I try to keep a holistic awareness when I look at my practice. This means I include things like nutrition, exercise and academic work in mind in addition to meditation. Lately, the physical element has been receiving more attention because I’ve fallen behind on taking care of my body and I’m feeling some of the consequences of that. Over the last few days, I’ve been looking at a lower carb diet and I’d like to share some of my process around that.

I look at diet and exercise as long terms habits I would like to develop or improve (as opposed to short term interventions). For me, this means finding a way that I can eat healthily and maintain it over time without struggling and without feeling deprived. I’m aware of the difficulties inherent in changing such basic habits and I’m approaching this change slowly.

I’ve already made a large change in my diet several years ago when I started eating (mostly) gluten-free. This change, even though it was pretty large, was much easier than I expected it to be. I think one reason for that is that I allowed myself to cheat sometimes when it was worth it (ref: Larry Niven’s fuzzy pink law). An unexpected consequence of this one change, by the way, was that I started paying attention to what goes into my food and as a result started eating better in general.

The first step I’ve taken in planning this new diet is to start tracking my food. Using a relatively simple app on my phone I can track most everything that I eat. This is helpful in a few ways:
I’m becoming even more aware of what I eat.
I can see how many calories I eat and where they’re coming from (carbs, fats or proteins).
I can see which foods “cost” me the most.

It’s this last point that helps me in designing a diet that I can work with. Since I’m aiming for a lower-carb diet I’d like to see what elements of my current diet contribute the most carbs; this will allow me to decide which of these I’d like to drop (or reduce), which I really want to keep, and which I can save for rare cheats. I think this approach will allow me to come up with a diet that is both healthy and satisfying and therefore sustainable.

Another thing I’m starting to do is changing my environment (m kitchen, in this case) to fit the new diet. This mostly means more veggies, especially ones that I can easily snack on, and less chips. I already include nuts as a sometimes-daily snack that I enjoy but I’ve been neglecting my veggies for a while. Creating an environment that is supportive of a new habit has been helpful for me. It makes it easier to engage the new habit and more difficult to fall back into old patterns.

Next, I plan to keep looking at my diet and figure out additional options for breakfast (especially when I’m in a rush), more options for snacking and more ways to get veggies into my meals. At the same time, I’m also trying to become more physically active. A holistic or integral approach means looking at more than one aspect of life, how they interact and how they can support each other in reaching my goals.