The first time I went on an official diet was when I was 14. My doctor said I was about 10 pounds over the average weight range for my height, so I started going to Weight Watchers.
Ever since then, eating became about measuring, analyzing, and monitoring. And even if I could “afford” to have dessert, I’d always feel guilty afterwards wondering if I shouldn’t have used my hard-earned points for something that was holding me back from progress (even though it tasted amazing).
Weight Watchers did work when I was adamant about sticking to the system. But the second I started feeling comfortable and left the program, my weight would balloon up. So much so, that I gained an additional 20 pounds more than where I was when I started.
And that extra 20 pounds started an obsession with trying to get slim. I was doing everything from calorie counting to low-carb, high-protein diets, ate a bunch of salads, and was dedicated to going to the gym. Sometimes for up to two hours a day of high intensity training.
But my body wasn’t getting smaller. If anything, I was really strong and muscular, but I had this thick layer of fat hiding all of the muscles.
On one hand, I felt so positive that I wanted to lose weight and look amazing. But every time I thought about all of the birthday parties and holidays and travels where I’d have to restrict my food and enjoyable moments, or compensate by doing extra work at the gym, I questioned my desire to really get fit.
Everything changed when I visited Tokyo, Japan.
I was suddenly placed in an environment with super slim women who were eating noodles and rice and having afternoon tea and cake with their friends.
Nowhere in sight was there a woman power-walking down the street in spandex with a mission on her face and a 2L bottle of water tucked under her arm. At most, I saw women going to slow-paced hatha yoga classes.
Nothing about this picture made any sense to me. How was it that they’re eating all of the foods that I thought were off-limits for weight loss, weren’t breaking a sweat, yet were still looking so slender?
I didn’t know how they were making it work. But I did know that I wanted what they had: a life of eating pleasurable food and glamorously strutting down the street in dresses that didn’t make me look like an overstuffed sausage.
So, I started to study what they were doing and wound up losing 40 pounds by rebelling against every diet advice I had heard in the US.
I started shifting my focus from science to nature.
One thing that pretty much never gets covered in Western health media is the importance of acclimating your body to your climate.
As the seasons change, your body requires different kinds of foods to help with acclimation. At the same time, the earth provides different foods during these seasons that are most ideal for keeping you healthy in that atmosphere.
In eastern nutrition, food is looked at not only by nutritional properties, but also at their ability to heat or cool the body. Foods that grow in hot climates can cool the body, and foods that grow in colder climates can warm the body.
For example, if you live in an area where it’s snowing but you buy bananas from a hot tropical climate to put into your pre-workout smoothie, then you could be cooling off your body in a cold environment, which adds additional stress to the body.
That means you can be eating a nutritionally dense diet plan (like smoothies and raw foods) that looks healthy on paper, but you might not feel great if the foods aren’t growing from your area.
And, if you think about it, since the climate is constantly changing and since we’re provided with different foods each season to eat, it doesn’t really make sense to have a strict meal plan to stick to all year round. The most natural kind of diet is one that constantly changes with the flow of nature.
So long story short, I started becoming more conscious of where my foods were coming from, and eating seasonal foods. Japan is really great about celebrating seasonal vegetables when you go to restaurants, so this was something I immediately noticed as time moved on.
The diet advice you hear is not necessarily good or bad. It’s all relative to your body’s needs.
I never felt comfortable on a low-carb, high-protein diet. It didn’t settle well in my stomach, and I felt like all of the savory high-protein foods was contributing to my sugar cravings. But I never thought to question if it was the right diet to do, because I assumed that I needed to do low-carb, high protein in order to lose weight. Period.
One thing I hadn’t realized is that you need to do an evaluation of your symptoms in order to understand what kind of approach to take with your diet.
Back when I was at my heaviest weight, I was only going to the bathroom about 3 times per week. I was incredibly constipated, and eating animal protein a few times a day was causing extra stress on my digestive system since it takes a much longer time to digest than plant-based foods.
What I did instead was start to eat more whole grains, sweet vegetables like pumpkin and sweet potato (which dramatically improved my sugar cravings), and started to reduce the animal protein I was having in favor of easier to digest ones like beans.
My constipation was alleviated and I was able to go to the bathroom on a daily basis – at the same time, I also lost 40 pounds.
If we can shift our focus from eating in a way that gets rid of fat on the outside of our bodies to focusing on what we need to eat and do to improve the overall function of our internal organs, then weight loss and body balance will be a byproduct of a smoothly functioning system.
Bodycare is more important than body…”attack”.
The approach I was taking to fitness was an extreme one: I was trying anything and everything I could do to get a good sweat, because I thought that the more effort I put in, the more weight I would lose. The mindset I had was that the fat on my body was “bad”, and I had to “blast” it or “burn” it off by being disciplined.
But the thing is, if you’re over-exercising, you could be putting your body into a state of stress, which means your body will utilize quick energy sources (like the last meal you ate) for energy. If you do calming exercises like yoga, walking, and stretching, your body utilizes the fat on your body for fuel.
Not only did I ease up on exercise and started doing more low-intensity movement, I also started taking hot baths instead of showers. Since Japan has a strong bath culture, this was something I started to try myself and I started learning about all the benefits of how soaking in a hot bath can help improve circulation, which in turn helps with digestion and detoxification.
Plus, hot baths make you sleep like a baby, which means you get more restorative sleep and wake up feeling more refreshed.
If I reflect back to when I was at my highest weight and was trying all the diet and exercise advice I read like a maniac, I would have thought it was crazy to hear that I could lose weight by doing less exercise and eating more varieties of foods to help my body with proper function and acclimation.
So for me, I was lucky to have been placed in an environment where I was proven wrong. And It’s my hope that if you’re skeptical about it too, that you’ll at least give it a try if you’re frustrated with a lack of progress from strict dieting and exercising.
Your body already knows how to be in balance. The organs know what they are doing. If you can start to eat in harmony with nature, ask yourself what your body needs to rebalance, and start treating your body with care, then any issues with weight/skin/energy will all take care of themselves.
This article was originally posted on June 23, 2017.