I started Live Long Lead Long (L4) because I wanted to find a way to help people get in touch with healthier habits. I wanted to have them do so without worrying about nutrition dogma or hype. My goal is to get the word out to as many people as possible that being healthy is not an all or nothing proposition and that small steps often lead to giant leaps. I recognize that to achieve all this, I had to demonstrate my expertise.
Now, I find myself at a crossroads. No health and wellness “expert” will ever be taken seriously without some catchy diet plan to call his or her own. On the one hand, I want to be taken seriously. On the other hand, I know that none of these diets offer anything special. The laws of biology, physics, and chemistry never change no matter how much butter you put in your coffee. So because of this internal conflict, I’m introducing something I call the Karma Sense Eating Plan. It’s a plan that supports people who want to be healthier, happier and oh yeah, save the world. It’s a plan that acknowledges the basic and common truths about achieving that happy, healthy state. This is the first in a series of posts that describe the Karma Sense Eating Plan. But first, the name…
I’m a big believer in Karma. You may be saying to yourself, “Self, an evidence-based approach to wellness is a key tenet of the L4 philosophy. In your Executive Summary of this very post, you even defer to laws of science. How could you possibly believe in Karma?” Well, I’m glad you asked.
It’s a common expression that nice guys finish last (thank you, Leo Durocher). The implication being that not-so-nice guys finish first (or at least better than last). This is wrong. When people cheat, take short cuts, or move in their own interests at the expense of everyone else, they tend to get what they want in the short-term. But in the process they lose good will and they train themselves that selfishness gets them what they want. So the next time they push even further and the folks who got burned last time are looking out for it. SNAP! They’re out well before the finish.
The saying should really be “Nice guys finish, period.” (yes, I realize terminating with a “.” and spelling out the word period is redundant.) Or to repeat a quote attributed to Chalene Johnson but for which I haven’t found any reference to her saying it other than Twitter, “You are the one who teaches other people how to treat you. What do you teach?”
Karma is absolutely real and as soon as I find an institution to fund my research on the subject, I’ll give you your evidence (surprisingly a cursory Google search found limited research on the subject of Karma but a lot of research by a guy named Karma). But what does any of this have to do with an eating plan? Not much. Yet if we can build some nice guy and gal habits into your eating, into something you do all the time, your life will become a regular party. Because as Abraham Lincoln famously said, “Be excellent to each other and Party On, Dudes!”
A future post will get into more depth on the Karma part of the plan.
The sense part of this plan has a double meaning, each described below.
Sense as in Common Sense
Regardless of whether you’re trying to lose fat, gain muscle, feel more energetic or just achieve optimal health, the basic formula is constant. Nothing changes it. Not gluten. Not fat. Not sugar. Not eating your food raw. Not eating like a modern Asian, ancient Greek, or Fred Flintstone.
My nutrition certification is from Precision Nutrition (PN). I chose their curriculum because it’s well-respected in the health and fitness community, evidence-based, accessible to someone working full-time, yet doesn’t try to represent itself as something it isn’t (I’ll mention no names). PN proposes three styles of eating to its coaches. One of these plans is extremely flexible and targets eating different food groups in different ratios. At the other extreme, there is a plan that not only includes a daily calorie limit but also targets a specific amount of macronutrient (protein, carbs, and fat) grams per day. The third plan is in the middle.
In reality, each is a different version of the exact same thing, managing food intake, managing calories and managing macronutrients. They differ only in how much leeway they provide. As a coach, I would use a different plan depending on client goals, motivation, commitment, and knowledge. The Karma Sense Eating plan also has three-ish levels, but a description of each is beyond the scope of an introductory post. But don’t worry, I won’t leave you hanging.
Sense as in Feeling
I’m no expert in mindfulness or its sub-genre, Mindful Eating, but like most aspects of mindfulness, it’s highly personal. So, who really is an expert? And with that disclaimer aside, there are three aspects of the Karma Sense Eating Plan that are rooted in the act of eating mindfully.
- Aforementioned Karma – the plan includes pairing your eating with not-so-random acts of kindness. The act of pairing the two breaks you out of the monotony of your current eating patterns. If you’re thinking “how will I help improve the world today as I eat my <insert what you’re eating here, but not literally because it will get messy>?”, you’re rewiring your brain to look at eating in a completely different way. And we naturally look at things that are new and different with a lot more curiosity, introspection, and care. The result is more conscious consumption of both the amount and quality of our food.
- Moment of Gratitude – Unlike with Karma, the research on gratitude is solid. Expressing gratitude in some tangible way is proven to make a person more optimistic, happier, healthier, more creative, and more intelligent. Furthermore, as with Karma, linking a new practice to something that you usually do without thinking, will make you start thinking again. Gratitude can be expressed in many ways ranging from prayer to simple acknowledgment of the people who make, prepare, and serve our food. Future posts will talk about this gratitude component in more detail.
