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Sweet treats Part 1: A personal food journey

It’s good to take some time out for life’s little pleasures now and then. As someone with a sweet tooth, those pleasures usually take the form of a (not so little) slice of cake!

These days confectionary and junk foods are cheap and easily available, we’re bombarded with offers on such items every time we visit the supermarket. Of course we all know that over-consumption of these products is bad for us - you don’t have to look very far to find the evidence. In the UK, obesity and diseases such as diabetes have risen significantly in recent years, partly due to our increasingly sedentary lifestyles and poor diets.

Proper diet is essential packing for the journey towards a yogic way of life. As part of the yoga teacher training course (TTC), my fellow students and I were introduced to the importance of nutritious sattvic foods (pure, wholesome, and clean sources of dietary energy). The great respect placed on meals we ate during the training program resonated with me, and since then I’ve enjoyed learning new recipes prepared with simple ingredients. While our bodies can survive on junk food when pushed to it, they’re simply not designed to process calorie dense foods day in-day out. I guess it’s true you are what you eat; soon after adopting a healthier diet I felt noticeably more energised and happier!

There have been bumps along the road, and while my diet is still far from being sattvic by any means, positive changes have been introduced gradually. From my experiences I found that, as with most things in life, it’s important to find balance in the foods we eat. While it is unhealthy to be consuming highly processed foods on a regular basis, it’s also probably not good for us to be denying ourselves these products completely if the mind has not yet detached from the desire for such foods. Growing up in an Indian family, food had always been present at special occasions. In particular sweets take the centre stage to mark major (and not-so-major) life events for many Indian households. Your child leaving for university? Send her off with mithai. Good exam results? Celebrate by buying your loved ones a box of sweets. Finished repainting the living room? Yep, you guessed it… get out those sweets! One common theme here is that our relationship with rich foods is one of celebration. Gathering with friends and family is part of the enjoyment, which is just as important as the food itself. In this way, decadent foods can be fully savoured for what they are: an occasional treat.

What seems to have happened somewhere along the way is that this vital relationship with food has been broken. As a society we now consume junk foods on an epic scale. Biscuits, crisps and pastries enjoy a permanent fixture on many of our weekly shopping lists. Science is now discovering that many of these foods are highly addictive. The high salt, fat, and sugar content appeal to our taste-buds which we humans evolved over thousands of years; preferring high calorie foods increased our chance of survival. Going back to those offers in the shops, the neatly stacked mountains of offending goodies are usually displayed right by the entrance and can be hard to resist. No wonder our primeval selves tend to take over on a subconscious level when it comes to the shopping!

This might all sound depressing, but there is light ahead on our voyage of food discovery. As an individual I feel more informed about nutrition than I did 10 years ago, and not only through studying diet as part of the yoga TTC. I’m sure this may well be the case for many of you out there also. We have made tremendous strides in understanding the link between diet and health. This progress is now being translated to greater public awareness and change. Steps are being made on a national level to address the issue, for example the UK government recently launched the ‘One You’ campaign. The food industry has also been working on providing clearer package labelling, making it easier for consumers to quickly assess different food product values. On a personal level I can feel the difference a healthier diet has made to my yoga practice on the mat as well as general wellbeing. This in itself is enough of a positive feedback to keep going.

Ending on a sweet note, in the spirit of celebration at a recent workshop I brought along some cupcakes to share with the students, and we all enjoyed cake after the session! You can find the recipe in part 2 of this blog.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the themes discussed above, so comment below!

Om Shanti

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