You know how Italian restaurants traditionally have red tablecloths? The theory goes that red stimulates the appetite and thus patrons will order more food if the dining room has a red décor. Well, I can’t say that I have definitively experienced an increase in hunger in a red dining room; however, I will tell you the three magic words that make me ravenous every time I utter them
Here we go (but please don’t say them too loud): “Fast, cleanse, diet.” Just writing them has me thinking of chocolate croissants; now I’m thinking of a nice dark roast coffee to go with them (notice how I said “them,” not “it”). Mmmm….
I first noticed this strange word association phenomenon back in 1988 while living in the Kripalu Yoga Fellowship in Sumneytown, Pennsylvania. There were 60 folks living on the property at the time and we shared a communal kitchen in which a small team of us would prepare all the meals. It had been decided that the entire community was going to do a three-day raw juice spring cleanse/fast. What a great idea, I thought. Having community support would make it easy. We wouldn’t have any other foods around to cheat with, and since our workload would be lessened we would be able to take it easy and allow our bodies to cleanse.
Nice theory. As we were finishing the first round of midday juices, it happened. Watch out! The urges began, and the rebellious Deb had been awakened. As the rest of the community was gathering for some sort of inspirational talk, I slithered—literally—out the side door and into a car.
The voices began:
Who said I have to fast?
I do yoga! I can digest anything. Why should I fast?
There’s a bounty of foods in the world—why should I not eat it?
Here are some especially good ones:
Denying myself will aggravate an old childhood wound!
This is not good for my inner child!
As I increased my speed down the main road, passing all sorts of convenience-food opportunities (which, by the way, I hadn’t eaten in years), I began to reassure myself: I could eat there, or there, or there…I could have a burger…I could eat Twinkies… I can have a triple-scoop ice cream cone… I could have it all!
One Shamrock Shake and some French fries later, I pulled back into the community’s parking lot with my well-rehearsed speech, ready to challenge any questioner about the righteousness of my whereabouts. The thing is, no one asked. The rest of the community was just coming out of the talk, all glowing and inspired, and not one person had noticed that I wasn’t there. No one asked about the green mustache I must have been sporting, or the ketchup stain on my shirt. I was left standing in my own puddle of self-righteousness, with my sugar- and -salt-overloaded body.
Fast forward 24 years. It’s spring. I’d like to drop this feeling that I call “glumpy winter body.” But how do I do that without triggering that rebellious girl?
Luckily, the past 24 years have not gone by without several more experiences like the one above. And here’s what I discovered: Energy follows thoughts, and actions follow energy. When I give thought to something, it gains energy, which in turn guides my actions. In the case of deciding to let go of this glumpy feeling and the craving for croissants, I’ve discovered that the way to go about this is to trade up. Instead of spending time feeling glumpy and thinking of croissants (or worse yet, trying to not feel glumpy or not think of croissants), I trade up that space in my mind and think of the tasty fruit salad I‘m making tonight for dinner.
Berries are just getting good, and I love using strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries. I add champagne mangoes and bananas. I have these great little oyster forks that make eating a bowl of berries incredibly fun. Yum!
For me, it’s all about training my mind to focus on what I want it to want. In the case of wanting to feel lighter and shift to a diet fuller in fruits and vegetables, the focus becomes the beauty of the fruits and vegetables and the feeling of lightness they bring. Their luscious smells, sweet tastes, and fresh crispness become an obsession—how many ways can I make a salad? With a mind filled with those thoughts there is no need to push out other thoughts; there is simply no room at the inn for them. When they do try to sneak in, instead of pushing them out I trade them up. And here’s the bonus: The more fruits and vegetables I eat, the more attracted to them I become. I get hooked on their springy vital enthusiasm much in the same way a happy person’s attitude can be contagious.
I’d love to hear how you work with creating change with the food in your life.
Happy Spring Eating!