Take It Slowly

Most of my clients find that there are many habits that they want to change to improve health and longevity. Yet it's too difficult and stressful to change everything at once. And it's not necessary. You didn't get to your present situation overnight. Unless you face a serious crisis or addiction, it's better to take one step at a time.

Begin by setting priorities. If you've had a consultation with me, you can weigh those recommendations against any other factors relevant to you. Give preference to high pay-back changes that you can achieve by mobilizing support. You don't have to go it alone. It's good to have encouragement and help from family and friends. Also think about how to structure your environment to assure success. You know what I'm talking about. For example, if you don't want to face the temptation to grab junk food, get it out of the house. If you struggle with portion control, use smaller dishes and only cook enough for the one meal.

Take it at a comfortable pace. Give yourself time to establish your new routine before trying to take on more. Phase out each old habit and phase in the new over the course of a week or more so as not to create stress and discomfort. To a certain extent, your body has adapted to whatever unhealthful habits you may have acquired.

Personal change is not a matter of sacrifice. Anyhow, "Nature abhors a vaccuum." For every unhelpful habit that you want to abandon, find something positive and wholesome to substitute.

As you make this journey to health, you will face unexpected challenges. In such situations, always respect and generally follow your spontaneous desires. Desire is the expression of the physiology in seeking what it needs to achieve balance at a given moment. Nevertheless, be aware that some non-life-supporting desires may arise due to old habits and imbalances. In other words, when you have a choice to make, also use your intellect and judgment.

If your initial efforts don't achieve their objective, learn from the experience. Don't think of it as failure: It's not failure unless you fail to learn. Every time you make a choice that is not health-promoting, pause to consider what might have influenced you more positively had it been available at the time.

And also: go learn TM (Transcendental Meditation). You can find an instructor and current fee information at TM.org. I believe that meditation is the best way to reduce stress, stimulate self-healing, balance the Doshas, and bring positive influences into your life. Many scientific studies, including several high-quality randomized controlled trials, have demonstrated significant health benefits from regular practice of TM.

Further Reading

Change Anything

The Vital Smarts group has produced two excellent resources: Change Anything and Crucial Conversations. I think you'll find the latter book invaluable for addressing relevant issues in inter-personal relationships.

Of necessity, the weight control industry must address the issue of personal change. Here are my thoughts on a few of the better books on the subject. You may find them a helpful as a supplemental resource for managing personal change. Otherwise, start with my advice for sustainable weight control.

End of Dieting

If you're looking for inspiration, and especially if you've been struggling to lose weight, you may find help in Dr. Joel Fuhrman's: End of Dieting (free excerpt). He promotes a low salt, organically grown vegetarian diet with use of spices and avoidance of processed food products. The many success stories will not only be inspirational, they'll offer you valuable insight.

On the other hand, some of his recommendations run counter to Ayurvedic knowledge and will cause problems for some people depending on their Doshas. For example, the lack of oils and the large quantities of beans and raw salads will cause problems for Vata. Nuts, dates and large quantities of fruit are not ideal for Kapha. Canned, frozen, leftover and microwaved foods are not wholesome for anyone. Also, it's best to have your main meal at noon.

Dr. Fuhrman also advises against milk and cheese. Given the toxic way most westerners consume dairy products, this will be helpful to a point. On the other hand, milk is Sattvic and health-promoting if taken according to Ayurvedic principles. It's particularly valuable for balancing Pitta and Vata.

Mindless Eating

Here's another excellent resource for changing eating habits: Mindless Eating by Brian Wansink, Director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab, with a PhD in consumer behavior from Stanford. His research focuses on the hidden persuaders that influence eating behavior (see for example: De-Marketing Obesity).

His evidenced-based conclusion is that the best diet is the one you don't know you're on. He advises the development of better habits based on a self-assessment of your own hidden persuaders. Identify 2-3 small changes that can each painlessly cut 100 calories per day. Within a year, you'll drop up to 30 lbs.

These same principles can be applied to adopt Ayurvedic recommendations to enhance the health benefits of your diet, digestion and daily routine. For example, from an Ayurvedic perspective, you can also avoid a lot of Ama if you take your main meal at noon and eat with your attention on your food. What would it take for you to make that a new habit?

The Prime

Dr. Chaudry's book has received a lot of attention from her regular appearances with Dr. Oz. We both trained to the same Ayurvedic tradition. While I favor a more personalized approach to weight control, we are largely in agreement. I've had clients who started The Prime, but would have never improved without a consultation. If my approach wasn't working well for a client, I wouldn't hesitate to suggest giving hers a trial, though I might give some specific precautions based on the situation.