How a monk’s diet helped me lose weight

2016. I started gaining weight when I came back to my home country after several months abroad. My friends and family had been noticing how fat I had become and I couldn’t help but to be annoyed by their bullies. To add insult to the injury, my doctor advised me to go on a diet to avoid health complications. She said I needed to lose almost 5-6 kilos even though at that time my BMI (Body Mass Index) was normal. I found it illogical and unreasonable, and it only made me mad.

Since I wanted to be healthy, I still tried my best to lose weight. I tried all the forms of diet that I knew and made sure to exercise at least three times a week. I even tried counting my calories every meal, jog every afternoon for 5 kilometres as a minimum, race a 10 km marathon (that’s the farthest distance I’ve run so far) and even went on an obstacle race with some friends, climbed mountains, and enrolled in an MMA (mixed martial arts) gym. However, nothing lasted and nothing worked. Maybe it was because I lacked motivation, self-control or was too busy to sustain the discipline.


Food is for the hungry

Determined to lose weight for my health, I was able to list down the reasons why I ate, and the results were such an eye-opener! Indeed, I was eating food for the wrong reasons. Some of them included:

(a) Food serves as my comfort;

(b) I am a YOLO when it comes to food. I definitely need to try them all;

(c) Food serves as my reward especially after a long day;

(d) I was told that I should not be wasting any food in my plate since lots of children are starving around the world;

(e) Food costs money and by wasting food, I am wasting money;

(e) I got a free meal so I might as well make the best out of it;

(f) I always complement my daily activities with food especially whenever I watch television;

(g) It is impolite in our culture if we do not finish the food in our plate (even though we are already full) and if we do not join our family during meal time (even though we are not really hungry). We are obliged to go to the dining table and eat with them every meal;

(h) I tend to “offset” my eating (e.g. I eat before I travel so I don’t get hungry while on a trip);

(i) I am always looking for the food that will satisfy my taste buds. If I have not found it yet, I won’t stop eating;

(j) I eat unconsciously and out of boredom most of the time.

Above all, I was in love with food. It took me time to realize that I wasn’t eating food because I was hungry. I had these emotional attachments to food and it should not have been the case if I am consciously eating in the first place.


Mindful eating is the key

2019. I started my self-development journey with WPI through the 42-days self-development program, and one of the topics there included mindful eating. It was on the last days of the program that we were asked to reflect about our eating habits, reasons we ate and the way we consumed the energy. We were also asked to make a resolution on using the energy from the food we eat for good things in which I vowed to do so. Through that, I was able to lose more or less 3 kilos from that program.

My weight loss journey through WPI did not actually end there. In fact, it was only a beginning for those who had successfully finished the program were qualified to apply for the International Peace Training which was held in Thailand in December, 2019. I applied and was so grateful to be included among the 40+ delegates from all over the world. The training was indeed life changing, and one of the requirements that we were asked to do was to adapt to a monk’s diet which included only 2 full meals a day: breakfast and lunch. Instead of dinner, we were only allowed to drink fruit juices, yogurt drink or milk which is called “pana”.


Eat to live and not live to eat

The practice of eating only 2 full meals and “pana” for dinner had me lose another more or less 3 kilos in 4 months. I may have been able to break this diet during the holidays, but I was able to sustain the discipline even during the lockdown for COVID-19. Overall I lost 9 kilos (approximately 3 kilos for every 3 months), and it was very rewarding since I was able to return to my old weight as it was back in my tertiary school days.

Indeed, weight loss is both a discipline and a lifestyle as this entails creating the habit of only eating when hungry. Having only 2 full meals per day, I was able to look forward to eating like I never felt before. The discipline broke my emotional attachments to food as I made sure that I would be eating what I really wanted to and be satisfied by it in every meal. There is this high level of joy for being able to eat only what is enough. Truly, eating provides the energy that our body needs. Anything in excess is not good including the energy we take and release so we have to do both mindfully.

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