I wait tables most weeks and because of what I eat, I discuss my eating habits many times a day. For this reason it hasn’t made a lot of appearances in what I write here on the blog. However, seeing as it is such a huge part of my life and because diet in general is such a huge component of our health, I believe it’s time to take that step and delve a little bit into what we eat, and how elementalism can be used to establish a healthy diet.
The word diet itself is not usually a pleasant one. I personally do not enjoy the way the word is misinterpreted either. We are always “on a diet”, we can never be “dieting”. The food we eat makes up our diet, and regardless of what that it is, it is still our diet. We cannot “go on a diet” because we are always on a diet. The question is, how do we make it a healthy diet?. It is one of our primal needs, and our bodies naturally look for sources to supply it. When we eat our body releases dopamine to encourage us to find more food just like the other animals of the world. When the food is unlimited, however, our biology tells us we need to consume what we can, in order to store excess for later. This concept leads U.S citizens especially to over-consumption because our food is always “unlimited.” .
So how can we stop ourselves from over-consumption if it’s linked to our biology? If this had a simple answer obesity wouldn’t be the epidemic it is in the United States now. What works for me is a combination of two approaches. These two approaches are: Redefining Food for myself, and understanding how calories are used by the body.
Calories In, and Calories Out
Understanding how calories are actually used by the body, and what a caloric deficit looks like for your age, weight, and activity level is crucial. No matter what your idea of healthy weight is, you need to know roughly how many calories your body burns in a day, and how many you typically eat. There is no secret to weight other than calories in and out. It is the direct transfer of energy. Sure there are plenty of things that affect the way you absorb calories, or influence your metabolic system, but regardless of what those are, you only gain weight if you burn less calories than you consume, and lose weight if you burn more. This is a fact, and it is the singular most important aspect of weight management.
Coincidentally September and October of 2019, when I first became vegan, were the months in my life that I weighed the most at 6’0” 208lbs. I never thought of myself as overweight. In fact I don’t really believe I was at a necessarily unhealthy weight. I see myself now, and can see how much healthier I look compared to photos and videos of myself then, but this version of myself wasn’t even in my 5 year plan at that point in my life, and in this way, weight was a symptom of a much larger issue that I couldn’t understand until I was on the other side of it.
Defining “Food” and “Healthy Diet”
This brings me to the second approach that is necessary for me: redefining what I understand as food. Now, the CDC defines a healthy diet one way, but there are still things on that list that I can’t even consider edible anymore. It sounds absurd because it is. The absurdity stems from how far removed we are from real food, and requires an equal action to rectify in our lives.. If we stop viewing things that you don’t want to eat as food, then we will no longer eat them. Easier said than done absolutely, but it works for me, and I believe that it will work for others too.
The biggest example of this working for me was in October of 2019, when I made the transition from Octo-Lacto Vegetarian, to Vegan. The urge to drink milk and eat cheese didn’t just magically go away when I decided to stop eating them, my body was physically addicted to them. It felt akin to caffeine or nicotine withdrawal, two things I was already familiar with. After researching why this was happening, I found that dairy products activate our opioid receptors, and while it is minimal, it is noticeable when you go from getting most of your daily calories from dairy to none. Once I realized my body was actually craving this substance, I began to see it as something other than food. I was able to perceive it as a toxic, and addictive substance like tobacco, and only after that did the cravings begin to disappear. In fact, in my day to day life, the smell of asiago cheese has made me wretch when caught off-guard by it, something that the 2018 version of me would have devoured with a grin.
After noticing my perspective shift on dairy products, I realized I had already done this before when I became vegetarian in August of 2016, which differed from the first attempt in 2015 because I finally began to see animals as extensions of consciousness, instead of a food product. Because of that, I stopped viewing animals, living or dead, as food, and I no longer looked at a plate of animals and wanted to eat it.
My focus on the elements in holistic health showed me that a healthy diet demonstrates a large portion of the influence of elemental earth. Our diet is our routine, it is the foundation for our bodies, our lives, and our health. Holistic and vitalistic ideas on health always support a major focus on maintaining a healthy diet because it is believed, in most of those traditions, that our physical health is a direct result of what we put into our physical body. The interconnection of elements became even more evident to me as I removed things from my diet that were hurting my spirit and emotions though I didn’t realize how much until after. Even my mental space was clouded and distracted by what I had been taught to eat by society, compared to what my subconscious knew I should be eating.
It is not my plan to change you, or the person you love being. If you love yourself I only want to empower you to do that more. This article is only a way to expand on something I discuss frequently in my life, and hopefully share a helpful perspective on something every one of us can relate to. Though I have many hours of accredited holistic study on healthy diet and nutrition, I am not a dietitian or nutritionist. These ideas worked for me and continue working today and it is my hope that they could also work for one other person willing to read and practice them.
The blog itself has seen a lot of changes in the past month. I am sure that it is no coincidence that my life has also seen many changes. I believe that the reason I started implementing so many changes was because I felt compelled to do the things I casually thought that I “should” be doing. Not just chores, or reading, but living the life of the person I want to claim to be. I always felt compelled to write with purpose, but never felt like I was achieving.
I had to fight impostor syndrome, which was never something I thought I’d have to do. I googled all the answers, “Be kind to yourself, celebrating success, embracing the feeling” but I couldn’t find relief in the disconnect I felt. This frustration led my life down a path of clarification. I knew that if I had a concrete sense of direction and image of myself, for only myself, then those feelings would surface less frequently. At first it started as simple changes in my life, then I saw an email about renewing the domain name of the website. Bringing to my attention it had been a year since I started the blog. This made me realize that my changes in vision needed to extend to the blog. In this way I observed my image as this earthy, almost material thing, beginning to share balanced interaction with my motivational fire
The blog has always been intended as the avenue of my purpose, a way to publish the words that needed their own specific place. Describing the feeling elementally, it was like my earth (image, material, density) and fire (purpose, creativity, mission) began to stop disagreeing, and find a bit more peace. Even still I observed something else: though I observed the direct change in two elements, their movement toward harmony also inspired balance in my emotions. My elemental water, which I hadn’t even realized at the time, was disturbed by the disagreement of my fire and earth.
