(First published on Feb. 26, 2010)
One of the turning points in my life was the retreat that I attended as part of a Yoga Camp during the summer of 1994. I realized during this four day retreat that the amount of food that I was consuming in just one meal was in fact much more than what my body actually needed over a period of two, maybe three days.
We were advised to eat handful of peanuts, soaked overnight, with a bit of jaggery for breakfast, some salad and a small snack for lunch and a simple vegetarian meal and salad at dinner time. The emphasis was on eating more of raw food. Along with this sparse diet, we were asked to do repeated cycles of Pranayama, Yoga and Meditation. I realized during this four day retreat that the energy levels were much higher than those experienced on days when three square meals a day was the normal routine. The only discomfort was the heavy headed feeling that started within a few hours of starting this diet. The headache did get relieved during the cycles of Pranayama, Yoga and meditation. [The technical information on why this worked was not given during the camp but was discovered later. I do think that my journey would have been a bit easier if I had known this vital link. It’s a pity that this aspect about cleansing is still not being discussed in the Pranayama camps, at least not that I am aware about.]
A few months later, I participated in an Advance Camp where we were encouraged to go even one step further and go on a total fast for three consecutive days. Something inside told me take-up the challenge, no doubt because of the comforting thought that I could revert back to their brand of normal diet if this fast proved too difficult.
Before starting the fast, we went through a process of clearing the food pipe completely. This was accomplished by literally forcing down our throats a few litres of warm salty water in a matter of 30 minutes or so. The warm salty water and several visits to the wash-room helped clear up the food pipe completely. We were then asked to eat a meal of specially prepared khichdi before starting our fast. There was a lot of pure ghee in this meal which we were told would give a protective oily coating to the stomach after the forced cleansing.
The first twenty four hours of the fast were a bit tough on the system during which I experienced intense headache and physical discomforts. These were taken care of by the continuous cycles of Pranayama, Yoga and Meditation. I deliberately stayed away from the dining area so as to not get tempted by the sight of food and that of people eating.
After the initial 24 hours, fasting became easier as my body and, more important, the mind got used to the lighter feeling. After that, I was actually able to sit with people who were eating without wanting to join in. On the last day of our stay, I literally competed with guys who were almost half my age but had not undertaken the fast. We raced across a dry river bed and I, even with my heavy set body, was able to leave them behind. This was a very proud moment for me.
The much higher energy levels that I experienced during those days got me thinking real deep about the excess food that I was normally consuming without even thinking whether I really needed it or not. When I returned to the city life, things quickly returned to the old routine. I was back to my habits of (over)eating – and low energy – in a matter of a few days. There was now this added awareness, though, that I was overeating. The additional thought that this habit might be one of the causes for the ailments later on in life did not help. But like most, I just could not stop myself from (over)eating.
* * * *
My next brush with experimenting with food happened in 1999 when I chanced upon a book titled “Fit for Life” written by Harvey and Marilyn Diamond. What constitutes a proper diet according to them directly contradicts what is commonly being taught, understood and practiced. They advocate that:
- Breakfast should be the lightest meal of the day consisting of Fruits only. There is no restriction on the quantity of fruits that can be eaten. On the contrary they recommend eating as much fruit as possible, the more the better.
- Dinner should be the heaviest meal of the day.
- Another important part of the programme is that Fruits are to be eaten on an empty stomach only and NEVER AFTER MEALS.
- In order to get the maximum energy from what we eat, Proteins and Starches are not to be eaten together. This too goes against the widely followed belief system of having Balanced Diet in every meal.
The logic somehow appealed to me and I thought of giving the Fruits only Breakfast a try to start with. That it was the time of the year when the delicious juicy Kesar mangoes were available in abundance also helped me make this decision. I always had this craving to eat lots and lots of them but the thought of gaining weight had stopped me from doing so earlier. I obviously did not need a second invitation and launched into the mangoes only for breakfast diet with full enthusiasm. I ate an average of 1.5 to 2 kgs of this juicy succulent fruit everyday first thing in the morning over the next couple of weeks.
Within a few days of starting this diet, an intense period of detoxification started. There were severe head-aches, body aches and a lot of physical discomfort. This was taken in the proper spirit as my mind was already in acceptance to this aspect of cleansing, because of the knowledge gained while practicing Reiki. I ended up losing around 6 kgs of weight. In the normal course, this diet would have added that much of weight, if not more.
This initial success provided the motivation in the family to start experimenting with the other aspects about food as was suggested in the book. We started combining the food properly and found that it really worked for us. Over time, it was easy to make the life-style changes permanent. Life has indeed become much simpler and easier because it was mainly focussed on the next meal before that. Having Balanced Meals all the time is a thing of the fast. The better half is the happiest of the lot, partly because she does not need to spend hours in the kitchen but more so because of the positive impact that this is having on everyone’s overall health. Things obviously are not in our control whenever we eat out but a few days of indulgence, while vacationing for instance, provide the motivation to go back to the fruit only breakfast and lunch and dinner meals properly combined.* * * *
The next encounter with the concept of food was in fact the no-food-for-survival lifestyle recommended in a workshop that I attended in February, 2002. This was conducted by Jasmuheen, an International Lecturer and holistic trainer based in Australia. She has written many books including the one that was being sold in the workshop “Pranic Nourishment - Living on Light”.
According to Jasmuheen, it is possible for humans to live on absolutely nothing. She claimed to have trained thousands worldwide to live on nothing but air by breathing in the energy that is available in abundance all around. The workshop was an eye-opener for me, so to say. I mean I had no problem even then in believing that the Yogis and the ones who had renounced the world might be able to live without food. The fact that lesser mortals like me could also do so was a mind blowing concept for me. I have not yet graduated to that level as food is still a very important part of my life but this is what I hope to achieve someday.
Going by the way that many humans are experimenting with food and its overall impact on health, living without food may well become a human reality and an acceptable form of living, sooner than we think.
For the last few months, on most weekdays I have been living on a breakfast consisting totally of fruits, a couple of biscuits and a cup of tea at around noon and again at 4 PM and regular dinner at around 8 PM.
I am still experimenting with food and witnessing the impact that this life-style is having on my system. But the results have been pretty encouraging so far, to say the least. I am feeling healthier, energy levels are pretty high and the extra weight that I had put on over the years is falling off effortlessly. I am looking forward to the rest of life which is becoming better as I am growing older.
Footnote (added on April 4, 2011):
I am aware that all this would not have been possible without the accompanying shift in internal belief systems and Accepting All Things As They Are. The blood sugar readings that were a bit of an irritant, and slightly non-acceptable, when I first published this post no longer bother me. I do not need to wake up a few times every night for visits to the washroom or for drinking lots of water that I used to do then. I am no longer dependent on the little amount of snacks, biscuits etc that I used to consume with my two cups of tea/coffee during the day a year ago. The only meal that I look forward to is dinner at home which is again a very simple affair eaten at around 8 PM most days. Something inside me is telling me that I am on my way to a lifestyle of one meal every 2-3 days. But I am not forcing that change – it will happen when it has to happen.
The funny thing is that everyone in the family has spontaneously started eating lesser amount of food. Like the younger daughter (who is fifteen now) is seldom hungry before noon which is a huge shift as she is the one who could eat anytime. I guess that this has something to do with the consciousness shift that has happened on its own in the family.
We do party every now and then when we really indulge ourselves. Eating during such moments is more of a celebration and for satisfying the taste buds rather than because it is a necessity for the body. After a day or two of indulgence, the body craves to go back to the simpler meals which we do. Life indeed is fun.
And so it is.