Healthy Eating, Changing Habits, and the Alexander Technique
A few weeks ago I attended a wonderful cooking class taught by my friend Theresa Piane Taylor, who’s a health coach here in Wilmington, Delaware. The title of the class was “Eating Green” and Theresa introduced us to recipes using a wide variety of different green, leafy vegetables, something that is missing from the diet of most Americans. Theresa encouraged us to include these greens in our diet – every day – as they provide a whole host of essential vitamins and minerals.
As we sampled all the yummy recipes (my favorites were Kale, sautéed with garlic, walnuts and cranberries and the Arugula, Green Bean and Salmon Salad) my thoughts turned to how difficult it is for us to change our habits – even if we know they are bad for us. With food this could be trying to include more greens in our diet (as we were being encouraged to in the class), committing to cooking more meals at home or simply choosing a piece of fruit instead of a cookie.
Dealing with habit is at the heart of the Alexander Technique. While Alexander principles can be used to help address any habit, they are commonly used to address those of poor posture or coordination, and excess tension – those habits that can cause us pain, fatigue and anxiety and that stop us performing at our best.
However, as I worked with Theresa over the last year on making changes to my diet, it seemed clear to me that the Alexander Technique was an extremely useful skill to have up my sleeve to help me change these habits too. The ability to pause, think through the available options to make an informed, conscious choice, and follow through on the steps needed to make the changes, was completely applicable and invaluable to me as I addressed my eating habits.
Highlights of changes I successfully made are:
- I’m pretty much caffeine-free now (just a little bit of chocolate occasionally!)
- My diet is no longer wheat-based (used to be almost every meal; now I can go a few days without wheat and not even notice)
- My diet now includes lots of other whole grains (barley, oats, brown rice and quinoa are some of my new favorites)
- I eat a lot more, and a greater variety of, leafy greens (and love them!)
Life goes on, and I’m still learning and forming new habits – but if I need or want to change one, I can rely on the Alexander Technique to help me see it through.
Do you have habits you have successfully changed? What do you still struggle with? I’d be interested to know what approaches have helped you.
GREAT blog post Imogen! I am currently making some changes to my diet and I love the idea of using AT for this. Wow it has endless possibilities and uses!
Thanks, Louise. Making changes is always tough, but using an Alexander approach is always helpful 🙂
One more thing, Theresa’s approach to dietary changes was one of crowding out the bad stuff by including lots of the new stuff. So rather than feeling deprived, it’s more like you just get lots of different foods to try.
I completely changed my eating habits over several years–I absolutely love those leafy greens! I eat lots of kale (had it tonight!), also Chinese greens (gaillon, yuchoy, bok choy), and cruciferous veggies like broccoli and cauliflower. I am sugar and wheat free, too (gluten free, really, which is just a bit broader). I have to say getting off caffeine was one of the hardest things–and it was just caffeine from tea! But wow – talk about a few days of feeling completely drugged…
Glad you are making such positive changes and encouraging it in others.
The Reflective Writer
Personal-Professional Balance Through Writing
I have really grown to love those dark leafy greens – kale is a special favorite. I am not sugar or wheat/gluten free, but am definitely “light” in both those areas, and I know I am better for it. Maybe one day I’ll go the whole hog, but as I don’t have a major sensitivity I’m not willing to be strict about it. I certainly know now when I do eat a meal that’s got a lot of wheat in it, I feel very stodgy and bloated. I hadn’t noticed that before, because almost every meal was that way. It’s definitely an interesting process, and we have such strong habits, even addictions, when it comes to the foods we crave…
I wholeheartedly agree, Imogen! I love my greens (kale, arugula, spinach & bok choy are big favorites!). I sometimes put them through the juicer for a really intense shot of goodness 🙂
My biggest dietary changes have been giving up caffeine (that was about 10 years ago & now if I have it by accident, I feel jittery & awful) and going vegetarian (almost 4 years ago). I feel SO much better (physically, mentally & spiritually) giving up meat — just couldn’t do it anymore.
Cheers to more success in 2012!
Heidi & Atticus
“commentary to give you paws…”
I’m not vegetarian, but I don’t eat a lot of meat – who knows, maybe that will be a next step at some point. Caffeine is a huge one, isn’t it? People who knew me 10 years ago will know that I was attached (almost literally) to my mug of coffee in the morning! And then, I am English, and I gave up black tea too. Once you got over it, amazing how better my energy levels were – and how much more consistent. Sounds like you have made some amazing changes for the better, Heidi, and I wish you all the best for 2012 too!
Imogen, I do have some less than healthy eating habits (caffeine & chocolate are the worst) but I like what you said in your follow up comment about crowding out the bad stuff with the good stuff. You’re so right that it’s about forming new habits.
caregiving. family. advocacy.
Yes, the crowding out principle really appealed to me as very helpful. You never feel deprived that way. If someone says I can’t do (in this case “eat”) something, I think, like a lot of people, it makes me want it more. “Crowding out” turns it the other way round – rather try adding this a few times a week, for instance.
That’s the smart thinking we could all benefit from.
It looks like I agree with almost everyone else ~ the hardest for me to give up was caffeine and chocolate. Once I got past the first few weeks, it got easier. I drink one or two sodas a week ~ caffeine free Coke. I’ll have some chocolate or cookies once in awhile but I find my body doesn’t seem to like it anymore. I think I do it because I’m used to those bad habits and my brain is telling me to do it! lol
I’m hoping to work on eating better this year. I’ve been researching recipes on-line and trying to be more creative in adding veggies to meals.
It’s interesting once we give our body a break from certain foods, that often they don’t seem as good when we have them again. Or maybe, more accurately, we notice better how our body reacts to those foods, which may not be so good.
I don’t think I’ll ever give up chocolate 100%!