Recently I was attending a talk by world-renowned spiritual Guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar in Los Angeles, and a lady asked a question to the guru: "Is life only a destiny?" To answer her question, the guru asked her, "What is your height?" She was amazed by this question, but she answered. Then came the second question: "What is your weight?" She sounded even more clueless. Then Guru said, "See, your height is destiny, but weight is your free will." Wow, what a simple explanation to such a profound question!
Yes, our weight is indeed free will—but in today's culture of stresses and excesses, reaching and maintaining a healthy weight can be a daunting task. Here are six ways to actually make that happen:
1. Aim for lasting, holistic change.
Losing unwanted weight and keeping it off really isn't as simple as eating less and exercising more. It requires a variety of deliberate life adjustments and experimentally combining separate-but-intertwining skill sets in five key areas: lifestyle, nutrition, fitness, psychology, and spirituality. Weight and food issues are complex, involving the body, the mind, and the spirit. Therefore, the solution must be holistic, integrating all of these aspects.
Instant fixes and miracle cures will not create lasting and healthy change. It is essential to be willing to implement simple, persistent lifestyle habits and work through self-harming patterns. You must be ready to overcome emotional or psychological problems linked to food, letting go of nutritional and fitness misconceptions. Weight issues do not happen all at once, and overcoming them will not happen all at once.
2. Work on improving your free will.
Spirituality gives us a broader outlook on life and connects us to our higher purpose. With this we are more likely to make conscious food and lifestyle decisions that have sustainable long-term effects. We are not carried away so easily by quick fixes or short-term temptations.
This will build a natural self-discipline that will bring you enormous and real freedom. According to Guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, "If you chant, meditate, and do pranayama (breath work), your free will and freedom increases." This freedom will empower you to look forward to the long-term benefits of health and let go of the instant gratification of unhealthy foods. By empowering yourself to be in charge of your health and your life, you will see health as your real wealth and your body as a divine instrument to live a meaningful life.
3. Make mental peace a priority.
Studies also show that chronically stressed people tend to eat more calorie-dense junk or unhealthy foods and have irregular lifestyles. Yoga, which literally means "the union of the body, mind, and soul," is a spiritual route to weight loss. And that is why yoga is such an effective way to tackle this complex issue. Yoga is certainly a means to that end but not exactly in the way one would expect.
Yoga helps you to develop a leaner, more supple body, not by emphasizing a restricted food intake and targeted muscle-building but by nurturing an attitude adjustment that paves the way for long-term change. Regular practice of all eight limbs of yoga establishes physical and mental poise in a natural, gradual, lasting, and organic way. When we are at peace, we naturally choose good things for ourselves, be it food or other habits.
4. Honor and appreciate your body.
When practiced regularly and in a disciplined way, yoga improves not only one's physical health but also mental and emotional health. Practicing yoga changes the way you approach life, your body, and eating. Yoga shows you how to honor and appreciate your body for all of the amazing things that it can do for you and points you in the direction of wanting to fill your body with the best possible fuel rather than indulging in processed junk food. And for sure, changing your mind or the way you look at your body and the foods you feed it will be a much more effective weight-loss tool than mindlessly following any diet fads.
5. Fall in love with healthy living.
Typical weight-loss programs address the symptom (excess fat) and ignore the cause, which is essentially an imbalance caused by or manifested as any range of emotional problems or poor lifestyle habits. As with going to the gym, burning calories is not the most important thing to a yogi. Yes, aerobic exercise burns calories and can help you lose weight.
But does it change you internally, thereby causing lasting weight loss? The calorie-calculated weight-loss program does ultimately create a load on the system, and eventually one gets bored and stressed by constantly having to watch and burn calories! Yoga fosters a body awareness and discipline, which is something that goes deeper than calorie burning.
Yoga cleanses and purifies our body from the inside and makes you naturally want to put healthier and nourishing things into your body. Over a period of time, your taste buds change, as do your cravings and aversions. Thus it can lead to healthier eating, mindful living, and self-care. Yoga can make you fall in love with healthy living.
Through a sustained and devoted yoga practice, your body will change, your health and metabolism will improve, and your peace of mind and loving self-discipline will return. A balanced mind and self-discipline are key components for solving any kind of life problems; sustainable weight-loss is just one of them.
6. Experiment with reactive and emotional eating.
Are you ready for a three-week-long experiment? The next time your favorite chips are in front of you and you are tempted to eat the whole package, just snap your fingers in front of your eyes three times.
Take three deep breaths—inhale slowly for a count of four, exhale slowly for a count of six, let go, and relax. And ask yourself these questions:
Is eating this package of chips going to make my life easy or difficult? What will happen if I don't eat the package? What is a better or healthier option than eating the package of chips at this moment?
If you, like so many of us, have tried many quick-fix solutions and you are feeling frustrated, don't give up. I am sharing this wisdom with the intention that it will help you to regain your hope and confidence and you will be ready to give it yet another try.