06Apr

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Have you heard about the new buzz in town? The Buddha Diet? Do you want to know why it’s striking the right chords with so many? Hola! You have landed at the right place.

In 2016, a Zen priest, Dan Zigmond and Tara Cotrell condensed all of Buddha’s teachings about diet in a book called the Buddha’s Diet: The Ancient Art of Losing Weight Without Losing Your Mind.

Buddha lived in ancient India some thousands of years ago. Before he attained Buddhahood, he wandered for 7 years, trying to find the meaning of life. He starved himself till his body was reduced to skin and bones. Well, he did not fast to look all ripped or lose some extra pounds but to find answers to life’s baffling questions. And through starvation, he learned a very profound lesson. He acknowledged that we must avoid extremes in life. He called it the ‘middle path.’

After achieving Enlightenment and becoming the Buddha, Siddhartha gifted the world ‘The four Noble Truths’ and ‘The Eightfold path.’ In addition to this, he also created some basic rules for eating called ‘Vinaya‘ and transferred the knowledge to his disciples.

Buddha Diet

According to the ancient scriptures, Buddha had a ‘lion-shaped body’ and strength similar to thousand elephants. Well, the strength could be because of the military training he had received in his formative years. Nevertheless, he had a great physique which is evident in his statues also. So, what was his diet? How did he maintain his body? And how can we use this ancient wisdom to improve our health? Will it be useful to the modern human being?


Let’s explore all of these queries in this article. Come on. Keep it rolling!

WHAT IS A BUDDHA DIET?

In one of his lectures in the city of ‘Savatthi’, Buddha preached that our health is largely dependent on the food we consume. He asked the monks to practice a middle path of eating by refraining from self-mortification (kāmasukhallikānuyoga) as well as self-indulgence (attakilamathānuyoga). Self-mortification can lead to malnutrition while self-indulgence can cause overnutrition. The middle way approach and simplicity is the general theme of this diet.

Alright, tell me, have you heard about Intermittent Fasting? You must have, it’s the talk of the town lately. Did you know, Buddha followed a similar method more than 2,500 years ago. Aha really! He may well be the world’s first dieter! Woah!

And the cool part is that this diet focuses on mental as well as physical aspects of health. Buddha stressed that the mind and body are interlinked, a healthy body gives rise to a healthy mind and vice versa.

To keep the body in good health is a duty… otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.

Buddha

So, folks I know you must be excited to know more about this diet. Without any further ado, let’s dig deeper into this diet’s principles.

PRINCIPLES OF BUDDHA DIET:

Buddha has stated several rules about food and dietary habits in the Buddhist scripture called ‘Vinaya Pitaka’. But, I have shortlisted three main features for you that are the most relevant today. Surprisingly, these guidelines are propagated today by most health experts and there is a plethora of scientific research roaring about its benefits. Wonderful, isn’t it? Having said that, now let’s immerse ourselves into this divine wisdom taught by none other than the ‘Enlightened One’ himself.

Eating food within a specific time frame

Just observe your diet pattern, you will find yourself nibbling on food every now and then. You are saying you don’t do it? Then how about that innocent pack of chips you had right after dinner that day? Caught ya!

We all have been guilty of unnecessary binging at some point in our life. Buddha was smart. He knew he must practice self-discipline to avoid food cravings. Hence, he planned a structured way of eating.

So, just like Intermittent fasting, in this diet, you are expected to eat daily within a restricted time frame of 9 hours. Buddha recommended food abstinence after midday until the following morning. The evenings were attributed to meditation.

This technique of time-restricted eating will help you consume a moderate amount of calories daily without doing those tough calorie counts. The diet control achieved may help in weight loss, lower your risk of developing metabolic diseases and reduce chronic inflammation.

Also, do you want to know one interesting fact? Our modern science is also in favor of this principle.

A recent study found that an 8-hour time-restricted eating helped people lose weight by controlling the daily calories they consumed. Another scientific study concluded that eating within a 10-hour window may help reduce the risk of diabetes and heart disease. Cool isn’t it?

However, we need not fast for 17 hours as Buddha did, but we can certainly eat within a time frame of 12 to 14 hours. What you can do is decide on a 12-hour eating window for yourself. It could be between 7 am till 7 pm or any other time suitable for you. Avoid snacking before and after this time. Sounds doable?

