Folklore goes that once upon a time, a community was settled on the other side of the river. Each time, somebody had to go to the city they had to swim across the river. People of the community were distressed because many people had drowned in the water because they were not expert swimmers. In order to avoid those mishaps, a variety of rescue methods were thought of and deployed. Sometimes the rescue worked, other times it did not. People were growing frustrated and then one day somebody suggested, “ Why do not you learn how to swim”?
Healthy living is akin to learning to swim expertly in the sea of magic diets and quick weight-loss methods being peddled by various scientific as well quasi-scientific agencies. Healthy diets, which often constitute of the backbone of any healthy living, are but only one part of that puzzle. Our emotional and psychological health is an important indicator of our health and eating patterns. E.g. if you are feeling frustrated or depressed, your eating patterns will change. Some people respond to these emotional ups and downs with excessive binging and others simply shy away from eating.
In spite of the era of diet consciousness and social pressures to keep slim, obesity is becoming a major health concern. In America alone, more adults are becoming overweight and according to Wahida Karmally, director of Nutrition for the Irving Center for Clinical Research at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center, New York, obesity is robbing people of their health and exposing them to various dreaded diseases.
Eat less, live longer
The old wisdom of eating less and living longer still rings true. In fact, this is more relevant to contemporary time, which is marked by abundance of material resources. In an article in Scientific American in June 2000, Gary Taubes claims that severe restriction of caloric intake increases the life span of animals and helps them in fighting off various age related diseases. Even though research in this article mainly focused on animals, yet it is speculated that severe dietary regimen may be helpful in the case of human beings too, that if humans are able to control the intake or slash the normal intake by 30-50 %, it is going to have positive effect on health and longevity.
The ancient Indian science of life called Ayurveda also re-iterates the above point. In all the dietary counsels, it is often advocated to eat less-than-needed in each sitting. In addition to that, it also purports that there are three types of the bodies and combination thereof, which should be taken into account while deciding about food prescriptions. These three types of bodies are: Air, Fire and Earth. Each of these body-types responds differently to food.
Thus, according to Ayurveda, if we do not take into consideration the body type of the individual, any dietary recommendation may end up as a useless. E.g. people belonging to Earth categories who are often prone to lethargy and laziness, are often not recommended to take too much dairy products, sweets, tomatoes etc, for these substances makes them imbalanced; or Fire ones who are very aggressive and go-getter types are not suggested to take hot and spicy food, etc.
The above approach may also be able to explain as to why sometime strict dieting does not help in achieving desired results. It may be that a person is resorting to the wrong diet.
In addition to the above knowledge, the following factors are also very important for maintaining health:
1. Periodic purification of the body: Our body is a web of complicated systems, which run according to various physical laws. Physical systems break down if subjected to relentless work. Our body, or stomach particularly, requires a break from the having stuffed with all the unwanted food it has to digest. Fasting is recommended for this purpose. It should be noted that fasting is not a religious ritual and does not have a religious significance except that various accomplished masters discovered these procedures. While fasting, however, only fluid and no solid food should be taken. No authority suggests complete abstinence during fasting. It is not considered healthy.
2. Eating mindfully: Often we eat mindlessly either while talking to friends or in rushed manner during lunch break or watching television. This habit is not very good for health. Eating attentively not only limits the quantity of the food you consume, but also helps your system to digest it better. Whenever you eat next time, make it a point to eat slowly and masticate the food properly. In addition to this advantage, when you consume food mindfully, it become a meditative process and helps you immensely. It is also helpful if you relax yourself before setting out for your lunch or dinner. Few deep inhalations and exhalation should be able to instill calmness and will ready your body to receive nourishment.
3. Emotional control: Emotions are intimately connected to eating patterns and health. Watch yourself eating when you are angry, depressed or happy; your eating behavior will be different in both cases. Most of the times, when we feel ‘empty’ inside, we tend to fill that internal vacuum with food. Regular meditation or other mental control exercises can be of immense help in this regard.
4. Exercise: Regular exercise not only keeps the unnecessary fat at bay but it also helps to re-engineer your emotional health. Exercise is a proven antidote to various emotional problems, including depression. This is a double-edged sword, which you can use to your advantage.
In a nutshell, a healthy diet for healthy living not only includes good food habits but also the care of body, observation of eating patterns, emotional controls and exercise regimens. If all these factors are controlled, it will be easier to keep the physical body in better shape.