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Tag: healthy eating

The French Paradox – how eating should be !!!

by on Jan.25, 2012, under Ayurveda, Diet / Nutrition, Happiness / Positive Psychology

The French Paradox - how eating should be !!!

Wish you could eat like the French – lots of oil, cheeses, creams, wines and still be slim and healthy? Well you can, you just need to … like the French!!!

This is taken from an article written some time ago. It’s quite detailed, so I’ve highlighted main points if you just want to scan.

Do you know about The ‘French Paradox’? This is the fact that the French (and other European cultures), generally eat a very rich/high-fat diet, yet have one of the lowest levels of obesity/heart disease  in the western world. *You don’t see them running, going to the gym, or basically raise a sweat much either (unless someone spills their wine!)

Now the age-old, ‘it’s genetics’ argument, is a popular one. However, study after study has shown it has nothing to do with genetics. High anti-oxidants in red wine I hear you say. Yes, this can help, but not enough to explain such a distinct difference – there is something far more fundamental going on.

To traditional cultures and those who understand the ‘natural laws’ governing food, eating and digestion, the ‘paradox’, is not a paradox at all. It’s only a paradox to Westerners/western science because we only tend to look at WHAT we eat – how many calories here, how much fat there. We have tended to become so mired in the ‘science of food’, we have forgotten the ‘Art of Eating’.

The French of course are the world experts (PhD’s) of eating – if in doubt, just ask them! They understand that food and eating are a reflection of life itself – that life is about pleasure, to indulge and to ENJOY! It’s not about counting calories, feeling guilty or worrying about the size of your stomach/hips. Rich food is not necessarily bad – it’s only bad, if it’s not properly processed/eliminated by the body.

The great irony of course, is when you remove the guilt and stress associated with food, the mind/body being infinitely intelligent, is better able to eat the foods it needs, eat them in the ‘right quantity’, digest them properly and easily eliminate any excess fats before they can become problematic.

The latest reserch in mind-body medicine, shows us that it’s largely our ’emotions…our ‘pschology’, that creates our physical reality. Fundamentally, feeling happy, blissful, loved or whatever (eating with a sense of celebration rather than guilt), can completely change the metabolic pathways/processing of food in the body.

When the body is stress-free or blissful, digestion is strong and the body’s channels are fully open. Then, even if there is high fat/cholesterol  in one’s diet, the body naturally eliminates it. It is only when food is improperly processed (digested/absorbed/assimilated), that we store it rather than eliminate it – thus blocking up our body and leading to excess weight, blocked arteries and so on. We do this well in the West, by ‘eating too much’, eating when stressed/emotional or eating in a hurry (the exact opposite of the French).

Researchers trying to ‘solve’ the paradox, still largely on focus only on the WHAT of eating. e.g – it’s the antioxidants in red wine. However, to really understand how the French do it (and it’s nothing other than the way humans are designed to eat/live – the exact same recommendations are in all the ancient health/life teachings), we need to distinguish 2 main things.

1) It is not just the quantity of food, but the QUALITY of the food, that is important.

2) It’s not so much the WHAT of eating, but the HOW & WHEN of eating.

The following table gives a graphic illustration of the differences between the French & Western cultures surrounding these critical points. It’s all these things combined which largely explains the ‘supposed paradox’ and why the health of each is so different.

TABLE – Comparison of Eating/Outlook on Food – Western vs French:

1. Western: Food often associated with sin, gluttony…overanalysed, complicated, confusing, ‘GUILT’
French: All about pleasure, passion, bliss, family, friends – ‘CELEBRATION’

2. Western: ‘All you can eat’ – 6 donuts for the price of 3! fast food, instant meals, ‘zap it in the microwave’ food valued for it’s SIZE & SPEED
French: Everything focused on quality – eat less but feel more ‘satisfied’ food valued for it’s ELEGANCE & QUALITY

3. Western: Lots of highly processed, reconstituted foods, old food, leftovers, frozen food – FOOD DEVOID of ‘LIFE FORCE’
French: Only the best ingredients, absolutely fresh, natural – FOOD FULL OF LIFE/LOVE

4. Western: Selection dependent on calories, fat content, perceived healthiness.
French: Selection dependent on what one feels like, what looks/smells/tastes good.

