The Psychophysiology of Dietary Change
The Teaching of Rabbi Dr. Gabriel Cousens
The following is adapted from Dr. Gabriel Cousens, Conscious Eating (2000), Chapter 20.
Dietary change of any sort forces us to face patterns, habits, conscious and unconscious psychological attachments, our own ego defense systems, and an acceptance of our new body image. It is an opportunity through the self-knowledge that comes from dietary change, to expand our awareness and clarity about who we are. It is a healing step that can potentially be a catalyst bringing us into a new level of personal health. Along with psychological changes usually comes a change in our body image, sensitivity, and physical body structure.
Not all of this comes effortlessly or is necessarily easy to accept. Once when I was interviewed by a Canadian national TV network, the quite portly TV interviewer looked at a photograph of me twenty-five years ago when I was a 188-pound, bull-necked, all-New England, football middle linebacker and guard, one of the eight National Scholar athletes picked by the National College Football Hall of Fame, and the co-captain of an undefeated college team. He then said to me, ‘You looked so strong and healthy then and now you look so ‘thin and puny compared to your football days.’ Well, I can’t say I enjoyed being called puny on a national TV interview. It was a direct challenge to my new body image, but he went straight to the point of controversy: real health as compared to ‘looking healthy.’ ‘Looking healthy’ is a subjective cultural concept that is not grounded in the science of health and longevity. Not too many years ago there were many young, steroid-raised athletes who looked very strong and buff on the outside, but who were tragically pointed toward serious health problems such as cancer and liver disease. Nevertheless, creating a new body image that does not fit with cultural stereotypes of health is not easy.
When I returned from India after a one-year stretch of studying and working in a medical clinic, the contrast between the ‘normal’ Indian body and the ‘normal’ American was quite dramatic in the reverse. Almost everyone in America looked overweight to me. Is there an objective standard that can help us get some clarity?
As one observes various cultures around the world, those with the best quality of health and longevity are those who eat one-third to one-half the protein and total calories that Americans do. These people would be judged ‘thin’ and ‘puny’ by our subjective cultural standards. Even by our objective, generally accepted standards — i.e., according to the Metropolitan Life Insurance Ideal Weight tables — there are many people who are overweight in the United States. Most of the cultures known for health and longevity, whose members may appear thin to us, are actually the appropriate weight associate with health and longevity.
Stuart M. Berger, M.D., in his book Forever Young, has a weight scale for optimal longevity that shows I am at the optimal weight for a youthful longevity. I pointed out to the Canadian interviewer that my weight as a football player was thirty-two pounds greater than the maximum for my weight-to-height range according to the Metropolitan Life Ideal Weight scales. I also pointed out that my flesh-eating, extra thirty-two pounds was all muscle, designed to tackle or block opposing players. Since I was no longer playing football, this extra thirty-two pounds of muscle was no longer needed. In fact, I explained that with my new body, I felt considerably more healthy than I did in my football-player body. This new body that is built primarily on living food is considerably more flexible, pain-free, physiologically more balanced, more vital, and more full of light than in my college years.
Although during high school and college my health would have been considered ‘good,’ I still got the average amount of colds and flus, had energy fluctuations, and had less mental endurance than I do now. My health and vitality back then wasn’t close to the quality of my almost disease-free health now. Since beginning a 95% live-food diet in 1983, I’ve experienced an ever-increasing vitality and digestive power, strong immune and endocrine systems, and increased life force.
Being at one’s ideal weight does not mean one loses relative strength or endurance, even if it doesn’t fit with the stuffed body image of ‘healthy.’ In my fifty-sixth year, I did 400 push-ups on the fifth day of a juice fast. Seventy push-ups was my maximum when I was a twenty-year-old football player. Each year I feel stronger and distinctly more flexible.
