When I first started studying about food, I discovered that all food could be placed on a number line that classifies food from yin (expansive) to yang (contractive). All food can be divided into three categories, each having its appropriate place on that number line.
Animal foods, such as meat, fish, dairy, and eggs, are very yang and therefore fall under the contractive end of the line. (You’ll notice that after you eat these foods, you often feel contracted.
They have that effect on your body!) Plant derivatives, like sugar, spices, alcohol, and even drugs, are very yin, and therefore fall on the expansive end. (You’ll feel expanded, bloated, and puffy after you eat these foods.)
The third group is plant foods, like fruits and vegetables and grains, which lie in the middle between the two extremes. A balanced diet will focus primarily on eating these types of foods.
There are also varying degrees of each extreme. For example, red meat is a really concentrated food, and that makes it more contractive than chicken, which is still contractive, but not as concentrated. Likewise, cheese is more concentrated than milk, so it, too, is more contractive. (It takes up to ten pounds of milk to make one pound of cheese!)
Plant derivatives are usually made from the most expansive part of the plant, so it makes sense that they would have an expansive reaction on our behavior. The more processed the food is, the more expansive it is.
Drugs are the most extreme expansive element you can put into your body, and the more extreme the drug, the more expansive it is. Plant foods can also have extremes, but they don’t tax your body or your digestion as much as the other two groups.
Nuts, beans, and grains are more contractive than grapes, melons, and other fruits, which tend to be more expansive. They know that the salty nuts (yang) will get you to drink alcohol (yin). As I’ve changed my diet, I still get cravings, but my choices were much closer to the center as I became a more balanced eater.
As I moved toward the center of the number line, I noticed that I also felt better. I realize that all this might seem a bit overwhelming (maybe even confusing?) at first, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll easily be able to identify the food you eat according to these terms. “Expansive” and “contractive” are easy universal terms to understand.
Everything about being healthy can be described according to the general principles of yin and yang as well. Relationships, work, performing, even parenting (giving your child the balance of freedom and parameters), you name it, it fits.
But it is important to understand that the pendulum between yin and yang is in constant motion even if the swings are slight. Balance in your Diet Maintaining a centered (or balanced) diet is the most natural approach to eating, but most people eat an extreme diet.
Experts agree that eating meat and sugar in the amounts that most Americans do increases physical hypertension and high blood pressure, which also leads to an increase in heart disease. These ailments afflict one-third of the American adult population. People usually eat foods that they crave to satisfy both their hunger and their craving.
Generally speaking, that pendulum is usually in full swing for most people. Our diets tend to be full of variety, and the tremendous amount of food that we have to choose from is staggering! While creating balance is important to strive for in all areas of your life, you can start by creating balance in your diet. Food is a part of everyone’s life and it is an easy way to explain my concept on balance.
The first rule of thumb is to understand that opposites attract. Extremely expansive foods can only be balanced by eating something extremely contractive. (It works the other way around, too!) It’s like being on a seesaw.
What goes up must come down, and it’s the same thing with your diet. On one end sit contractive foods, and on the other end are expansive foods. To balance that seesaw, you should try to eat the foods that reside in the middle. If you are eating an unbalanced diet, then you are living an unbalanced lifestyle.
Of course, the definition of what a “balanced” diet is has drastically changed since I was a kid. We were your typical meat-and-potatoes Midwestern family. (Talk about bad food combining and extreme foods!) Today, I am able to teach my two sons a whole new approach to eating a healthy and balanced meal, and I can also teach them at a very young age how they should approach food and eating.
From the moment my kids sat in a high chair and had solid food for the first time, I wanted them to be able to touch it, taste it, smell it, and put it in their mouths. (As long as it was food that they couldn’t choke on.)
I wanted them to feed themselves so that they could learn their own rhythm. I didn’t want to be one of those mothers who just shoveled food into her children’s mouths. I knew that would only lead to problems for that baby later in life.
You have to let children discover their own rhythm of eating. And since infants can’t choose the food they eat, as the parent, you can give them control over their intake.
Amazingly, children will eat if they’re hungry and won’t if they’re full. Instilling in them at a young age a good relationship with food is so important. But it’s never too late to rediscover that relationship as an adult, eit