- Eat Slowly and Stop Before You’re Full – Wuuuut? That’s certainly a departure from the two lofty predecessors. From Karma and Gratitude to this specific directive? Well yeah, it’s specific but it’s also a difficult concept to master. What is “slowly”? How do I know I’m not full when it takes 20 minutes for my body to feel satiated? Exactly! Here we’re working with the Mind-Body connection. It’s a discussion that requires more than even I’m willing to put in a single post. So as not to leave you hanging, here’s a question. Do you take less than 20 minutes to eat breakfast, lunch, or dinner? If so, you’re probably not eating slowly.
So “Sense” has the dual meaning of applying logic and fact to your eating while getting in touch with your feelings. The Karma Sense Eating Plan has something for right brainers and left brainers.
What you actually eat is the meat-and-potatoes of this eating plan. Don’t worry, both meat AND potatoes are gluten-free and contain no yoga mat material. I stated earlier that the Precision Nutrition curriculum introduces three styles of eating that range in flexibility. For the Karma Sense Eating Plan, I am slightly modifying their middle-of-the-road version and making it my most flexible of three plans. This is at the expense of the most flexible plan proposed by Precision Nutrition. But I’ll remind you that all three plans are really different versions of the same thing. Each is repurposed depending on goals, motivation, commitment and knowledge. It will probably take several posts to work through the details of the plans. But here is what they all have in common:
- Eat Slowly and Stop Before You’re Full
- Eat Protein in Every Meal
- Eat More Vegetables and Fruits
- Eat Whole Food Carbohydrates After Vigorous Exercise
- Eat Good Fats Daily and Get a Balance of the Different Types of Good Fats
These five habits are the mantras of the Karma Sense Eating Plan. They also will meet the nutritional needs and goals of the average person. But who among us is average? People have allergies. People have aversions to certain foods. People have physiological challenges (e.g. diseases that may skew how they should eat). Some people are trying to lose fat, some are looking to maintain, and some want to gain weight (often muscle). All of these will introduce subtle and not-so-subtle exceptions to the above. For example, people who are looking to gain weight may need to do the opposite of number 1. If they want that weight to be muscle, they’ll have to include exercise whereas to lose weight exercise is encouraged but optional. The variables that make us unique need further discussion on how to adjust these rules. In many cases, these variables could call for graduation to one of the less flexible plans.
As with anything that may look like a diet, one of the biggest issues people have is compliance. The Karma Sense Eating plan does not expect 100% compliance. It even encourages occasional noncompliance. The ratio of compliance to non-compliance is also dependent upon goals.
One final disclaimer. I am not a doctor or registered dietitian. I have a nutrition certification and feel I am very knowledgeable on the general subject of wellness, but especially nutrition. The information I describe here and anywhere else is based upon publicly available research. I offer this information not as advice but as a reference for you to consider. If you have any health concerns, please consult with your health support team.
Okay, now that I satisfied the lawyers, I need to take a quick shower and then I’ll finish this post up.
Finally, the use of the word “Plan.” Admittedly I am still struggling with what I am putting on the table here but “Plan” is my placeholder. Here are the sources of my struggle, both rational and irrational.
- I am among those who dislikes the word “diet” when attached to a style of eating. To me it has a connotation of being restrictive and temporary. Karma Sense Eating is neither of those things. Strike one.
- “Diet” also implies that it is only about eating. The “Karma” part of Karma Sense Eating is not restricted to eating. That’s your choice. Strike two for “diet.”
- Before I settled on the words “Karma Sense” I did some research to be sure I wasn’t stepping on an existing concept. Someone already reserved the domain name karmasense.com but there is no live site associated with it. Meanwhile, the hyphenated version is wide open. Well, it was wide open 🙂 . I also searched for the concept of “Karma Sense” as it relates to dieting in general. All I came up with was a diet called the The Good Karma Diet. It is very different from what I propose. It is suitable for vegans only. It is not yet released but it seems to take a different spin on Karma as well. Finally, I’m sure The Good Karma Diet is perfectly well intended but I think I may be putting more emphasis on “commons sense.” Not everyone has tastes suited for veganism. Not everyone has access to organic, locally grown food. A plan that depends on these kind of restrictions is not realistic for a broad segment of the population. Still, in the interests of limiting further involvement of lawyers and thus having to take yet another shower, I think I can avoid any conflict if I don’t include the word “diet”. Strike three, yer out!
- “Plan” sounded like a decent term. It implies more rigidity than I’d like so…
- I considered the word “Ritual” and hung on that for a while but found as I was writing, I kept on going to the word “Plan.” Plus the literal meaning of “ritual” is based in religion and while Karma Sense Eating plays well with religion, religion is not a necessary part.
- So I landed on “Plan” and then I had to consider the all important acronym. Pretty much any combination of 4 letters adds up to an acronym that is meaningful for some constituency. K-S-E-Ps, however, are pretty obscure. So with apologies to KSEP-FM in Brookings, Oregon (Home of Southwest Oregon’s Morning Zoo), I’m going with KSEP. “Plan” wins.
In the coming weeks I’ll focus on each component of Karma Sense Eating in more detail although I think I beat the “Plan” part to death. Next up, Karma.