Great! Then the next step? Choose healthy foods like whole grains, green leafy vegetables, fruits, and proteins to consume in the eating window. If you are going to cram down the fried, processed foods or bakery products, then we are just defeating the purpose. Now, hold on to this thought tightly because that’s exactly the premise of the second principle, which is…

Moderation is key

Joey loves food and so do we! We want it in gigantic amounts. Are we squirrels to eat tiny meals? A large ‘double cheese Margherita pizza’ is just the starter! Well, sure we are not squirrels but we aren’t those huge blue whales weighing 400,000 pounds either!

And you can argue as much as you like, but this habit along with physical inactivity has landed us in a dark pit of obesity and lifestyle diseases like stroke, heart diseases, diabetes, etc. Buddha was sagacious, he didn’t eat for pleasure. He looked at the food simply as a tool to keep the body in good health. He knew that both overeating and undereating could put us in a problematic situation. Hence, he emphasized the importance of moderation in eating (bhojane mattaññutā).

Offend in neither word nor deed. Eat with moderation. Live in your heart. Seek the highest consciousness. Master yourself according to the law. This is the simple teaching of the awakened.

Buddha

A simple way to achieve moderation in eating is by following ‘hara hachi bu’.

This cool-sounding concept is followed in the town of Okinawa in Japan. The best part is this town is known to have the highest life expectancy. Anyways, what does hara hachi bu mean? Well, it simply means that eat until you are 80% full. Keep a little space in your tummy. And why you should practice it? It’s a no-brainer really. Even you know that if you indulge in careless overeating, it is going to give you that unaesthetic fat. Don’t say I didn’t warn you! Ergo, starting today, follow restraint in eating. Get the balance right just like a Zen monk!

Since we are on the topic of unusual weight gain, most Nutrition experts are disseminating a technique to control binge eating, which by the way was first taught by Buddha. Let me shed some light on it through the next principle of the Buddha diet, which is…

Art of Mindful eating

Ok, tell me one thing. Is your mind FULL when you are eating? You may deny it but we tend to take our problems to the dining table. Our mind is more on the thoughts of today, tomorrow, or yesterday and less on the food on the plate.

Buddha highlighted that most of our problems stem from being in a mindless condition. Overeating or undereating occurs when we are not really focused on what we are eating. Now, after 2,500 years later, even 24 different studies have found that eating mindlessly leads to overconsumption of calories which ultimately causes weight gain. Hence, we must practice a mindful approach to eating.

Many scientific studies have concluded that eating mindfully may help in treating eating disorders and promote weight loss. 

Mindfulness is a state of mind where you are fully aware of the present moment. You are simply focused on what is happening in the here and now.

How to eat mindfully?

The first step is to show gratitude to the food on the plate or bowl. Then give your undivided attention to the act of eating. Don’t talk or watch TV, mobile, or laptop while you are eating. Next, direct all of your senses to the food. Take your first small bite, observe the texture, color of the food, smell the food and slowly put it in your mouth. Now, chew it 20 to 40 times savoring the taste. Repeat the process for every bite. While this may seem like an eternity, in practice it only takes few seconds to chew each bite.

By practicing this method, you will form a healthy bond with your food. It will take time to form this habit but trust me it’s worth the effort. We don’t have control over the outside chaos but we definitely can influence our mind. Mindful eating could be the calm you need in your life!

CONCLUSION

To sum up, the Buddha diet is all about eating at the right time, in the right quantity, and in the right place. These principles may seem very simple but in essence, they are the guiding lights we are searching for today. If you analyze this diet closely, it is nothing but lifestyle modifications which is exactly what the Nutrition panels all around the world are emphasizing today. A healthy body is a result of your lifestyle choices.

We live in a busy world. Our behaviors have engraved some habits in us which are downright deleterious. We must restructure our life by emulating good habits and lifestyle modifications.

So, hark back to these 3 Buddhist principles of eating whenever you find yourself indulging in incorrect dietary habits. Let’s ingrain Buddha’s attitude towards food in our life for an enlightened eating experience. May you always be healthy and happy!

Bhavatu Sabba Mangalam!

REFERENCES:

  1. Yasassi, Rev. (2020). Food Consumption Techniques Revealed in Buddhism as a Paradigm for Sustainable Healthcare.
  2. Zigmond, D., Cottrell, T. (2016). Buddha’s Diet: The Ancient Art of Losing Weight Without Losing Your Mind. United States: Running Press.

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