissue, to the lymph nodes which destroy them before filtering them into your blood for safe excretion via urine or bowel movements. So a very important system! However, unlike the blood, the lymphatic fluid does not have a pump to move it around efficiently. It is the movement of the muscles and body tissue which encourages its flow. Exercising the muscles and massaging the body help maintain the efficiency of movement. So as well as exercising daily, I recommend doing your own daily massage. This is so that your body is not stagnant and as you lose fat from cells, the waste and toxins in them can be excreted with the help of the good amount of water you drink. Massage an oil onto your skin with essential oils known to improve lymphatic drainage: lemon, juniperberry and black pepper. You can mix 2 drops of each with 15mls grapeseed oil or almond oil. Alternatively, you could use my, REVIVE BATH & BODY OIL, 100ml, £22, which I have blended using the same ingredients and 3 others to stimulate your whole body to re-energise. You simply apply it directly onto your body after a shower. (Alternatively, you can use it in the shower or 3 capfuls in an energising bath).