I've been experimenting with my eating. I've gone from a fitness/weight loss orientation to a healing focus. A year ago, I was eating to reduce fat and gain muscle, and it's true: what you give is what you get - because it worked! For three solid months, I snacked strategically to fuel my workouts, counted calories, and portioned my macros (carbs, fats, proteins). I could see a noticeable difference in muscle tone, but I was still disappointed in my lack of taiji progress because this eating regiment was also tied to a gym routine of cardio and weights. I was still prone to migraines and menstrual cramping, and after experiencing one really bad weeklong fever, I returned to my acupuncturist*. Here are the changes I've made. They are based on my body's constitution according to traditional Chinese medicine and based on what I know how to cook and what I like and trial and error (that is all to say that there is no "one size fits all" and that what works for me most likely will not work for you):
- Green fruit smoothies (sounds healthy) --> Rice porridges, miso soup, kimchee (happy gut)
- Protein-heavy (muscle gain) --> Seaweeds (Korean birthday beef/seaweed soup especially - enriches blood)
- Raw fruits and salads (low in calories, "diet" food) --> cooked foods
- Curries and chilis (because I'm Thai) --> Teriyaki sauces/roasted veggies over baked salmon, steamed fish, poke bowls, roasted chicken, noodle soups (all to mitigate my excess internal "heat" and "dryness"). I only eat spicy "socially" now.
- Flash cooking (stir-fries) --> Slow cooking (soups, roasts, bakes)
I am happier about how I feed myself these days. I don't feel deprived, and most importantly, I feel fed. I am not strict about these "rules." They are just guidelines. I know my body simply feels better this way - not too limited, too hungry, or too full. I am seeing noticeable gains in the "offset" of migraines and cramping. If I can decrease my reliance on Tylenol, Exedrin, and Ibuprofen, then yes, no-brainer. Learning from my mom, side effects after decades of even over-the-counter medicines are no joke, and I need my organs stronger, not weaker and wrecked, as I age. Another unexpected benefit of reducing spicy food is that my skin is not as dry as it used to be. ;)
The trade-off: I have gained some weight. But the fact that I was still dissatisfied with my taiji progress despite last year's weight loss (and muscle gain) tells me that weight loss just wasn't all that important to begin with. Now I know I'm out to find my totally-integrated, taiji-supporting lifestyle. My looks or physique will just react accordingly.
The real lesson is that my new way of eating fits better with my chosen form of movement - the "fitness" way was too far from my natural tastes, and distracted me from my ultimate goal of deepening in taiji. Taiji is an internal martial art (the originating and generating of power from within), so its fitting that my nutritional focus should be internally-focused on my organs as well, rather than external, physique goals.
*Ana Hortillosa, LAc, practices out of Berkeley, CA.