ETL Friday!

ETL Friday! is back this week with one of ETL’s Lifers :). Her view of “Nutritional Excellence” gave me another way to look at Eating To Live, and that’s always a good thing!  I can think of few as knowledgeable as Claudia, and I love-love-love what she shares here; it’s truly insightful and wisdom from which we all can benefit.
But , I’ll give you Claudia and stop gibbering :D:

Hello everyone,

I’m here today on ETL Friday to talk about how I discovered the Eat to Live diet-style, and how it has transformed my life.

Most of my life, I have struggled to try and keep my weight down. I did a lot of yo-yo dieting, losing weight only to eventually gain it back again. I always experienced dieting as a form of deprivation which I could not keep up indefinitely. At some point I’d always start to feel too confined and unsatisfied, and fall back into my old habits of eating anything I wanted to, whenever I wanted it.

Before ETL, I was a food addict, and if I went too long without food I became very uncomfortable. My experience of hunger included headaches, weakness, shakiness, and stomach grumbling and discomfort. When I was dieting, I would obsess over food, and think about it all the time. It seems like I was hungry quite often, and always ready for my next meal.

One of the major things that ETL has done for me is to cure me of my food addiction, allowing me to lose all the weight I needed to once and for all, and to permanently maintain an ideal weight without it being such a struggle.

The first time I heard Dr. Fuhrman speak was in Philadelphia’s Chinatown, at a vegan conference on ‘Chinese Plant Based Nutrition and Culture’, where he gave a lecture called ‘Greens: The Super Food’. While I was impressed with his speech, I wasn’t quite ready to make any major lifestyle changes right away. I was just having too much fun enjoying all the great vegan restaurants that Philadelphia has to offer, and my waistline was showing it.

Eventually, I decided that it was time to go on a diet again, but I chose to follow the McDougall plan because eating all the starches seemed more do-able and less confining to me. It really didn’t work out though. Although I managed to lose some weight, I was not so relaxed about it. I was white-knuckling it, and always thinking about my next meal. I was still the same old food addict who was afraid to go too long without food for fear of becoming hungry. Besides the discomfort of being hungry, it tended to cause me to freak out and want to eat anything in sight that wasn’t nailed down. Back in the days that I had followed Weight Watcher’s, I remember they used to tell us that if we went for more than 4 hours without eating, then we were just setting ourselves up for failure. Besides the hunger issue, all of my starch based meals had become rather colorless, and I was also rather pale and colorless as well. Another problem was that my skin become very dry, which I believe was from the lack of any nuts or seeds in the diet.

Meanwhile, I had a health issue that had been brewing for quite some time. I had a fibroid uterus that had grown to the size of a 6 month pregnancy, and I discovered that Dr. Fuhrman was an expert on therapeutic water fasting and had helped women use fasting in order to shrink their fibroids. So, between wanting his advice on my medical issue, and wanting a better diet, I decided that I would become a member of his website in order to get his support. One thing I liked about the member center from the very beginning was the way that Dr. Fuhrman is so totally committed to everyone’s success and has absolute confidence in our ability to achieve it. To make a long story shorter, Dr. Fuhrman told me that I needed to follow his diet, and get close to my ideal weight before he could even consider whether I might be a good candidate for a fast. In the end, fasting did not turn out to be my best option, however, I did end up losing weight faster and more effortlessly than ever before, and the weight has stayed off. Instead of eating a washed out, colorless diet, and being hungry all the time, I now enjoy a delicious, colorful, and satisfying diet, and do not experience the uncomfortable hunger symptoms that I used to have.

When I was new to ETL, I had to go through a period of missing the old foods that I had always liked, and feeling deprived because I wasn’t eating what everyone around me was having. It made me feel left out. Fortunately, I got over that long ago, replacing the old with the new, and thoroughly enjoying my new diet-style. Now I actually feel sorry for those that still struggle with the food addiction brought on by a SAD diet, and who haven’t had the good fortune to be cured of it by ETL. Ironically, many people see my diet as very limited and even feel sorry for me. With regard to this, I have an analogy that is meaningful to me.

In Anusara yoga, we learn to experience greater freedom (of movement) by having structure and setting boundaries. Its a concept that isn’t intuitively obvious, and sounds paradoxical, but it perfectly describes my experience of ETL.