5. Western: Cooking often perceived as a ‘chore’ – the STRESS goes into the food
French: Cooking is Blissful – giving LOVE & NOURISHMENT to others

6. Western: Eaten – while HURRIED/STRESSED, ‘on the run’, while anxious/emotional, at the desk, watching TV, in the car, between jobs, amid work/business/negative conversation.
French: Eaten SLOWLY/RELAXED, savouring the taste (5 senses experience), always seated/settled, with others, pleasant conversation / laughter / fun.

7. Western: Snack Regularly
French: Don’t Snack

8. Western: Live to Work – stopping to eat is an ‘inconvenience’.
French: Live to Eat – work is an inconvenience to eating.

9. Western: Lucky to get time for lunch – ‘too busy’ – Heaviest/MAIN MEAL AT DINNER TIME.
French: Everything shuts down for Lunch – 12-2pm. LUNCH MAIN MEAL. Traditionally, Dinner is a lighter meal. * Western influence now seeing larger meals eaten later at night.

10. Western: Westerners eat like they have sex – do it when they can, instant gratification, more the better.
French: The French eat like they have sex…i.e. they don’t ‘have sex’…they ‘Make LOVE’

So What To Do?

Now, knowing all the things we do badly. My advice is NOT to simply eat WHAT the French eat. You see there are 3 problems with that.

1) Basically, we simply cannot get the ‘quality’ of food here as you can in France – really fresh food, cooked with love. If you can then great. * For e.g, if anyone knows where you can get cheese made on day, without additives, please let me know.

* According to Ayurveda, it’s the ‘oldness’ of our food and the highly ‘unnatural’ processing/treatment of food (reconstituted foods, microwaves) that make it unrecognisable to the natural intelligence within our body’s. Old food is also more easily ‘oxidised’, which is a major contributor to fats/cholesterol becoming the hard/plaque-like deposits that lead to heart disease, rather than being processed & eliminated.

2) Although it’s a nice idea to eat with an unadulterated ‘devil may care’ / guilt-free attitude, unfortunately, due to years of Western conditioning, that tasty/rich food, is ‘bad’ for us, I suggest it is simply not possible for most of us to completely eat without guilt. Just think of all those looks you get when you order the ‘chocolate mousse’ or the cheescake fantasy! Also, it’s obviously impossible in our ‘eat on the run’ society, to organise having 1-2 hours off at lunch and eating in a pleasant, settled atmosphere with lots of family/friends.

3) Just like there is no ‘perfect diet’ for every Westerner – everybody has different needs – the same applies for different countries/cultures. Each culture is guided by ‘Natural Laws’, however the individual ‘laws of nature’ that govern each region vary in the extent to which they are expressed. In short, WHAT the French eat may be right for them, but it doesn’t mean it’s right for everyone. Wine in France, chilli’s in India and fish in Japan, may be suitable for those cultures, however, there is no one ideal diet for all people the world over.


The fact is we are not as ‘fanatical’ as the French when it comes to food – that’s fine…someone has to work! However, we can learn a lot from them. The following are some helpful tips for you to use.
* They employ many of the great teachings from the French way of eating. They focus more on the HOW we eat, not the WHAT. While the ‘Laws of Nature’ pertaining to what is good for us, varies (see above), the laws relating to HOW we eat are universal.

* Note: some of these may not be immediately ‘possible’, due to our crazy ‘work-obsessed’ culture, so obviously do the best you can.

* Note 2: please don’t ever say these are not ‘practical’ – if you think they aren’t, ask yourself how ‘practical’ it is to have a heart attack, to have bowel cancer, to disrespect your body so much you can’t even sit down to eat lunch! Sorry, but some times what people call ‘practical’ is really not practical – if you respect your health!