In addition to observing the lifestyle patterns of cultures which enjoy greater health and longevity, some of the research by Roy Walford, M.D., one of America’s leading anti-aging researchers, is highly noteworthy. Dr. Walford, in his book How to Double Your Vital Years, shows with hard scientific data from animal studies that by eating a high-nutrient low-calorie diet (what he calls a high/low diet), animals are found to increase their longevity by 50%. This is equivalent to humans living to be 150 to 160 years of age. This high/low diet is designed to find the point of maximum metabolic efficiency, maximum health, and maximum life span. His recommended calorie intake for maximum health and longevity is approximately 1500 calories per day. He cites research that he feels is beyond any reasonable doubt showing that a high/low diet significantly extends life span, retards the rate of aging, and retards the onset of the major chronic degenerative diseases. He reports that the maximum life span in some mice in his minimal eating experiments was three to four times greater. Dietary restrictions, imposed, even at late stages in the animal’s life, greatly extended life span. Walford says that he is:
… convinced with a high order or probability that the same kind of diet will produce the same sort of results in humans.
Walford believes his approach cuts disease susceptibility in half. Humans, like the research animals, would reap health and longevity benefits by starting this low-calorie, high-nutrient diet even in middle age or later. Walford himself is following the principles he expounds upon in his research. Dr. Walford points out that 25% of women and 12% of men in the United States are obese. Obesity is defined as weighing more than 20% above the body weight ascribed by experts to a person’s height and relative bone structure. It is indeed time we begin to reconsider a new cultural definition of health, along with a corresponding change in what a healthy body is supposed to look like.
What happens almost universally when one stops eating flesh foods is that one drops excess weight. The loss of superfluous, unneeded weight continues when one stops eating dairy products. One’s true, ideal weight is often easily discovered after one adopts a live-food diet. A body built on high-quality, whole, organic, nature-developed foods is also of higher quality than body weight built on poor-quality commercial foods, or the new, ‘improved’ fast foods the industry is coming out with.
Walford suggests that most of us would do well to eat less. By cutting down to 1500 calories, over a few years one soon learns that whatever is eaten at 1500 calories per day better be especially good and healthy. A vegetarian, live-food diet allows one to eat the least amount of food and receive the most nutritional and energetic impact. As in my case, without counting calories, a live-food diet naturally has the ability to bring one to one’s optimum weight.
It also takes time to get used to one’s new body. The process is easier without people around who are infecting one with irrational fears born of cultural biases about the ‘dangers of vegetarianism.’ To balance this widespread view, which is primarily based on ignorance, it is good to have objective, supportive data from cross-cultural studies, modern actuarial and scientific research, and convincing animal research.
Another part of this transition in the process of healing is the release of old, contracting thoughtforms. In my work with patients, students, and myself involving meditation, the Zero Point Process, prayer, spiritual awakenings, energetic healing, hands-on healing, and dietary change, I have noticed there seems to be a common pathway by which what I call ‘mental toxins’ are released. All of these processes enhance the spiritual energy that comes into the system and the amount of energy the system is able to handle. The more our bodies move toward health, the higher our vibration and vital force become. Many people believe that even though the mechanism is too difficult to scientifically establish at the present level of research technology, negative thoughtforms are stored in the subtle system of the body at lower vibrational rates. When the body begins to operate at a higher vibrational rate, these lower-vibrational thoughtforms are forced out. They may come out in dreams, meditations, contemplations, or just during the day. Dietary changes seem to be the mildest form of releasing negativities. Of all the forms of diet, the live-food diet brings out the most rapid release of old, limiting thoughtforms.
Although relatively mild, for people who are not expecting it, this release of previously suppressed materials is one of the reasons a live-food diet may initially be difficult to sustain. This is why I recommend live foods as part of a continuum rather than having people jump right into it. By gently passing through the various stages of a vegetarian diet, our minds and psyches are able to become more peacefully accustomed to the increased life force and accelerated release of negative thoughts that are associated with the healing and purification process. The body needs time to readjust on both the physical metabolic and mental levels of experience.