Yogi diet: The problem with moderation

Bobbie and I have been a bit quiet on the raw / wheat-free diet front lately, but we are still going strong — probably even a bit stronger during the past month or so.

Corn meal crust pizza

We continue to get every cent’s worth from our Vita-Mix and the only bread we’ve had has been baked in our house (from flour we’ve ground) and made from heritage grains.

But that isn’t really where I think the “improvement” has come. I wish it were — because I’m a bit worried about the real source.

As extreme as our diet is, we’ve always considered it to be moderated by a meal or two during the weekend when we “fall off the wagon.” It might be pizza. Or Mexican food. Or something involving wheat and bread.

It was enough to keep us on the path of moderation.

Disturbingly, to me at least, is that these “falls” have been less frequent for the past month or more. The solid Cuban sandwich place that we can walk to? It’s off the list. It just isn’t worth the wheat intake and the after-effects — we can feel the weight of what we’ve consumed.

More and more places are joining it. In other words, fewer and fewer places are worth the consequences.

So much for moderation.

And this, it strikes me, might be the problem with moderation — it can moderate you to an extreme. We’ve had fewer “bad meals” lately, and so when we do we really can tell. We feel it. And as a result, we really don’t want to feel that way. And so instead of pizza we buy a corn meal crust and build our own pseudo-pie.

But I don’t want pseudo-pie. I want the pizza one gets in Italy, that’s so thin and covered with olive oil and the right amount of cheese and sauce…

Except, I don’t now.

And I’m not sure I like this development. Is the yoga (and the knowledge of how our Western food affects us) now making my life better, or worse? If it is worse, am I missing the point — or have I lost the point?

By the way, we recognize that our diet isn’t sattvic (and there’s way too much vegetables), but what we’ve learned about the food we get — whole grains included — makes it clear that not very much of the American/Western diet is.

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

18 thoughts on “Yogi diet: The problem with moderation”

  1. This is an interesting post. I love reading about what other ashtangis are eating & what helps with their practice. I have some issues both ethically and digestively with certain foods that are considered “sattvic”. I’ve been looking into Ayurveda more & tinkering with my diet to see what helps my Ashtanga & meditation practice. It all seems to be one big ongoing experiment! By the way, I really enjoy your blog & I look forward to reading the posts when they pop up in my email!

    1. I think diet is the only thing Ashtangis like to talk about more than how early they go to bed! 🙂

      I definitely feel like it’s a natural to explore Ayurveda if one’s practicing a lot — but as you note, what is considered sattvic often has other issues. (For me, the emphasis on grains, which might be OK still in India where things haven’t undergone the hybridization, is a major problem now. And the discouragement of vegetables seems, to be dogmatic about it, clearly not right.

      Others, I assume, wonder about ghee, etc.!

      Frances at Lilablog has something timely, I realize as I was just reading it. Especially pertinent is the quotes from Guruji on diet: http://lilablog.com/2012/05/31/who-wants-to-go-on-a-real-yoga-diet-not-i/

      Bottom line: Yes, it is an ongoing experiment. What’s bugging me is the side effects lately (not wanting my favorite foods!) although the results (healthier) are hard to ignore!


  2. It seems that you are experiencing a wee-bit of what Rupa Goswami warns us about when we begin to embark on the path of yoga.

    In a nutshell, he says, “Don’t go down to the Yamuna River looking for that Blue-boy Krsna, unless you are willing to loose and give up everything.” The moral of the story being that you might just see Him and from there before you know it you are living in a cave, or wandering from village to village like Mirabai caring for nothing but singing His praises.

    The way I look at it…everything I lose, I didn’t and don’t need because it must not have been me to begin with. Thankfully though I still have my pizza. And in this regard, I am sorry for your loss.

    1. I would give you an LOL, but there’s nothing funny about this pizza thing.

      I’ve warned Bobbie I might not come back from our Indian Yatra. I’m counting on my maturity to see me through.*

      The food thing is an interesting one because in a lot of ways it is totally separate from the yoga — it started (if you’re not up to date on the whole process, which I wouldn’t expect anyone to be) with Bobbie’s doctor suggesting she try the raw thing for health reasons. This is years ago… and the no wheat thing is just the latest, drastic turn.

      Would we be sticking with it without the yoga? Probably not. That’s where they dovetail.


      * Note: That’s a joke. 🙂

  3. I was gluten-free for 2 years while exploring the source of my gastro-intestinal problems. It was difficult to come back to eating wheat once I became sure I was “in the clear” as far as gluten-sensitivity was concerned. My doctor actually recommended I be careful and slow in changing any of my diet. The diet changes really impacted me, each time, meaning when I stopped eating gluten, and when I began again.

    Do you think the movement toward less and less change in the diet could be what is happening here, rather than this being evidence of becoming more and more extreme? I wonder if much research has been done on the effects of changing diets and having too much diversity in food intake. I just haven’t really looked yet. I was taught in my yoga training that changes to the diet are recommended to be done slowly, and that the body will show us what works and what doesn’t. Do you think it is really about the wheat, or that the body is limiting changes?

    I’m so glad you share these ideas!

    1. Hi Eliz.

      Thanks for the comment. Now, keep in mind I’m just some guy, so take it all with a grain of salt — maybe not the right metaphor for this topic!

