The Dharma DietBy: Perran Von Hoehen London
The Dharma Diet
I need your help to take the principles of Buddhism that I am learning about (how to control the mind) and through them create a diet and fitness regime that is simple, relaxed and stress free. It is an approach that is fundamentally based on practice of balance and consistency and with an absence of harsh recriminations or guilt. By applying a Buddhist framework to the best that the world knows about diet and fitness I believe I have discovered something truly innovative and easy that allows an individual to create a bespoke plan based on their own likes and dislikes. A plan that is based on avoidance rather than the kind of absolutism that most of us struggle with when we need to manage our food and fitness. As vegetarianism is part of the moral and ethical discipline of Buddhism, and is not a health based practice, this diet is vegetarian optional: you create your own ingredient list to create meals that appeal to your own tastes.
There are three parts to this amazing project, which will culminate in a published program (trade paperback and a Moleskin-style journal/workbook), which will be reviewed by top independent medical and health professionals to ensure its safety and veracity. The first part of the project is in writing, developing and perfecting the practice of this diet so that others can replicate it. The second, is to have it reviewed by Buddhist scholars, endocrinologists and nutritionists to be confident that what I have drawn from many different diets is not just beneficial to our health and fitness, but also to ensure it’s safe and sound for widespread practice. The third is to develop recipes to demonstrate the use of the morphological charting in creating your own food world. I have worked in the kitchen or managed more than 58 restaurants in 7 countries including Michelin starred establishments, so the quality of the recipes will be to the highest standard and thoroughly tested. The research, review and testing of this program is expensive and some of it needs to be raised with the good karma and kindness of a social funding to make it happen.
Dharma Diet Approach to Food
Buddhism is fundamentally about taking the middle path and avoiding extremes. It celebrates balance and equilibrium. It was only just this year that I realized the same principles that I was using to calm my mind, could also bring calm to my very tempestuous health. Over the last 35 years, like a lot of people, I have read or followed different diets. Although, I did lose 40 kg when I was sixteen years old, I regained it three short years later after a car accident took away my habit of daily exercise. Finally, ten years ago in a desperate move I opted for surgery: gastric-bypass. Although the surgical method had been developed in the late 90s, the controversy surrounding cutting out healthy organs prevented wide scale adoption of the procedure in most countries until after 2004: my bypass was carried out in Spain in 2001.
I was at the forefront of the high risk trend to get gastric-bypasses once everything else I had tried, had failed. But, the bypass didn’t work either. 35 years of weight issues has left my body in tatters with diabetes, high blood pressure and chronic back problems: the numerous diets, theories, approaches, fads, surgery etc… you name it… had all failed. I even permanently and voluntarily scarred my body with a 80cm long 8cm wide scar from that surgery. Not to mention the five incisional hernias that came later leaving me with a football-sized bulge jutting out of my abdomen. I have weighed 135 kilos with only the occasional variation for virtually all of my adult life. I started to realize that much like my mind was suffering from extreme thoughts and feelings, my body was a victim of extreme measures to control weight. It was time to apply what I have been learning about my mind and apply it to my body.
In the last year, I sought out a definitive Buddhist diet book that wasn’t flaky, hippie-ish, overly strict or not based on theological reasoning. It didn’t take long to discover that there really wasn’t a definitive book written by Buddhists. Yes, it is true, most Buddhists are vegetarian so you might be tempted to think that any old vegetarian diet might suffice, but not all vegetarian diets are the same either. There are also fundamental beliefs that go into the reasoning behind Buddhist vegetarianism that go way beyond diet. Make no mistake, there are a lot of Buddhists who are not completely vegetarian. If you don’t believe me just hang out with a few different groups of Buddhists and you will soon discover that vegetarianism is sometimes more of moveable line in the sand rather than a hard line etched in stone or an absolute rule. A small example of the nuances in Buddhism include the little known fact that monks who go begging are obliged to eat what they are offered – if they are only offered meat they will eat the offering in any case. It is said that there are ten thousand paths to the top of the mountain, which is often taken to mean that there are endless ways to reach enlightenment. Equally there are many different approaches to diet in Buddhism.
I realised that from Buddhism I might be able to create a more balanced and less stressful approach to health and food than is common in the media-hyped world of fad and miracle diets of the week. The tools of Buddhism, it turns out, create a perfect framework to help us deal with dieting and general fitness issues. The concept of the “middle path” which is central to Buddhism allows us to approach dieting and weight management in a simple, stress free, and relaxed manner. Most excitingly it also seems to draw the most common sense strands of many of the more well-known weight loss programs. It appears to be a very safe, sure, stress-free and smart way to lose weight without upsetting the applecart of your daily routine. I have been working with my own GP, an endocrinologist and I will, of course, seek the advice of a Buddhist scholar(s) developing this plan.
The Dharma Diet is about avoiding items in varying degrees, but not ever denying you anything from time to time. The more you want to lose, the more foods you will want to avoid, but these rules start to relax as you reach your goal weight or the fitness level you wish to achieve. At the beginning of this exploration into the middle path of dieting I was still morbidly obese, weighing 145 kg. I had recently been diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes, suffered severe back problems, long-term high blood pressure, circulation and urinary problems and no stomach muscles to speak of (because of the gastric-bypass and the repairs to the incisional hernias). I now weigh 133 kg, my blood sugar is in balance with less medication, my blood pressure is on its way down again with less medication and I have done this eating foods that I truly enjoy thanks to the innovative use of a morphological chart which allows me (sometimes with the help of the internet) to create wonderful meals that are simple, relaxed and stress free to prepare. I do not go hungry. I do not feel like my hands are tied behind my back in any way shape or form.
The approach has been to take the best features of all the diets I had learned or tried over three decades which includes: Atkins/Dukan, Ayurvedic Diet, Low GI Diets, Mayo-Clinic Diabetic Diet, Super-food Diets, Alkaline Diets, Meal Replacement Diets, and Covert Bailey’s Fit or Fat.
Approach to Preparing Food
The use of morphological charts takes into account the foods that were identified as common to most of the diets and my own taste and preferences. Once I created my own morphological chart I could literally see tens of thousands of food combinations to keep me satisfied going forward. The approach made it easy to take my bespoke food list and put them into recipe search engines that draw on key ingredients for ideas and variations. Each person can create their own morphological chart and create a bespoke plan that uses foods that appeal to each individual. Once the morphological chart is prepared, you can create your own recipes, use one of mine, use your own cook books/recipes or most wonderfully through online ingredient-based search engines identify recipes specific to your own chart.
I have come to realize that most diets overlap key elements. It is in these commonalities that I am seeking to identity a well-balanced and easily achievable methodology with which to approach dieting and fitness. This is not a diet about hard and fast rules. It is a diet about inclusion of everything and exclusion of nothing – no absolutism. If you follow the core 80% you can indulge in the 20% of things that appeal to you, be it chocolate, champagne or donuts. And just like training the mind with the Dharma, the key is to set out on a path that we know from the start we are going to divert from now and then, but a path which we will gently and without recrimination draw ourselves back to and carry on our way - to better health.
Please note: of the funds raised about £1200 will be used for medical assessment and the remainder of the funds will go toward the publication of a trade-style paper printed book. In addition, it will be made available on Kindle and other ebook formats.
No updates for this project yet.