Select 2-3 of the tips below, and incorporate them into your eating routine. The more you do and the more often you do them, the better you will feel, the healthier you will be and the more you will ENJOY LIFE…Remember that the next time some over-serious ‘do-gooder’, frowns at you for ‘having a little cake’.

1. Take a MINIMUM of 45 minutes for Lunch each day.

2. Do NOT eat at your desk!!! Get out of the office.

3. Don’t answer any non-urgent phone calls during meals – and most are non-urgent.

4. Make ENJOYMENT the basis of your eating. * Note: This doesn’t mean chocolate or french fries. There are plenty of meal options that are enjoyable/tasty and still nourishing & healthy. A ‘little’ bit of rich/calorie dense food is fine (if good quality) – too much is the problem.

5. Reduce ‘rabbit food’ …unless you actually like ‘rabbit food’ – see the * Note above and Tip 6. below. The French don’t really eat rabbit food.

6. Eat food that stimulates & nourishes your emotions & SENSES (looks good, smells good, tastes good) – only by doing this will you be ‘truly satisfied’… and not want/need to ‘snack’.

7. Eat SLOWLY – put your fork down between bites & TASTE/Savour every mouthful.

8. Increase the QUALITY (freshness)…Decrease the QUANTITY.

9. Eat with others – family/friends – where possible & Engage in uplifting/pleasant conversation only – avoid ‘work’ talk unless it’s good news/celebratory/ or of a light-nature.

10. TREAT Yourself. At least one meal/day (preferably lunch), include something you really LOVE…can ‘indulge’ in.

* There is a great book out called “Why French Women Don’t Get Fat”. I haven’t read it, but heard the author talk about it – all the same things, so if you want more information on it, I’d highly recommend. Written by a French woman too, so far more credibility than me!

Final Thought:

As mentioned in the table above, if you want to make eating healthy simpler, transfer the French outlook on things to your eating habits – “don’t merely have sex (eat)…make love (celebrate food & delight the senses)!

Of course, you can’t be good at making love & war. “Going to war without France is like going deer hunting without your accordion.” – Norman Schwartzkopf.

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Ayurvedic Wisdom – Eating ‘Light’ at Night

by on Jan.19, 2012, under Ayurveda, Diet / Nutrition, Happiness / Positive Psychology, Mind-Body

Eat Light (at Night) to Feel Bright & Full of Might!

The evening meal – a key to super energy, good sleep and weight loss … or to sickness and suffering

Food that we do not digest by the time we go to bed sows the seeds of sickness and disease.

If there was a pill that could give us up to 50% more energy, significantly reduce our risk of chronic disease and almost guarantee a healthy weight for the rest of our life, many people would probably pay hundreds if not thousands of dollars for it. Ironically, 90 – 95% of us (Westerners) do something each and every day that, if changed, could deliver all the above benefits and more. It doesn’t take any more time out of one’s day, actually saves money, and is a hallmark of the healthiest, longest living people throughout time. It is the most basic, simple, yet rarely followed wisdom of ‘eating light at night’.

As human beings, we are just not designed to eat much in the evening. We are designed to eat our main meal in the middle of the day. This is when the sun and our digestive fire are at their peak. Just as the sun sets in the evening and disappears by nightfall, our inner digestive sun, or ‘fire’, also sets. Think of a dynamic, blazing campfire that slowly dwindles in strength until it is just a bed of hot embers. This is similar to how our digestive fire lessens in strength from daytime to nighttime. After sunset, our digestion, along with all its related internal processes, moves into its resting phase in order to facilitate the next cycle of inner purification during sleep.

The ancients knew that eating lightly at night was the secret to ‘the sleep of the gods’. When we do this, our body can fully focus its energies on eliminating the impurities and stresses that have accumulated during the day. Without the burden of a big evening meal to digest, we are better able to repair, revitalise and rejuvenate ourselves and so wake up as Mother Nature intended: with the birds – bright, energised and motivated.