      Our experience is that cutting out wheat was the big difference maker. We’d both been mostly raw for a year or more, but part of the “falling off the wagon” typically involved bread. (And I ate more bread than Bobbie while maintaining 65% or maybe a little more raw.) So wheat was still definitely part of the diet.

      Now it isn’t. And — not to send you on a hunt — but this old post delves into how my next doctor visit seemed to prove that wheat was an issue:


      That’s a long way of saying that I think we were pretty slow in changing the diet (after the initial Bobbie’s going raw). It’s been an evolution. Then, dropping wheat was a big change. But since then, last fall, it has been slow, gradually having fewer of the “falls of the wagon.”

      I hope that sheds some light.

      I’ll also suggest that my use of the word “moderation” might be wrong from the get-go: We’re pretty much 100% raw — for sure 90%+ — during the week, and then have two or three meals, tops, during the weekend that isn’t raw. That might already be extreme.

      Since we’re all talking diet, here’s another thing to toss out there, which Bobbie and I have been talking about: How do we prepare for three weeks in India? Do we gradually bring more cooked food into our diet to get ready or do we just get to India and eat the local, cooked food and hope for the best? (Keeping in mind the basic idea of this post: When we don’t eat raw, we feel lousy after.)


  4. Oh, and one other thing: We also cut out processed foods as much as possible (although we didn’t eat very much processed foods to begin with). But that can be a challenge for vegetarians — your veggie burgers and such are all processed.

    In fact, as I think about it, if I had to describe our diet, I think “no processed foods” is probably the best description.


  5. Same experience here about changing diet when started to do my practice daily. Well at least pretty similar experience… I can’t live without wheat (I’m definitely Italian on that: pizza and pasta my favorite ones :D) but still I daily try to reduce as much consumption of processed food as possible. Moreover, what about skipping dinner? I realized can be veeeery challening in terms of keeping up relationships whenever you’re not spending time in Mysore where everybody follow the same rythm. And still, the body seems to be definitely not the same any time you go for dinner and than being on the mat at 6.30am… Asthanga is said to be the Yoga of No so that might need some renounciations here and there. On the other side, they also say Yoga is Freedom… how all those diet restrictions go with that? don’t have the answer….


    1. One thing that hasn’t changed is dinner. We typically eat after 8 p.m. — but keep in mind, when I say “eat” I mean a huge salad, all raw, which at this point we digest easily.

      To Thad’s comments above, my ability to still have a drink and late dinner, I think, means I can cruise down the Yamuna River without fear. 🙂

      I hate to do this to you, Rosa, but you should see what happens if you give up that pizza and pasta (or at least make sure you’re eating non-hybridized wheat) for a week or so and see what happens.


  6. Really like this diet related discussion. It helps to know how to make changes (slowly) and what the purpose is. I am very curious to know what one eats for a raw diet, am, pm, etc. and when you do eat cooked, what is the choice?

    1. You sure you wanna know? OK…

      Breakfast: a raw cereal (nuts, dried fruits, some other stuff) of our own making/combining from bulk food bins; sprouted nut (almond, walnut) “milk” (whirred up in the Vita-Mix). Maybe a banana or something, but not usually.

      Snacks: One of our non-raw items: roasted nuts. Sometimes raw nuts. The usual combo of carrots, grape tomatoes, etc.

      Lunch: Salad. Maybe an avocado to “bulk it up.” Oil and vinegar dressing. I’ll sometimes not even include lettuce and go with broccoli, bok choy, cabbage, peppers. But “green and leafy” is the basic idea.

      Afternoon: Green “smoothie.” But that makes it sound good. It isn’t: spinach, kale, parsley, celery, maybe a jalepeno, mint, other leafs + water. NO FRUIT. Bobbie, more so than I, might add coconut butter.

      Dinner: Any combo of salad and raw soup (from various raw cook books) or other raw “meals” — “tacos”, “meatloaf,” “Shepherd’s pie,” etc.

      Copious amounts of coffee, of course, and raw chocolate.

      Rinse, repeat. 🙂

      When we do eat cooked, well, as this post suggests, the meals are getting more healthy. We used to feel like we could “live it up” because the rest of our diet was so good. Now, living it up ain’t as large as it was.

      We’ve been eating dosas lately. Those don’t have wheat!


      1. Wow, thanks. It is hard to picture, and this is a help to know how to do it. And while you think you should be deprived of what you are omitting, over time it sounds like you’ve reset your values, and see how the new way serves you. The interesting part will be travel in India. Eddie should have some way to help you with that. Thanks for your very interesting blog. I am a devoted reader. Thanks

  7. In a new quandary myself after experimenting with a juice fast (lasted 24 days even though I was aiming for 60, lost my mojo when hubby fell ill.). Felt light and fantastic, lost my extra belly roll and found those darned maricyasana binds getting easier and easier. Then dear hubby, after 28 days of juicing, came down with a painful kidney stone. After reading up about such things it turns out our very sattvik diet was also extremely high in oxalates. Our ‘on the wagon’ diet was high in green leafy veg, beetroot, raw nuts, and our ‘off the wagon’ included wheat, coffee and dark chocolate. ALL of which is high oxalate. Now we are back to iceberg lettuce for salads and steering clear of kale, quinoa, soy, nuts and all things oxalate rich, hubby feels better already, pain is subsiding and hopefully the stone will shrink. Time for a major rethink or just give up on food and live on prana hey.

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