Yoga, The Accidental Diet

Yoga is a diet? Erm, Andrew, you’ve been banging away about yoga as a vigorous, whole body workout. What’s this, “Yoga is a diet” stuff.

It’s no secret that I found a healthy lifestyle with regular yoga as its cornerstone to be transformative, it radically changed my life. It lowered my stress, improved my sleep, helped me to repair my marriage and learn to be a better daddy. At the same time I added 25 pounds of muscle, dropped almost two inches off my waistline and fixed up my back and posture.

I’m lean, limber and strong. I don’t have back pains, I don’t pull muscles and activities (yard work, gardening, construction projects) that used to cause pain, sore muscles and days of recovery just…don’t.

One of the funny little things that happened along the way was I lost my junk food cravings, helping me to clean up my diet. This happened for both my wife and me, and just this morning we were talking about it.

You see, her sister and cousins are having a girls weekend in Vegas. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to there, but one of the things about Vegas is buffets, meaning you have a tendency to eat stuff you wouldn’t normally eat, and to eat too much of it.

And that was what Mrs. Andrew and I were talking about. There was a time when we’d go out to the buffets and absolutely stuff ourselves. Now, not so much. She mentioned that she’d rather eat less of good food than stuff herself with so-so offerings at the buffet.

Then, coincidentally, I was checking my email and the header of my daily blast from was “To Eat or Not to Eat After Yoga.” Included in the article was a link to “7 Proven Health Benefits of Yoga.”

Before I continue, my usual disclaimer type thingy. I am in no way associated with mindbodygreen. They’ve got a cool site with great ideas, and I am on their email list. Check them out for yourselves.

Anyway, to continue, each of these articles touched on something I’ve been jabbering about, at one time or another; the health benefits of yoga, and better diet through yoga. I’ll not tire you with another go round on the general benefits of yoga and simply focus on diet.

When I wrote about how I stopped eating crap I mentioned that I was eating less garbage, and that when I did, I didn’t enjoy it like I used to. I didn’t know why, just that:

Some combination of improved diet and sweating out the garbage left me lacking the desire to eat crap, and on the occasions I did (out of habit, or nostalgia) I regretted it. It stopped tasting good, and my body rebelled against being poisoned. It bothered my stomach, messed with my digestion, degraded my athletic performance and screwed up my sleep.

Well I’m not the only one to notice this. It is one of the things noted in mindbodygreen’s 7 health benefits article:

NutritionThe Journal of the American Dietetic Association reported a unique connection between a regular yoga practice and eating healthier. Yoga is believed to increase mindful eating: being aware of why you eat and when to stop. Curiously, no other type of physical activity produced the same mindful eating effects.

I like the first part, the correlation between regular yoga and eating better. I like the third part, that no other activity produced the same effect. These describe exactly what I have experienced. It’s the middle bit I have trouble with.

When I began my regular yoga practice, I had no “mindful eating” experience. I’ve encountered yogis for whom yoga is more than just exercise, it’s a lifestyle choice, and being mindful of their eating is absolutely a part of it; vegan this, free range that, all natural the other thing and above all organic, organic, organic. This does not describe me.

My dietary advice is really simple; ignore the ex-spurts, and eat like your grandmother did. Along with, my food choices are also really simple; if my wife puts it in front of me, I eat it. That’s my diet plan. Eat what I’m given and thank my wonderful wife for a great meal. So the whole, “being aware of why you eat and when to stop” zoomed right on by.

At the same time, the effect noted by the American Dietetic Association absolutely occurred with me. Yes, I was eating heathier, but that was an effect of my wife serving healthy meals to our boys, nothing more. Certainly not mindfulness of “why you eat and whdn to stop.” And I stopped eating crap. When coworkers brought doughnuts, cookies, muffins, etc. to celebrate birthdays or work anniversaries or whatever, I didn’t eat them. As I noted above, if I did I ended up regretting it.

So, if it’s not food mindfulness, what is it?

I don’t know.

Again with the “I don’t know, Andrew?”

Yup, and what’s more, I don’t very much care. I imagine it has something to do with reduced stress and improved sleep;

  • lowered cortisol
  • better rest = greater resistance to cravings
  • better serotonin levels

But, again, I don’t really know.

There are times when I really want to know why something works, and someday I may dive into why yoga, uniquely among exercises, changes what you eat, and the way you eat. But for now, I’m happy to simply receive the benefits of an improved diet; better health, fat loss, muscle gain, improved sleep, etc.