This came just two days after finishing the Elemental Imbalance series of posts here, and really solidified something I touched on. No matter what singular element we may be able to consciously recognize as the agitator, each element is disturbed by the imbalance. The Ayurveda concept of dehydration causing a decreased “stomach fire” (agni, digestion), made me remember reading that imbalanced fire can cause synergistic response with water. In this way our emotions “run hot” when our water rises to combat excessive fire, but we may be apathetic and emotionally low when our motivational fire is simultaneously low.
At first the website changes were hard. Much harder, in fact, then I actually thought they would be. Deciding on a new domain, designing the blog around it, I realized every post seemed to wander in different directions of my own self image. Even two weeks into the new domain, I found myself editing the “About” page 5 times a day because it just wasn’t me, or wasn’t what the blog is. Only when I started removing the “credibility” paragraphs, did I feel the need to be validated by the posts lighten. Instead describing myself and the amount of holistic education I paid for over the years, I just explained what I have been this whole time, a blogger. I didn’t need to be anything more or less for the blog. Just as we are beings, and don’t need anything more or less to be
That’s when the words seemed to ring in my brain like crash of a gong. “Describe what the hell it is!” I needed to sit down, and just describe what I was doing, what I wanted to do, and why I wanted to do it. Remove the ideas that came from capitalism and marketing jobs, then summarize what’s left into a website. Within a day I felt the path brighten more than I had in over a year. I removed the credentials, and by doing so, removed the expectations put on me by myself and others. I gave myself the space to transform into the new shape I had been desperately trying to force myself to fit.
So many times I think we as humans are tied up by expectations. We cleverly disguise them as “goals” or “vision” but that’s not what they are. They are a pass or fail metric that we implement on ourselves. Some Buddhists believe the second noble truth links the cause of suffering to expectations and attachments. That to hold an expectation for yourself or others is a great disservice to them, because expectations introduce suffering. How often do we see this in the world around us? Children expected to learn the same as one another, though their brains as unique as snowflakes. Couples expected to have children, though birth is a literal miracle. The list could go on for ages as each of us remember an expectation we had no desire to meet, but how many of these same expectations have we placed on ourselves?
We deserve to experience existence without fear of failing to meet someone’s expectations, especially our own. Our life is a miracle. That we woke up to enjoy it at all is incredible. Remind yourself that you are a being, and know that is the only requirement to be. When we’re busy with the flow of the day, ask ourselves what things we actually have to do, and why. If we can remove expectations, then we can certainly transform suffering into healing
Alchemy, the term, dates back to medieval days. It is considered the precursor to chemistry. Alchemy is interesting, as its focus was the transformation of matter, most popularly, lead into gold. This idea was eventually recognized as impossible, at that time. In fact these days there is a method called Nuclear Transmutation that can actually turn lead into gold, in minuscule amounts. The elements have been represented in alchemy since its conception, and they are present in what we can consider modern alchemy also.
However, the study of lead to gold is not the premise of what most people would recognize as modern alchemy. These days, what you will find researching “modern” or “spiritual” alchemy is the idea that, like lead into gold, we can transmute our being into something else. It is a way to transform yourself into what you want. With this in mind we begin to see how powerful an idea like that can be, and elementalism as an alchemical concept. Just as an alchemist of the medieval era would study turning physical lead into gold, elementalism seeks to transform our undesired aspects into something more.
Modern alchemy is not a religion, but a process of understanding the nature of consciousness and being. In fact most ideas around alchemy today encourage that you delve into the religion you understand and accept. The idea of being a singular part of a connected whole is strongly encouraged. That can be achieved through your own spiritual journey. Fire is the element of spirituality and change, so having a healthy amount of spirituality and creativity is important.
By balancing all four parts of our being, we are enabled to transform what is currently our life, into the life we envision. Many “maps” of this kind exist, astrology, the chakra system, herbalism, vitalism. Each of these is equally as intelligent in their own right, a part of the whole, when looking at them from a holistic approach. Just as they are part of the whole, so too is elementalism, and while we all cannot relate and understand those things entirely, these different maps give us a different perspective on the whole information. This is why elementalism works within the realms of all of these maps, and especially well in tandem with others. Maybe that’s because human’s work much the same way, capable of anything alone, but everything together.
One motto in Alchemy is “Solve et Coagula” which translates to “dissolve and coagulate”. It is the idea that something must be broken down to be built up into something new. In this same way the elements represents singular aspects of all things, and we can break down and reform them into the shape, or balance, of something new. Going back to the blog post on the Philosopher’s stone, our perspective of anything is the only thing we know of it. That implies the idea that how you perceive your being and its balance with existence is what makes up your reality. This is why it is important to visualize the future your will be living in, and see it becoming what needs to be. Take control of your perception and watch as you perceive lead change into gold.
The Tips of Tender
Extracted from years of my life spent reading, writing, and studying, it is my vow that this blog will remain free of ads, at no cost to you. The years spent creating this space have been incredibly fulfilling for me, but also require a diligent balance of time and money. Most days you can find me waiting tables to make ends meet, as gratuity is the most compatible form of compensation with my spirit. With that in mind if my words have brought you any illumination, please consider a humble donation.