Are you “experienced”?
Have you ever been “experienced”?
Well, I have…
~ Jimi Hendrix, Are You Experienced?
According to the legendary rock star himself, the above song was not necessarily written about drugs, but about being at peace with yourself. That’s cool. But the song – with its revolutionary psychedelic effects—sounded like a drug testimony to me! Yet arguably, the most powerful “drug” of all to “experience” isn’t revolutionary at all—it’s the food we eat every day.
Food is certainly the biggest challenge to the majority of my personal training clients, and from what I can see, much of mankind.
The role of food has gone so far beyond its biological function (i.e.: nourishing the body) – particularly in modern times – that I don’t see how it will return to it’s original role.
I remember growing up, my mom baked dessert items on a near-daily basis. She had taken a cake-decorating class at a local adult school, and really went to town with it! We always had something sweet and delectable inside the Tupperware container on top of the fridge, and when it came time to celebrate our birthdays… forget about it!
And on the back patio, we had a second refrigerator packed with cans of soda. You can imagine how much sugar we were downing. And we were not in any way unusual among our neighbors…
…The habits of kids become the habits of adults…
Through its excessive use as a means of comfort, food has become the barrier of choice we have constructed to hide behind when the realities of life get too uncomfortable. There is something mind and perhaps soul numbing in eating excessively in general, or eating certain kinds of foods. At the top of the mind-numbing totem pole is sugar.
And the most attractive of the sugars is the highly processed kind, table sugar – stripped of its fiber, it reaches our bloodstreams fast – like a heroin addict “mainlining” the drug straight into their vein.
There are other forms of sugar that are considered healthier, such as cane sugar. There is brown sugar (essentially white sugar with molasses). There is Agave (nectar) made from the sap of an Agave plant. It is still relatively new to the scene and originally received almost universal glowing praise. However, it is highly processed, and has come under more criticism recently; there is maple syrup (processed), and there is the classic natural sweetener, honey – raw, unheated, and unprocessed ensures its enzymes and nutrients are most potent.
I can tell you, though, that in my experience and that of many others, once the ingestion of sugar becomes a problem, even honey is rejected in various ways by the body. Here is a comparison between the effects of sugar and honey on diabetics.
Taking it a step further, even sweet fruit – as natural a package as “sweetness” comes in – can cause negative effects on those whose bodies do not process sugar well.
Some people have reactions to dairy, or wine. Both have a fair amount of sugar, which can sometimes be the issue.
It’s also common for foods that have not been a problem in the past to become a problem as a person ages. There can be many reasons ascribed to this. I believe one is that over the years, by overeating in general or overeating certain things – like sugar – the body has been compromised, and essentially needs a “reset.” Many detox diets work on this principle.
What to do? Of course, if you have a problem that warrants it, seek medical help. If you haven’t gotten to that point, consider keeping a food journal, and logging any time you have a particular reaction (physical or mental) to a food or craving for a food. You will soon see the patterns of what it is that is triggering the issue.
In terms of the body’s often adverse reaction to sugar, it may be necessary for certain individuals to minimize those reactions by minimizing their contact with any traditional sweetener, and use stevia (an herb originally from South America), xylitol (a sugar alcohol extracted from the fiber of various fruits and vegetables), or a few others. Here’s a list of popular sweeteners ranked. They may need to minimize their contact with sweet fruits, sticking to more sour fruits such as lemons, limes, grapefruit, pomegranates, and cranberry.
Some have said that it’s best to stay away from even “healthy” sweeteners such as stevia, because their natural sweetness awakens the body’s desire for more sweets. I can understand this, and have practiced this to some degree. But our bodies – and minds – love themselves some sweets!
Personally, I’ve cut back on my use of sugar in its various forms (including excessive “bad carbs”), by about ninety percent. One major benefit has been a serious reduction in belly fat.
This focus on the potential physical ill-effects from sweets tends to sidestep my original point that we are using food as the great hiding place from the often uncomfortable realities of living. I have no doubt this is the primary issue for most.
In reality, we’re typically dealing with an emotional – spiritual issue. This is one of the key reasons why the practice of fasting was done by the ancients, and is still done today in various forms – there is a sense of distance and ultimate control from the pull of “food as drug” that fasting can bring to an individual. Not to mention the powerful cleansing and “rebooting” effects it can have on the body. Seek medical advice as needed when it comes to fasting, particularly if you have issues such as diabetes or low blood sugar.
Lastly, pay attention to what you are doing when you eat. Resist the urge to mindlessly dive into a carton of ice cream late at night. See if you can notice the often subtle difference between an unnatural craving and true hunger. One way to do that is to notice if you are actually hungry at a given time. If not, picture your favorite food or dessert and notice the mouth-watering craving that arises. That will show you the difference.
There’s no question that food is one powerful “drug.” And as such, we must seek wisdom to overcome its potentially devastating hold over us. I wish you well in the journey of a lifetime.
If you have any questions about this column or would like to see me address a particular issue, send me an email at the link below. I look forward to hearing from you!
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Patrick Rooney is the Founder and President of GREEK PHYSIQUE™, LLC, which specializes in functional body sculpting for men and women in Middle Tennessee and worldwide via phone and Skype. Patrick is Certified through the National Association of Fitness Certification (NAFC). Email questions or training inquiries to [email protected].