Instead of just letting everything go lax, we use our muscles to achieve proper alignment of the body, setting boundaries that take us places we’ve never been before. Take a look at the picture of John Friend on the cover of this DVD:

John Friend,

John Friend,

John is doing something that takes balance. Balance is something that doesn’t happen by flopping your body around and relying on flexibility alone. You have to engage your muscles and set boundaries in order to get your body to do things never before imagined. This DVD is called the Dance of Yes and No and is all about the experience of freedom through boundaries

I guess the really cool thing about this for me is that ETL is a real life, ‘off the mat’ experience of what John Friend was trying to teach. For me its kind of like an Aha! moment, but its kind of hard to convey this. Its a really profound and deep thing. From the yoga side alone its difficult to explain to someone who hasn’t experienced it, and from the food side alone, its also hard to explain to someone who hasn’t experienced it. But it is way cool to experience it from both sides, and to realize that it is all connected.

Many SAD eaters feel sorry for me because they think that I have ‘limited’ myself, and that I’m so ‘deprived’. But, what they don’t understand, is that through this ‘limitation’ I am experiencing a freedom far beyond what they can imagine. I am free of food addictions and cravings. I am free of being ‘powerless over food’. I am not constantly controlled by food. I am more relaxed about food. I don’t need to eat as often, and It doesn’t feel like an emergency every time I get hungry. I’m not climbing the walls. I am not in a constant state of hunger, or fear of hunger in which I obsess about having food quickly available at all times. I am free to enjoy a bounty of healthy natural food with a more enhanced level of pleasure than ever before, while also experiencing the joy of having a fit, healthy body. I am not digging my grave with my knife and fork, limiting my enjoyment of life be cutting it short like the SAD eaters.

It’s all a matter of perspective, and while others may see the ‘limits’ I’ve set as self-deprivation, and feel sorry for me, they don’t realize that by doing this I’m achieving greater freedom. I’m achieving the freedom from food addiction.
It is we ETLers who have the real freedom. We have earned it, and it is wondrous.



Claudia in a handstand; Elijah, with hand creating a resistance to press against for greater extension. Photo by “Sheila-Seattle” taken at Dr. Fuhrman’s Utah Getaway

I love the freedom through boundaries analogy and I’ll never forget that description. It’s exactly how I feel.

This is one of the most poignant and relevant benefits for me because it rings so true. Just beautiful! Thank you, Claudia.


sm row smiles



  1. Clint said,

    April 3, 2009 at 8:31 am

    Very nice article Claudia!
    I think that you gave a beautiful metaphor describing the essence of this diet. It seems very clear that this is something that has been a success for you. I like the way that you describe creating limitations in your diet as a way to enhance your experience… it seems that ironically, diets are limiting by nature and that you have pointed out that the ‘limitations’ of this diet are actually making an improvement on your quality of life. I feel that you will inspire many with your feedback. It seems that you are also very ‘tuned in’ to a way of thinking that others may find difficult initially to perceive, yet promises the benefits of a lifetime. Many Blessings to you as a teacher!

    • Claudia said,

      April 3, 2009 at 3:14 pm

      Clint, my wonderful yoga teacher!
      Thank you so much for your kind words of support and understanding. When it comes to diet, what I have found is really the proverbial ‘ease in the effort’. Now, if I could only apply this to my yoga practice, I’d be a great yogi, wouldn’t I ? But, alas, I think I’m going to need your help!!

      • poxacuatl said,

        April 4, 2009 at 1:22 pm

        Claudia, are you working toward becoming an yoga instructor? How wonderful. I think you’d be very good at encompassing a whole life type of inclusion to your practice, rather than just narrow boundaries 😉 of simply exercising.

