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'Diet' is not about losing weight or looking slim. It is about what you eat. Many people look thin but are actually quite unhealthy.
If you eat junk food, then the nutritional value is poor and your fitness suffers. If you eat well, your body is stronger, more resilient and less prone to illness.
A martial artist should pay particular attention to their diet: drink plenty of water, fresh fruit and vegetables, pulses, rice, beans, grains, nuts and seeds.
Fast food/junk food, preservatives, additives, nicotine and an excess of alcohol hamper your efforts to be healthy.
Diet & exercise
Do not underestimate the importance of balancing diet and exercise. You may train all hours but if your food intake is shoddy, your body will not receive the necessary nutrition.
Some students live off fast food.
Tai chi is concerned with fitness. If you are not healthy, then your martial skills are meaningless.
You may spend hours learning how to defend your body. You may claim to be committed to an ongoing quest aimed at preserving your fitness and wellbeing.
Yet if you are inflicting harm upon yourself by eating junk food, what is the point? Can you see the contradiction?
Just be wary of what you choose to eat. Remember that burger outlets lace their products with an unhealthy cocktail of addictive chemicals.
Ask yourself if what you are eating can really be considered food at all?
Food is supposed to improve your wellbeing, give you energy and make you feel good. Junk food may taste nice but sugar, salt and additives are not healthy.
Watch the film Supersize Me if you need convincing.
If you eat well and drink plenty of water you will reap the benefits. A variety of fresh fruit and vegetables consumed daily is ideal.
Go for choice: the more diverse your intake of healthy food, the wider the spread of nutrients.
Aim to stagger your food types across the week. You can still eat some junk if you want to. It is up to you. Just keep it minimal.
If you can do without it, even better. Just remember what junk food is and what it does to your body.
Some packets will tell you that the food is low fat, and this may be true, but is it low sugar also? Does it have additives, preservatives and flavouring? What is the salt content?
Convenience food is generally not good for you.
Salt, sugar and caffeine
Many people are addicted to salt, sugar and caffeine. Nicotine and alcohol too.
If you think that you are not addicted, why not take a month off and see if you can manage without craving?
Giving up these items has a serious effect upon your fitness. Particularly if you also start to eat a more balanced diet.
Your muscle to fat ratio will change. Your excrement will be a different colour and consistency, and you may need to go more often.
Your skin will be less prone to spots. Your immune system will be boosted. Your body will move better. You will feel more energised. You will feel calmer. You will sleep better.
Listen to your body
Many things that we eat provide no nutritional value. We eat from boredom. We eat because it feels nice to eat. We eat because our mind has been programmed to want rather than need.
Listen to your body. Not to advertising.
Are you actually hungry at all? Will chocolate nourish your body?
Most people know that they should be eating 5 portions of fruit and vegetables per day.
How hard can it be to eat that much? How much is one portion?
One piece of medium-sized fruit - an apple, peach, banana or orange
One slice of large fruit, such as melon, mango or pineapple
One handful of grapes or two handfuls of cherries or berry fruits
One tablespoon of dried fruit
A glass of fruit or vegetable juice
A side salad
A serving of vegetables
The vegetables served in a portion of vegetable curry, lasagne or casserole
This is just the
beginning of eating well.
If you are earnest and really want to improve your fitness, then increase your water intake and cut out fat, alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, salt and sugar.
Rather than follow a severe regime of fasting, why not try something simpler? Just eat real food.
This may sound obvious, but try eating nothing but real food. Just fruit, vegetables, pulses, grains, nuts and seeds. And plenty of water.
Nothing processed. No additives. No colouring. No preservatives. No packet food. No junk food. No desserts. No alcohol. No caffeine.
Try to reduce your dairy intake and aim to eat organic produce whenever possible.
Raw food is often best, but make sure that you wash it thoroughly.
Eat plenty of wholegrain food such as brown rice and whole wheat bread.
If you feel hungry, then eat. Just be selective. Have a banana or a plum rather than a chocolate bar.
Why are you dieting?
People diet for many different reasons:
Quality of life
Your motive will strongly affect how you approach the diet. It will affect how you approach the process of dieting and perhaps determine what your expectations are.
If your motive is purely fitness, and not simply weight loss, then it is easier to be patient.
If you are expecting to lose weight fast, or to meet a certain defined target: wedding, holiday etc... then dieting is harder because you are under pressure.
'Choice' is commonly seen as being an expression of freedom. In reality, choice indicates confusion.
e.g. a thirsty person is offered a choice of glass of water or a glass of sand. Which will they choose?
The answer is obvious. Many apparent choices exist because we have contradictory, conflictive desires.
We want to eat cake but know we should be eating fruit instead.
There is conflict between fitness or self-indulgence, between immediate gratification or long-term benefits.
But this choice only exists if we are confused. A clear mind sees the path ahead.
For the person who recognises the nature of food and the importance of nutrition, there is no conflict, no resistance.
They do not want to eat cake. They would rather be slim and healthy. Dieting is only a chore if you have doubts, resistance, conflict. Confusion.
Think deeply about what you want. Look at the pros and cons. Decide what you want to do. Determine if this is really what you want.
If you earnestly want to eat well, then changing your diet is a joyful experience, not an ordeal.
It's amazing how pervasive food is.
Every second commercial is for food. Every second TV episode takes place around a meal.
In the city, you can't go ten feet without seeing or smelling a restaurant. There are 20 foot high hamburgers up on billboards. I am acutely aware of food, and its omnipresence is astounding.
18 April 1995
Last updated 25 April 2021