But what do we do? Most of us come home at 7, 8 or 9 o’clock at night and sit down to our main meal of the day. Steak and three veg. Chicken parmagiana that’s falling over the sides of the plate. Spaghetti bolognese with a side of chips. And would we like some ice-cream, a little slice of cheesecake or some apple pie just to top it off? Well, it would be rude not to. There are children starving in other countries, so it wouldn’t be right not to eat everything that’s in front of us! So we loosen our belts, dig in and eat until we feel like we’re about to give birth. When we do this, instead of waking up ‘bouncing out of bed with the birds’, we wake up heavy, dull and sluggish. We need two alarm clocks, a hot shower and three cups of coffee just to get ourselves into the land of the living. Of course, rather than believe that we might actually have anything to do with it, we simply blame our ‘slow metabolism’ and rationalise it all by declaring, ‘Oh, I’m just not a morning person’.

Though modern science has historically been more concerned with the old calories-in and calories-out understanding of weight management, a recent Northwestern University study has shown the first causal evidence linking meal timing to increased weight gain. The study, headed by Fred Turek, Director of the Center for Sleep and Circadian Biology, found that mice that ate at irregular times – the equivalent of the middle of the night for humans – put on almost two-and-a-half times more weight than mice eating the same type and same amount of food during naturally wakeful hours (48 percent compared to 20 percent). Turek said, ‘How or why a person gains weight is very complicated, but it clearly is not just calories in and calories out’. On summing up the study’s findings, he poignantly commented, ‘Better timing of meals … could be a critical element in slowing the ever-increasing incidence of obesity’.

All of this has of course been known for thousands of years in the Eastern traditions. Ayurveda tells us that large, heavy meals at night are not only likely to be poorly digested (as our internal fire is not so strong), but totally compromise our nightly rejuvenation cycle. Instead of our body’s resources going to help our brains revitalise, our livers detox and our muscles rejuvenate, they are diverted to our stomachs to try and digest the three-inch steak, the cheesy parmagiana or the chocolate pudding. Even worse, improperly digested food, known as ‘ama’ in Ayurveda, is not always easily removed from our bodies. Unless eliminated, such incompletely digested food accumulates night after night in our cells and tissues. Over time, this undigested mush starts blocking vital internal channels and impairing cellular communication. The ancient Ayurvedic texts clearly detail how ama directly leads to weight gain, joint stiffness, mental lethargy and a host of other imbalances. Indeed, improperly digested food or ama is said to be ‘the bed of all disorders’ as it blocks the natural flow of intelligence that underpins its proper functioning.

While modern science does not have this understanding, sticky residues or ‘plaques’ are known to interfere with many internal processes. Atherosclerotic plaque is what lines our arteries. Plaques build up in our joints and play roles in certain types of arthritis. Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia are commonly associated with plaques that build up between the neurons or communication channels of our brains. The normal flow of communication gets blocked and as a result all areas of mental functioning – memory, clear thinking, decision-making – begin to deteriorate. The question is, where do these plaques come from? Modern medicine does not really know. Enlightened medicine men and women of times past knew that the main cause of these plaques is the improper digestion of food. Every part of our bodies is, after all, nothing other than the food we have eaten. One of the most common ways we do this is by eating heavy or late dinners when our digestive fire is generally weak and less able to properly process food. It is well documented that one of the most significant differences between the diets of long-living people from traditional cultures and our own is that they eat far fewer calories per day. The Hunzans, for example, typically consume 500 to 1000 fewer calories per day than the average person in America and Australia. More importantly, most of their calories are consumed during the active, daylight hours, when digestion is strongest.

Wise ancient cultures who lived in harmony with the natural cycles knew to eat sparingly, if at all, once the sun went down. This is why traditionally the evening meal was known as ‘supper’. If one did eat after sunset it was only something that could be ‘sipped’ or ‘supped’. Why do we need a big meal at a night anyway? We’re about to go to sleep!

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Ayurveda Food Wisdom – ‘Eat Light at Night’

by on Jan.19, 2012, under Ayurveda, Diet / Nutrition, Mind-Body

Video of Mark in Port Douglas speaking on Ayurveda ‘Eat Light at Night’ Wisdom – Riding the Daily Cycles (click on screen to play – * Note; it may take a few moments to load)
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