This is the first in a blog series on the mindful practices of healthy eating, walking and yoga. I wrote this essay for a UC Berkeley online writing workshop and I wanted to share it with you now because I begin yoga teacher training this month. I’m grateful that my journey has led me to this new dimension of wellness, for I am about to embark on my 100 mile Camino next month. I’ll continue to share the great things I discover about the Camino, but on Mondays I’ll highlight mindful practices that I truly believe in.
Mindfulness Manifesto – Part 1
How Healthy Eating, Walking and Yoga Can Provide Lifelong Balance
Over the past few decades, medical conditions such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, obesity and chronic stress, have increased in America, despite the good intentions and recommendations of organizations like the American Heart Association and the Food & Drug Administration. In 2009, 145 million people—almost half of all Americans—live with a chronic condition.1 Ironically, these conditions are also among the most preventable of all health problems. It is time for us to take control of our own health and well-being! By incorporating a few simple daily habits of healthy eating, walking, and practicing yoga, one can avoid expensive doctor visits, dependence on medication, and the use of stimulants, ensuring a lifelong balance of good health and wellness.
Healthy eating is something that we can all incorporate into our daily lives by making mindful choices about what we consume. For starters, in a grocery store, you can avoid the center aisles which have packaged, processed foods that are loaded with preservatives and harmful ingredients. Instead, work your way around the perimeter of the store where you’ll find fresh produce, meats, fish and dairy. If possible, select organic produce to avoid pesticides, and nitrate-free meats to minimize exposure to toxic preservatives. Select whole foods, rather than packaged, and avoid food with a long list of ingredients with names you cannot pronounce. A good rule of thumb, as author Michael Pollan suggests in his book, In Defense of Food, “Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.” 2
Unfortunately, some foods that are considered healthy are loaded with sugar and artificial ingredients. Strawberry-flavored original Yoplait yogurt, despite being 99 percent fat free, packs 26 grams of sugar per 6-ounce container. This is more sugar than a Twinkie which contains 19 grams of sugar.3 Diet sodas might have zero calories, but they contain aspartame, which is a known carcinogen. Although some people believe they will lose weight by using these “low fat” or artificially sweetened products, the truth is that they are more harmful. A decade-long study of 60,000 women has confirmed that drinking diet soda sweetened with aspartame is linked with a 30 percent increase in heart attack risk and a 50 percent increase in death risk.4
Every day we are bombarded with advertisements of packaged convenience foods, but try to make mindful choices to replace the bad foods with healthy options. For example, by replacing just one artificially sweetened snack a day with a piece of fruit or handful of nuts, you will feel a boost of energy. Over the long run, simple changes like these could prevent chronic illness. Think about your body as an engine that runs best on fuel from whole, natural and organic foods.
Continued: Mindfulness Manifesto, Part 2: Walking
Disclaimer: This three-part series that I wrote for a research paper in last year. I make no claims of being a health care expert. I am sharing these practices in mindfulness because I found they work best for me.
Always consult your physician before beginning any exercise program. This general information is not intended to diagnose any medical condition or to replace your healthcare professional. Consult with your healthcare professional to design an appropriate exercise prescription. If you experience any pain or difficulty with these exercises, stop and consult your healthcare provider.
- Gerard Anderson, Ph.D. Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Report: “Chronic Care: Making the Case for Ongoing Care” 2010
- Michael Pollan, “In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto” 2008
- Abigail Wise, The Huffington Post Healthy Living: “Yogurts With More Sugar Than A Twinkie” Posted:05/26/2014
- Mike Adams, Editor of NaturalNews.com: “Diet soda, aspartame linked to premature deaths in women” Posted: 3/30/ 2014