Wednesday, December 01, 2010

"The Yoga of Eating" by Charles Eisenstein: A Book Review

 Readers, the following is a guest post submitted to me by freelance writer Robin Merrill

Greetings fellow revolutionaries! It is my pleasure to tell you about a book I’ve just discovered – The Yoga of Eating. At first I found, as you might find, this to be a bizarre title. I thought of yoga as a meditation for the body, a way of stretching and exercising for holistic health. I didn’t understand how one was supposed to stretch while eating.

How is yoga related to eating?

So, I did what all good readers do: I looked it up. If we define yoga as training our consciousness for a state of perfect spiritual insight and tranquility, then it starts to make sense. And that’s what this book has done for me, more than most any book I’ve ever read: it makes sense. Perfect, conscionable, rational, peaceful sense. And you’re hearing from a woman who has read approximately a trillion diet books.

I’ve listened to every expert there is and tried every variety of diet, including raw vegan. I’ve watched the television programs, listened to the podcasts, visited the websites, and scoured the books for the words that would lead me back to the vitality I enjoyed when I was younger.

The best expert is your own body

But I never listened to me. I never asked the best expert there is on my body: my body. She is the expert, according to Charles Eisenstein. If I will just listen to her, I will know when I am thirsty. She will tell me when I am hungry. And if I give her a chance, she will tell me when I am not hungry. She will tell me when to sleep, and when I need to go for a walk. She will tell me to trust her.

According to Eisenstein, current western culture pushes us toward a powerful and dangerous mistrust of the body. We are told that our bodies are our enemies, that they are breaking down, that our bodies need to be controlled and managed by medicines and treadmills. But this isn’t true. Now that I’ve started listening to my body, I’ve found that she’s pretty smart.

The weight your body wants to be

This is not a diet book, but if an overweight person employs the principles from this book, I don’t see how it’s possible that they would not begin a journey toward a healthy and balanced weight. Not necessarily high school cheerleader weight – not necessarily doctor’s office chart weight – not necessarily supermodel weight, but a healthy and balanced weight, which is the weight your body really wants to be.

Food has karma

Eisenstein’s book looks at topics such as the karma of food, how every bite we take affects the universe. He discusses sugar vs. artificial sweeteners, vitamin supplements, and the karma of processing our foods. (Processed people consume processed foods. This is a balance we’ve either created or fallen into by accident. If we want to consume fewer processed foods, we need be less processed ourselves ... I write this as my cell phone vibrates for my attention.)

The book also features a beautiful, poetic, and inspiring chapter on the yoga of cooking. Cooking can be a form of worship, instead of a chore?

We should listen to our cravings

He talks about distinguishing appetites from cravings, and how both have their value. If we listen to our cravings, we might be able to discern what it is we really need. We are doing ourselves a disservice by squashing our cravings, by insisting that they are evil, when they are only trying to speak the truth.

It took me weeks to read this book, as I had to keep searching for a highlighter or pencil. It will be one of the books that spends the rest of my life on my headboard. I plan to read it over and over. I believe it is a necessary book. I am not a person who finds it easy to love herself. I am a person who finds it easy to judge herself harshly and punish herself. Eisenstein writes, “self-rejection increases the need for external nurturance all the more.” By punishing myself all these years, I’ve only increased my need for comfort food.

I heartily recommend this book to anyone who eats, and I especially recommend it to anyone who has struggled with eating, struggled against nourishment in pursuit of some cultural ideal. This book has changed my life and has allowed me to, at the age of thirty-three, get to know myself. Turns out I’m not so bad after all. Neither is food. Food is just food.

Robin Merrill is a freelance writer who can usually be found writing about jobs in criminal justice.

Key words: Robin Merrill Yoga of Eating Charles Eisenstein healthy eating diet weight loss


Anonymous said...

Would you care to help me out by completing a survey for school?
We're trying to study ways to improve the yoga experience,
Please and thanks

Barbara said...

Appreciate your coming up with such an exhaustive piece of content on yogic diet

Jefferson's Guardian said...

Being a practitioner of Anusara yoga for many years, I've learned to be more accepting -- particularly in my practice. Each day is different, and the body's responses and abilities are no different. Whether a good or bad day, I try not to attach my ego to either one. It's not easy, granted, but I think I'm on the right track.

Yogic expressions can be found in all walks of life; food and eating being no exception. Mr. Eisenstein's book sounds interesting. I'll definitely look it up!

kuhn rikon pressure cooker said...

This is a great post for a interesting book. I agree with everything! I have learned over the years to listen to my body so I started avoiding certain foods and food combinations I was having troubles with (most meats, certain vegetables and fruits). I listen to my cravings as well because if I ignore them they just come back stronger. And I don't fight my body anymore in the sense of trying to reach a certain weight (the result being I have no problem maintaining my ideal weight). Your body is your best friend. Just love it and listen to it!