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The Yoga of Eating: Transcending Diets and Dogma to Nourish the Natural Self Paperback – August, 2003
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"...a tremendous buy for one of the best books on health, diet, nutrition, and living that I've ever read." (Chet Day's Health & Beyond Weekly)
About the Author
Eisenstein (State College, PA) graduated from Yale in Mathematics & Philosophy, was a leading Chinese-English translator and editor of several publications in Taiwan and currently teaches in two departments at Penn State.
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
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Would rather go for the “good vibrations” of vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. Also in regards to eating saturated fats, read “How Not To Die,” by Dr. Michael Greger, who devotes his life to medical research concerning what foods do to our body—what foods lead to ill health and disease and what foods lead to an abundance of nutrition for the human body. Saturated fats can be toxic to the body!
I wouldn’t bother with this book.
If you have ever tried to find an answer to the question which diet is best for you, you must have experienced at least bits of this confusion, you must have tasted the empty calories of dietary advice. You might have been able to equip yourself with dozens of quick, at hand instructions, golden rules ready to be offered to anybody. For me personally, these new discoveries brought excitement and confidence (finally I got to the real stuff!); I couldn't stand not sharing with my friends until I noticed the ridicule this proselytization deserved. It's all very interesting, I concluded, but how do I know how what I have just read applies to me, not to mention the others?
We live in the information age. We feel attacked by attention sucking bits of digital matrix, until we see (understand) no more. Yet we become addicted to it. We get sick of it, but can't live without. We let so much of it enter our system, so that with time it becomes impossible to digest it all. And those who feel in need to know exactly are in particular danger of suffering all the symptoms of overeating of information. Knowledge, as opposed to information, becomes a rarity, a luxury, a... concept. An empty shell. And then, after yet another unsuccessful attempt to change our eating habits on the basis of some dietary information, we tend to blame, so rightly observes Eisenstein, our insufficient will power. Having discussed the fallacy of such statement the author goes on to point to the fundamental issue at the root of our problems with eating habits: the divided self, or, we shall say, the hungry or malnourished self. Coercion is really only what is left when we approach that which is so intimately ours - our bodies - with ideas abstracted from any perceivable experience of our own. The authority of this experience we have learnt, or have been taught not to trust. How often does it happen that we automatically and unquestioningly seek for answers outside of ourselves? The thought that it is in us, in our bodies to learn and find the best diet does not even occur to us. We seek for authority we can trust, be it science, religion, or some other ideology. The self is not to be trusted. How would the picture be different, if you made yourself such authority? Without imposing any dietary regimes? Knowing what's good for you, knowing how different foods taste and act on your body, your emotions, even your thoughts. Could you imagine a diet that is as natural to you as breathing? Do you really think you can find answer to this question: what does really nurture me? - around which the contents of the book develop - in books or on the Internet? Try, for that matter, to google the word 'diet'...
If you feel lost in the thickets of all dietary advice, ideologies, tips, principles, revelations that are out there; that are inconsistent and contradictory with each other; promising answers and sound dietary knowledge, but leaving us with none, or at best with a set of random ideas; unable to change our bad eating habits - if these or similar thoughts and observations are yours, then I recommend this book to you. Not because the author claims to have found the truth (from the outset of the book he makes it clear that he does not intend to give it) but because it proposes a different direction to follow. In my opinion, a much saner one. A kind of practice, one that cultivates certainty of orientation in issues of nutrition. Only then the astonishing amount of available information on nutrition have the potential of really serving us. The name of this practice is the Yoga of Eating.
Even the dictionary knowledge of the word 'yoga' should lend us a clue that in principle this must not be a book which deals with eating and eating only. As with any other yogic practice, this one is meant as a tool of bringing in more wholeness and integrity into the life of those who decide to implement it. There are different tools or, subsidiary supportive practices to the yoga of eating, which the author explains, but the point in all of them, the point of having the right kind of diet is simply joy. Not later, in some other space and time, but here in the very moment of indulging in the practice itself. The requirement is, however, that you take your time to patiently and attentively observe. This is the invitation here: to pay attention to yourself, your natural self, pay attention to your body, pay attention to subtler levels of joy which eating of food should be. There is even less to do than if you were practicing asanas. You just have to pay attention to sensations involved in the process of absorbing nutrition. Mind you, there is so much more to it than just what our 5 senses (in their ordinary use) can inform us. With this approach one doesn't have to rely on faith in external authority; one becomes ideology-proof, one simply cannot be dogmatic anymore about any kind of food, even the apparently harmful. Gradually, this new trust in authorizing your senses, develops a kind of sensitivity of ever more integral and whole self which makes possible a way out not only from detrimental eating habits, but at the same time a way out of the place in your life that's all but healthy for you and put you in a situation when you actually feel good. All you have to do is to start taking time to enjoy the process of eating. Sounds easy?
It will not come as surprise for readers, as we go past the title, to discover that this book does not represent a scientific approach to the subject matter. It's not written in the language of biology, chemistry, physiology, but rather from the point of view of the spirit. We should not, however, think it must be an array of some airy statements. For those who prefer to shun from any "spiritually"-based information, or simply from anything spiritual (new agey, alternative, pagan, etc.) I would like to point out that the book makes explicit the connection between the mundane (the physical "stuff" of the world) and spiritual - not to stress that common sense cannot embrace the invisible facets of food and eating; or that the latter is more true or higher/deeper (is always a cause to the former), but to say that it is perfectly sufficient to stay (but really stay) by the mundane. There is no dualism here. We don't have to hover above the here and now, our senses and intellect, in order to find our way to the right kind of diet. We should, in fact, do quite the opposite. Eisenstein, a spiritual seeker, but also a mathematician and philosopher does a good job in giving definitions of concepts originated in religious or spiritual traditions that appeal to and satisfy common sense logic and reason. Thus, he can use these remote concepts (e.g. yoga, karma) and derive fully common sense meaning from them without the need on our side to compromise our critical reason.
The content of the book is, however, more original than it is practical. The book sets a new direction, but does not give a detailed account of the proposed approach to eating, only some general ideas to begin with. Probably one reason for this is a differently conceived scope of the book, the other - the nature of the approach itself, fundamental purpose of which is to bring us closer to our own selves i.e. to invite us onto a new path of discovery and develop a science of eating, as I would like to call it, on our own. Only in this way, quite rightly observes the author, would the abundant literature on diet be of any real and effective use to us. Nothing is or should be set in stone: what applies to one individual at a given moment in time, does not have to be a rule to be followed by him always (not to mention: by everyone). In this way the book does justice to its non-dogmatic, balanced tone.