We have heard the common saying, “You are what you eat.” This is an exploration into this much-believed axiom, to examine if this is really the whole truth.
It seems that especially in the American culture, every week is marked by a new fad “diet”. Instantly, the author of such a best-seller achieves his/her coveted fifteen minutes of fame, and “everybody” gets on the bandwagon. That is, until the next cool “diet” makes its way up the fame ladder to gain its fifteen minutes. And on it goes. Some of us make this new diet our life’s goal, become entirely immersed in it and spend every waking and conscious moment of the day thinking about the next meal and the “right” thing to consume (or do) within the guidelines of this plan.
We become attracted to such diets in the first place because of the promises afforded by them – each is marketed to be the magic bullet that will make us thinner, healthier, more attractive, younger, kinder, and all in all, the person we desperately want to be. And therein lies the secret of why most of them do not work for long.
We choose lifestyles that fit closely into our belief systems. What we eat is central to such a lifestyle, particularly in cultures where every life event revolves around food – we celebrate with food, mourn with food, comfort as well as punish ourselves with food. We grow up not only eating a certain way, but also thinking and feeling in the way that is congruent with our eating habits. As our life experiences change, our beliefs change and along with them, our lifestyles also change. If in tune with popular culture, we are told what we must think and believe, and therefore, those messages become rocks we cling on to. In order to “fit in” to newly acquired beliefs, we consciously and subconsciously change our lifestyles, forcing ourselves to think and act in certain ways, and change our diets and habits to be in line with such clinging.
However, nothing acquired from “out there” ever lasts. Even if it does, it causes a huge chasm within us, with escalating inner conflict that sooner or later backfires. The much-revered diet/lifestyle fails to live up to its magic-bullet expectations; we remain the same weight, not much more vibrant, not much younger, smarter or kinder; in other words, we are not the person we desperately wanted to be. This is the common predicament of humans, not just with respect to lifestyles and eating habits, but with regard to all of the desperate wanting for wealth, fame, success, glory and power that defines us and arising quite simply from a sense of lack within one’s own self. Thus, when the “failure” of a once-promised lifestyle/diet is realized, the next diet and its associated beliefs becomes very alluring. Akin to changing clothes, we discard one set of beliefs and value judgments and put on another, remaining trapped in this cycle of trying to remedy the sense of lack that cannot be remedied in this way. All in all, we eat and live in chaotic ways that reflect the lack of inner peace and inability to listen to what the body really needs.
Through the practice of getting in touch with our core, a miraculous transformation takes place. As we learn to become quiet within, taking the focus from “out there” to “in here”, we begin to see the falseness of all that we think, feel and believe. We begin to wear these “clothes” loosely and gradually, our innate ability to listen deeply to our bodies wakes up. We realize that the body is supremely intelligent on its own – the mind’s incessant chatter and narrative had blocked us from getting in touch with it. As we surrender our overpowering need to be this or that (wealthy, famous, successful, thin, healthy, kind..), we begin to access this intelligence, and learn to listen to the body. It begins to tell us what it needs, gently propelling us to choose foods, habits and lifestyles to enhance this greater well-being, that can never be had from outside in. Non-serving habits and addictions begin to fall away on their own, and the vibrance we so desperately sought becomes a reality. There is no need to force kindness or nonviolence or think in predefined ways – our innate goodness shines through in our actions much more than in our words. Finally, we can let go of any popular culture and all best-selling “diets”.
There is no diet as sublime as this, because it is an ever-fresh embodiment of our inner growth and alive in the possibilities of the unfolding Now. There is no further need to be enslaved by any “diet” and its restrictions. We move from being defined by being what we eat to eating in line with what we are – joyous, blissful, full and sacred Life itself.