        A question for you and or Clint: Why does one feel rejuvenated after yogic exercise? Aside from some metabolism rousting, what is the feel-good boost origination? What makes it different from stationary cycling, for example? There is a “high” that comes with certain exercises, such as running; but the less hyper, yet fully alert-rejuvenation from yoga is different. Sort of like the difference between a coffee jolt and the rejuvenation of green tea 🙂
        I only do the 5 Tibetan Rites, but I feel totally refreshed, awake, alert and ready for anything after doing them — no caffeine required 🙂

        • Clint said,

          April 5, 2009 at 8:16 am

          Nice observation… Clint Here… You’ll hear from Claudia soon.
          My take would be that the ‘buzz’ you feel from the practice of yoga is a clearing of your energetic pathways. These pathways can become restricted or blocked by toxins and stagnations in the blood and energy meridians/ nadis. The Kundalini practice of the 5 tibetans rites is a intense movement of the central energies of the shishuna….. where as other more subtle practices of yoga simply open smaller channels and clear any blockages. A metaphor would be to move a stagnating pool of water and a fast moving stream of water. The pool would create bacteria and breed other organisms whereas the stream would keep the opening clear of stagnation.

          • poxacuatl said,

            April 5, 2009 at 12:30 pm

            Thank you, Clint. So I guess I’m clogged up daily with toxins :D. What type of yoga would you suggest for a beginner?

            By the way, I apologize for not properly welcoming you!
            So thank you for commenting and welcome 🙂

        • Claudia said,

          April 5, 2009 at 3:51 pm

          Poxacuatl, I would suggest that this has a lot to do with the focus on breathing. I had a Sivananada Yoga Teacher named Neela, who used to start class by asking all the students “Whats the most important thing in your life?”. No matter how serious and insistent the students were about the answers that they gave, Neela would tell them that their answer was wrong! The correct answer, as Neela would explain, is that breath is the most important thing in your life, because if you stop breathing you die! In yoga, we see the breath as the gross physical manifestation of the vital life force known as ‘prana’. It is the same thing referred to as ‘chi’ or ‘ki’ in other practices. Anyway, in yoga we recognize that the quality of a person’s breath is directly related to their state of mind, and their general sense of health and well-being. If a person is angry, stressed out, or frightened, these emotions will affect the quality of their breathing. By the same token, if a person is able to focus on and control their breath, these emotions will get evened out and dissipate, leaving the person in a more relaxed, balanced, and blissful state. Hatha Yoga is one of Patanjali’s 8 limbs of yoga, and it consists of two components, which are Pranayama (control of the breath), and Asanas (physical postures). A good hatha yoga teacher pays attention to how the students are breathing, and encourages them to take slow, deep, even breaths. In yoga class, we learn to let our movements follow our breath, and be in synch with our breathing. Now technically speaking, we don’t really try to forcibly control our breath. A better way to put it might be to say that we welcome the breath deeply and expansively into our body like a welcome friend (John Friend puts it something like that). In any case, by changing the quality and expansiveness of our breath, we are affecting the flow of the more subtle prana or vital life force throughout our body. This vital life force is something that we all have in common, and by slowing down and getting in tune with it, we gain a greater awareness of ourselves as well as a greater feeling of connection to the world around us, and I think that this ‘tuning in’ is all a part of the sense of well-being that yoga provides.

          With yoga, I would have to say that the blissful feelings don’t really have anything to do with rousting the metabolism. In fact, advanced yogis capable of meditating for hours, may slow their breath, as well as their metabolism, and reach a very blissful state by quieting the mind in this manner.

          So, its not entirely about the physical exercise, because the breath plays a big role. In fact, you could just sit and do breathing exercises, and it would have a very beneficial effect on your sense of calm and well-being. Or… you could get that blissful yoga effect from chanting. Music or sound vibrations will definitely affect your mental state. Personally, I absolutely love kirtan (call and response chanting) because it just makes me feel so great, and so balanced. The power of mantra is something that has been long recognized. By definition, a mantra is a chant that has a known effect on the mind, with different mantras having different mental effects.

          As for the teacher issue…. Clint wished me ‘many blessings as a teacher’ because he has always had a sense that I was a yoga teacher, from the very beginning when I first started taking Anusara Yoga classes from him. He has always believed in and encouraged me, and sees things in me that I have not always been able to see in myself. One of the great things about Anusara teachers in general is that they are very good at recognizing the highest potential in each of their students, as opposed to being highly critical and focussing on the negative. I have not always been the most confident person in the world, and haven’t necessarily felt that I had much of value to offer. Thats not really the case anymore. I grow more confident now over time, but still am not entirely sure of myself and what I need to be doing. I do, however, appreciate your input and your vote of confidence!

