By Shihan Mary Bolz
Master of Science Oriental Medicine
Doctoral Fellow, FBU
Master Martial Arts Instructor, 6th Degree Black Belt
Although we know that healthy eating puts us on the path to health, many of us rationalize our way to justify the current eating pattern we have, put off changing our ways, or take a multivitamin and figure that will cover it. The truth is that vitamins do not and never will replace a healthy, sensible way of eating. Scientists and nutritionists do not even know the make-up of any food entirely. They don’t even really know how much of the nutrient is needed. Humans cannot create balanced or natural food by themselves. Nature already knows best and we cannot duplicate nature. We can approximate it, and in reality, that approximation is probably very far off from being close to how nature does it. Therefore, the easiest and most wise route to health is to just follow what nature has already given us and not adulterate it so much. That means eating whole foods, unprocessed completely and cooking ourselves. Okay, so we KNOW that. Why don’t we live it? It is a lack of certain principles that need to be followed.
Here are five steps to learning anything which can be applied to everything you do, including changing and improving your eating habits.
1. Pay attention: If you want to learn a martial art, or dance, or anything, you open your mind, observe the moves and try to copy it. You must forget some old habits and challenges some of your current thinking and assumptions. How can you apply this to dietary change? Pay attention, close attention to the ingredients in any packaged food item. Read every ingredient on the label, write them down and look them up in the dictionary. Are all of these ingredients truly food. Is FD&C #2 a food? No, it is a dye! Oh, it is food grade dye. How can there by such a thing that is natural? Not FD&C #2. Natural food colors are foods themselves, such as annatto, beet juice, etc. Pay attention to how the food was grown. Were these vegetables raised with chemical pesticides and fertilizers? Were these animals living in overcrowded quarters, hardly able to move? Could these animals see the sunlight and get exercise? Were these animals fed antibiotics and hormones?
This answer to these questions is that almost all commercially raised animals are. Unless the product is specifically labeled that they were not, and labeled organic; you can be certain they were raised in the conditions just listed. It sounds horrific, but in truth, that is the average food that people are eating. Pay attention to the source.
2. Repetition: To learn those moves in the martial arts, or dance, or golf, or even a new job, you must drill and repeat. That means repeating the information and repeating the practice of observing what you are buying and knowing about the product; you will become good at it and it will start to come natural. It is not much trouble. It becomes a habit in your shopping for food whether in a supermarket or looking for a restaurant. Repeat your methodical observation. Drill it.
3. Review: One must review their practice, without regret, and learn from mistakes by observing what was incorrect and how to correct it. You must review your form and method of what you are practicing. Review your food buying habits and your eating habits critically. Don’t regret about your past poor choices, but go forward with your corrected drill of careful choices, make a better one next time. Hone your shopping and cooking skills.
4. Power: To become a good martial artist or golfer, or professional in any endeavor, you must develop power. The best way to develop power is to relax. A runner cannot get off to a good start if they are tense, they will use up too much energy at the starting line. Relax and let the moves flow with natural, explosive energy. Nervous energy is wasted energy and does not translate into power. It converts into just that: wasted nervous energy and less is accomplished. Relax in your eating habit changes. Don’t make it a big deal. Relax and enjoy your adventure. Do wise, calm, and happy know you are making good choices and enjoy cooking real food.
Cooking with whole foods is fun. When you are pressed for time, you eat simple. How long does it take to steam vegetables, mushrooms, etc? Ten minutes tops: wash, bring water to a boil, steam 5 to 7 minutes after the water is boiling, depending on the vegetable. Practicing your endeavor with a relaxed attitude gives you power and control over your own life. The way to learn relaxation is through breathing. One of the simple methods of breathing in the Japanese and Okinawa karate and kobudou that I teach is this: Breathe in through your nose. Breathe out through your mouth. Make your exhale seven to twenty times longer than you inhale. You know you will need a full inhale with this. Use abdominal breathing, which means that you abdomen fills up and expands on the inhale and the abdomen contracts gradually as you exhale ever so slowly. Remember this: big belly on inhale, contracted and skinny belly by the time you finish your exhale. After the exhale is completed, hold your breath for five seconds before inhaling again.
5. Discipline: This is the key to the previous four steps. You must start with step Number One. How do you do this? You must do something you do not like to do. This is the key to discipline. For example, in the martial arts class you may not like stretching because it is painful or for any reason, but you don’t like it. Then, you spend double or triple time doing the parts you do not like. Perhaps you don’t like math in school. Then you must spend double or triple or even quadruple the time of practicing math problems compared to another subject. Drill that which you hate the most. Start off with one item first. You will find that after you become better at that activity or subject, you overcome the dislike of that activity. Dislike can turn to love. Then add another activity or project you dislike or even hate. Keep at it until you are better at it. You will again find that you do not dislike it any longer. Then you can tackle another one. You will find that this kind of practice starts becoming a habit and all your endeavors become easier. It becomes natural and life does not seem so hard.
Apply this principle to your food choices and to practicing the art of healthy cooking. It will become a delicious, rewarding lifestyle and no longer a chore.
Keep these steps in mind and start practicing your way to freedom from today. Discipline is the means to freedom, being a victim of the status quo is slavery. Happy Chinese New Year coming up February 14th! What a great new start for Valentine’s Day! Love yourself first and then you can love others fully.