Recipe for Change: Less Everyday
April 19, 2011 20 Comments
Last week, a friend asked what I’d given up for Lent. Well, since I am more of a “Recovering Catholic” than a Catholic, “I suppose I have given up GUILT this year,” I responded. So far it feels pretty good to not worry about a stray chocolate chip (the year I gave up chocolate), a slipped F-bomb (the year I gave up cussing), or being bitchy (the entire 40 days that I refrained from caffeine).
I’m already solid with workouts since I teach six classes per week and do my best to practice Bikram yoga (http://bikramyogalajolla.com) when possible. I generally eat well and don’t have too nasty of a potty mouth (though some may disagree!). So, in recent years, Lent has been purely about guilt for me, which I suppose is ultimately the objective. I would set my sights too high and invariably fail. Technically, Lent is the 6-week preparation period from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday when Christians ready themselves for Holy Week and Easter with prayer, almsgiving, repentance and self-denial. But, for many of us, the religious aspect is lost and Lent is simply relegated to an incentive program to get us moving on a new exercise regimen, diet, or unrealistic deprivation, literally guilting those of us raised on tabernacle wafers and watered down box wine to get to mass, skip the caffeine or sweet-tasting mouthful, and to exclaim “oh, shizer” instead of “oh, shit.”
Last year I challenged my boot camp team to promote a “Less Everyday” approach. It’s relatively easy to accept a challenge of days, weeks, or even 40 days of Lent when we know it is going to end, but the true challenge is to create positive trends that become your new consciousness and therefore promote positive change. Before I explain some of the tricks and tips that you will be able to implement today to create healthy change in your life, let’s touch on the idea of CHANGE itself.
Americans, as a people, are not taught to accept change as a natural and beautiful occurrence. In many cases, we are taught—societally—to resist change and growth and often do not recognize the power and wisdom in impermanence. Most Eastern languages have at least 30-35 words for our one “change.” Every relational degree of change is honored, expected, and celebrated. The cyclical nature of Eastern culture respects all stages of the lifecycle. For example, each stage of a flower’s existence—from the green budding sprout, to the opening and flourishing bloom, and subsequent wilting and decay—is equally majestic in the cultures of the East.
This is probably why we hear so many remarkable stories coming from Japan after the devastating earthquake and tsunami. A constant mantra spoken by those who accounted their experiences with the Japanese people in the wake of this catastrophe tell of a calm and fluid people who do not lament their losses but instead “move through” suffering and discomfort. An accepted tenet in Japanese culture is that in life, and in the cyclical transition to afterlife, our minds, bodies, environments, and spirits are constantly changing. There is little attachment to what “was.”
Contrary to this philosophy our culture promotes holding onto what “was.” We believe we are entitled to feel that same romantic wave that crashed over us when we first met our spouse (decades later!); we want to recapture our 4-year-old babbling angel, who now at 16, sits silently and broodingly glued to a computer screen; or, even worse, we remain continually disappointed by the attachment to our former selves—our 22-year-old bodies, a past career or “glory days” of youth, the face in the mirror that once smiled without lines or with a full head of hair, that physical stamina that we could tap to fuel a Boston-qualifying marathon time! There is no danger in nostalgia or relishing fond memories, but attachment to anything that “was” is paralyzing. We are constantly changing, as is the world around us, so we must free ourselves from ourselves.
Faith, Determination, and Strength = Change
So now, on with the changin’! My ‘Less Everyday’ challenge is not just about food. Of course we should keep ourselves out of trouble with processed/packaged foods and hormone- or antibiotic-induced animal products, but this is more about consciously recognizing our unhealthy actions and choosing to LESSEN those actions EVERYDAY, without exception. The result is more time, space, and energy to allow positive change to happen. All of us are able to address at least several items on this list and therefore foster change.
Less Negativity : Expect less from others, refrain from judgment, smile when you speak to strangers.
Less Scheduling : Over-scheduling yourself and your children takes away from “stillness” and presence in each others’ lives.
Less Red Meat : Regardless of your opinion about the humane treatment of cattle, you cannot argue with the fact that beef production is the major cause of the destruction of the world’s rainforests. Also, beef contains significant quantities of dioxin—a toxic organic chemical, which is linked to cancer, endometriosis, Attention Deficit Disorder, immune system deficiencies, among other ailments. More info: http://www.cqs.com/beef.htm. Beef also promotes inflammation. Instead, choose fish and take fish oils rich in omegas daily to promote weight loss, stave off depression, reduce inflammation, lower cholesterol, promote healthy skin and vision, and eliminate joint pain and soreness from exercise.
Less Caffeine : Don’t freak out, just LESS caffeine, not NO caffeine. For daily detoxing and to promote weight loss, begin each day with warm lemon water upon rising, and for an added metabolic boost add apple cider vinegar and cayenne pepper. You can even shave lemon peel into your tea. The pectin in lemon peel is an excellent source of fiber and helps keep the body from absorbing sugar while eliminating cravings. Also, try green tea instead of coffee. It has all the metabolism-boosting benefits of more caffeinated beverages without the heart-racing side effects.
Less Alcohol : Just less, not zero. Perhaps drink some greens or take a spoonful of flaxseed or fish oil before a festive evening and try lemon water between each libation.
Less Refined Sugar, Soda and Salt : Really? Nuff said!
Less Wheat (Flour): I used to eat (in my 22-year-old body!) my Nonnie’s cinnamon rolls, my mom’s lasagna, and my dad’s homemade raviolis without issue. Those days are over. Not only will I pack on the pounds today, but I’ve come to realize that I developed an intolerance to wheat. Generally speaking, there is not much nutritional value in wheat, even whole wheat. Instead, try low carb, high protein breads, pastas, and whole grain dishes made with spelt, quinoa, millet, brown rice, and flax. Also, add more sweet potatoes and yams as a complex carbohydrate alternative to pastas and white rice at mealtime.
Less Media : Try one dedicated evening or day per week without computers, TV, video, gaming, cell phones, etc.
Less Clutter : ‘Stuff’ gathers dust and makes you sneeze. Don’t need it/wear it/use it? Get rid of it.
Keep this list close and commit to do LESS EVERYDAY. You will need to break from negative habits and trends, but even just a bit of freedom from the consistency will allow you to open your life to accept positive change.
I love this quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson: “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.”