          • Claudia said,

            April 5, 2009 at 3:57 pm

            Well, I almost forgot to mention this, but I did get certified to teach Sivananda Yoga many years ago, and did teach that style for a very short time. What I’m studying now is Anusara yoga, and I am enjoying it very much.

            • poxacuatl said,

              April 5, 2009 at 6:28 pm

              Thank you, for that thorough answer. I do know the value of breath and breathing. I first learned it in regard to running, but, still… :). I believe you about it being a calming and centering practice. In my Hapkido classes, we were always instructed to do breathing exercises. It helps with focus and control.
              Now I have even more reasons to be mindful of it, thanks, Claudia!

              Hey, all we need now is to get some clean air! Geesh…City livin’ ain’t all it’s cracked up to be.

              About the confidence thing, isn’t it wonderful when someone believes in us? I think it goes so far to how much We are all truly connected. I guess, coming from a feminist background, there is a tendency of “I don’t need anyone” to sort of cloud that issue for me :). Of course, I’ve mellowed in my age. haha. Again, balance comes in to play, I guess. There are many ways to “need,” and the balance lies in beneficial “needing.” 🙂 Oh, and the right people helps too!

              I’m so glad you are growing in your self confidence. That’s wonderful!

              Thanks again for the thoughtful answers.

  2. April 3, 2009 at 11:51 am

    Hi Claudia,
    I always enjoy your insightful posts on the forums so was thrilled to learn a bit more about you through this entry. I love the concept of having more freedom by having structure and setting boundaries. I study movement education and also train horses (my passions, not my professions) and that concept applies in both areas! In fact I think it applies in many areas of life, especially relationships, it’s just that we humans (being human) simply fail to see things from that perspective until we realize it through life experience. Thank you for sharing!

    • poxacuatl said,

      April 3, 2009 at 12:22 pm

      Intersting point about relationships, Picks! I agree. Some see the “bounds” of a relationship as confining; others, comforting and a state in which to flourish and grow.

      • Claudia said,

        April 3, 2009 at 3:44 pm

        Definitely an interesting point about relationships. I agree too. Some people really isolate themselves by being phobic about any type of commitment, because they are worried about losing their freedom. But then they become imprisoned in a lonely world of isolation, disconnected from others. One of the major points made in the book ‘Healthy at 100’ (by John Robbins), was that good family and societal relationships play a key role in human health, happiness, and longevity. For those not familiar with the book, it is a study of the populations that are most famous for living very long, healthful, active lives. It looks at these cultures in order to see what they have in common that we might learn from. Basically, they all eat a diet that looks very much like our ETL ‘nutritarian’ diet, and they all have close-knit families and communities, in societies where everyone feels valued and important, and has a role to play.

    • Claudia said,

      April 3, 2009 at 3:27 pm

      Hi Picks!

      So good to see you here. It really makes me feel good to see how well you are able to resonate with what I was saying here. I’m never really sure how well I’ve communicated, or gotten my point across, but I can see that you clearly get it. Very good point you make about how we learn these things through life experience and maturity. So ironic too that things we learn as we get older can make us feel so much younger! I’ve heard so many Eat to Live folks talk about how they feel 10 or 20 years younger by eating this way, and have so much more energy than ever before. Life is so full of surprises.

  3. May 14, 2009 at 7:59 am

    Thank so much for sharing this with me Claudia! I found it very interesting and inspiring. I am interested in the idea of freedom through boundaries I think that is an interesting concept. I’m also interested in that Anasara Yoga DVD. I haven’t done much Anasara Yoga at all and have worked mostly in Vinyasa Flow and Power Yoga so I would like to give Anasara a try. Very cool!

    Brie Blakeman

    • Claudia said,

      May 25, 2009 at 10:32 am

      Hi Brie,
      I’m so glad you liked it. The Dance of Yes and No is a great DVD, and I’ll loan you my copy next time I see you. It was webcast live from the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, NY, with people participating in it from all over the world. I was there in Rhinebeck on vacation, participating, so you can find me in the crowd in that DVD.

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