If you’ve been following us this past while, you know Randy and I are just finishing Week 1 of Phase 2 of our Alchemist Eating program.
We’re happy to report that a few more clients joined us this round (and others are doing smashingly well in Phase 1, 3 or 4).
To recap, here are our “food rules” this month:
1. Stay within primal parameters. This is the baseline diet of Alchemist Eating and is how we eat already, even outside of Phase 2. In brief, eat real, whole food, including meat, veggies, healthy fats and oils, and a moderate amount of fruit, nuts and seeds; avoid processed foods, grains, legumes, added sugar and artificial sweeteners, and chemically altered or otherwise unhealthy fats and oils.
2. Avoid dairy. This means cutting even primally approved dairy, such as full-fat, sugar-free Greek yoghurt, grass-fed butter and hard, raw-milk cheese. For some people, it’s good to cut these things anyway; for us, it’s a Phase 2 thing.
3. Avoid sugar, except that occurring naturally in fruit. Also avoid all paleo-primal baked goods. This means cutting primally approved “sensible indulgences” and sweeteners—even honey. For us, it also means keeping fruit to a minimum.
4. Avoid alcohol. One exception is the trace amount in GT’s Kombucha, which, incidentally, is probably no more than that found in an extra-ripe banana.
5. Avoid increasing our coffee intake. For us, this means holding steady at 1-2 small cups a day.
And so far as…
How’s it going?
Pretty well, actually.
Randy and I are having our moments of discomfort, for sure.
His mostly surface during after-dinner dessert time or at times when he’d normally reach for extra fruit.
Mine come on strongest at lunch, when I’m sorely missing my Fage full-fat Greek yoghurt. (There was actually a moment yesterday when I told Randy that the only thing I wanted to eat was my yoghurt…and that I felt as though someone took my fun away.)
But the thing is, we’re also loving this. Because we’re still eating an abundance of amazing food…and because the shift out of our eating comfort zone has two wonderful side effects:
1. It forces us to do what we help our clients do, both in Alchemist Eating and Alchemist Recovery: namely, use any discomfort that arises from the loss of familiar ways of “filling the hole, void or wound” as an opportunity for practice.
By “practice,” I mean engaging (or trying to engage) in non-reactive mindful awareness. Noticing our selves, our patterns, our reactions, our choices.
This always, always, always leads to helpful change.
Even when the change is so slow—and the practice so difficult—that the full extent of the shift isn’t clear until later, upon looking back at where you started and how far you’ve come. (For more on how this works, see our post on Looking Out, Looking In: Exteroceptive vs. Interoceptive Attention.
2. It opens up space and frees up energy. Because we aren’t trying to “fill the hole” with our “stuff of choice” (even when said stuff is primally approved), we’re more inclined to ask: What, really, does this space need? What, really, do I need?
Sometimes what comes up is super-uncomfortable (and even painful or scary). When that happens, we sit with it, bringing in the practice of mindful, non-reactive awareness.
But it’s not all uncomfortable and serious. There’s also a huge element of excitement, fun and play.
Because since we’re not getting our “fix” from sweets or yoghurt or whatever, we directing our energy toward other things. Things that are fun. Playful. Inspiring. Useful.
Without trying, we’re drawn to seek satiation and satisfaction from something Other. Than. Food.
Sure, we try to do this anyway. But taking away our favorite “stuff of choice” brings a nice infusion of newness, motivation, exploration and possibility.
Now, don’t get me wrong. These welcome “side effects” aside, we’re still dealing with the same sorts of things that come up for most people. Discomfort. Substitution. Cravings. (Did I mention my moment of feeling someone had taken my fun away? When really I was talking about Greek yoghurt?)
So…for today’s cook-up line-up, I’m going to refer you back to our Recipe for an Easy Week post. (We’re so busy right now, that’s exactly the recipe we’ll be using during the days ahead.)
And, rather than list new recipes, I’m going to share a simple meditation, or exercise, to try when cravings arise. (Sorry to those here for the food porn:). But you can always check past posts, follow us on Instagram or scour our Pinterest boards.)
For those still with me, you ready? Let’s go.
When cravings arise…
1. Notice the craving.
Think: Craving is arising. Time for that exercise.
2. Wait 5 minutes. Clock it.
Notice how the craving (and the waiting) feels in body and mind.
What’s happening in your belly, your chest, your jaw, your fists, your fingers, your toes? What’s happening with your breath? What are your thoughts doing?
Don’t get lost in the story.
Do get really curious. Really specific.
Without judgement. Without having “an opinion” about it.
Your job is just to investigate. To come back with a report.
3. At the end of 5 minutes, choose to give into the craving or choose not to give in. Either way, notice the moment of choice. Notice: This is my choice.
If you choose not to give in, bring that into the exercise. Notice what’s happening with body, mind, breath. Get really specific. No judgement.
If you choose to give into the craving, bring that into the exercise. Bring curious, mindful attention to whatever’s arising in body, mind and breath.
As you reach for your “stuff.” As it reaches your mouth. As you chew. As you swallow. Afterwards.
No opinions. Just notice.
4. Write it down.
This practice—the writing about the practice—adds new layers of awareness. New layers of accountability. New layers of understanding our choices, our experiences, our selves.
And, of course, you can apply this exercise to all sorts of cravings (not just for Greek yoghurt).
And, whether by force or choice, the “giving in” bit may not be an option. (For example, Randy and I have chosen to take that option away this month.) The exercise still helps.
Most important, remember this is a practice. Don’t worry about “getting it right.”
The key thing is to just keep returning, returning, returning. Gently coming back, coming back, coming back.
And the wonderful thing is slowly, slowly—just by doing the practice again and again—things will start to shift.