Deepak Chopra’s “not a diet book” What Are You Hungry For: The Chopra Solution to Permanent Weight Loss, Well-Being, and Lightness of Soul is, by consensus of Goodreads readers and reviewers, a common-sense holistic solution to weight loss. Don’t eat when you are not hungry, learn new habits by re-training your brain and increased mindfulness, eat quality foods, get enough sleep and exercise, and find ways to self-fulfillment by doing satisfying work, maintain a positive attitude, and relish meaningful social connections. Dr. Chopra recommends eating foods from all six taste groups as recommended by Ayurvedic tradition: sweet (includes grains and meats), salty, sour (acidic–citrus and fermented foods), bitter (green and yellow vegetables), astringent (tea, coffee, beans, apples, berries), and pungent (spicy). The variety of flavors inherently creates a balanced nutritional intake. An appendix includes a variety of recipes utilizing the entire range of recommended flavors.
What Are You Hungry For focuses primarily on personal commitments to change, which makes sense in that social revolution begins with our personal decisions and choices. This book is a helpfully refreshing holistic approach to health and diet. I do appreciate how the author repeatedly insists that deprivation will never work when it comes to diet, as we are all ultimately best motivated by pleasure, and most of us are at least somewhat terrified by the shame of cellulite and the tantalizing guilt inspired by the likes of chocolate cake or ice cream sundaes. Dr. Chopra shares comforting strategies on how to handle sugar cravings in the most gentle of manners. However, he does not seem to spend much effort discussing how our culture is devoted to keeping us unfulfilled and permanently dissatisfied…in order to stimulate the economy. A lack of self-love is necessary for this process. The pressure to keep feeling guilty is very powerful and deeply seated. This includes pushing individuals to neglect personal talents and desires from an early age, and to conform to social and economic expectations in choice of careers, in particular.
While small children intuitively understand how to enjoy life by being playful and by being themselves, adult humans have been molded to conform to a certain mindset and sadly most often lose this ability early on in life. Adult life would be so much more enjoyable for all of us if each individual were embraced from the start as a unique and valuable asset, born with specific gifts, talents, body type, and personality quirks, then raised to be a responsible steward of these gifts. What might our world be like if our societies were built upon that simple principle: to support the need for each person to feel happy, energetic, and an active contributor to the group by being him or herself! We organize our societies in a manner that is not balanced, and then we work hard to tease people into thinking that by buying a wide array of products and services we will become more attractive, successful, healthier, etc.
As Mr. Chopra explains in What Are You Hungry For, balance is a necessary and natural part of being alive. All of nature seeks balance and intuitively knows what to do to acquire this agreeable state of being. Fulfillment and balance are not quite the same thing. Balance can include suffering, loss, and grief. Achieving your individual destiny does not mean you will be happy or successful. It just means that you will have led a life of meaning and purpose, using your individual skills, character, and integrity (or lack thereof) to fulfill your personal potential.
Being human is not easy, nor is it always pleasant. We all struggle with conflicting desires, and our personal wishes are not always in harmony with the group ethic or plan. So how do we get to a place of peace, in spite of all of the complexity? I do think that simplifying one’s life, as Dr. Chopra suggests, is a good start. As more individuals begin to choose wanting less stuff and less confusion in their lives, it just might get easier to see the bigger picture. We just might feel hungry when our bodies actually need nutrition. With simplicity will hopefully come more time to enjoy real, flavorful and home-made meals, prepared lovingly with savory, locally grown ingredients. Perhaps people will take the time to sit down together and delight in excellent conversation. What feeds the heart and soul is meaning, connection, and beauty. When we are disconnected from ourselves, from other humans, and from all of life, we lose balance, and we feel lost, alone, anxious.
While Dr. Chopra discusses strategies to right the feelings of emptiness and to find balance in life and diet, I feel that a greater movement is necessary to help people feel connected, useful, and loved. Food is often used by parents to reward children for good behavior, and food is also something that is readily available in order to reward ourselves when we feel lonely, drifting, sad, or without purpose. Food does not abandon or betray us…most of the time. It is comforting and an anchor in a busy, fast-paced world that often seems not to care.
The greater question that needs to be addressed is how to create a world that does care? Our post-industrial global society has been built on the values of efficiency and profits (for a few), and it has largely neglected the well-being of most. A turn-around in core values will be needed before the hunger of the first world will begin to be satisfied, and for a return to balance that we all instinctively crave.
Suggested reading on your path to fulfillment from our DCPL collections:
Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose by Tony Hsieh, 2010
“Tony Hsieh–the widely admired CEO of online shoe retailer Zappos.com–explains how he created a unique culture and commitment and service that strives to improve the lives of its employees, customers, vendors, and backers. Even better, he shows how creating happiness and record results go hand in hand.” (book summary)
Survival of the Nicest: How Altruism Made Us Human and Why It Pays to Get Along by Stefan Klein, translated by David Dollenmayer, 2014
“Klein synthesizes an extraordinary array of material: current research on genetics and the brain, economics, social psychology, behavioral and anthropological experiments, history, and modern culture. Ultimately, his groundbreaking findings lead him to a vexing question: If we’re really hard-wired to act for one another’s benefit, why aren’t we all getting along?
Klein believes we’ve learned to mistrust our generous instincts because success is so often attributed to selfish ambition. In Survival of the Nicest, he invites us to rethink what it means to be the ‘fittest’ as he shows how caring for others can protect us from loneliness and depression, make us happier and healthier, reward us economically, and even extend our lives.” (excerpt from description on Goodreads)
The Soul’s Code: In Search of Character and Calling by Dr. James Hillman, 1997
“Plato and the Greeks called it ‘daimon,’ the Romans ‘genius,’ the Christians ‘guardian angel.’ Today we use the terms heart, spirit, and soul. To James Hillman, the acknowledged intellectual source for Thomas Moore’s bestselling sensation Care of the Soul, it is the central and guiding force of his utterly compelling ‘acorn theory’ in which each life is formed by a unique image, an image that is the essence of that life and calls it to a destiny, just as the mighty oak’s destiny is written in the tiny acorn.” (excerpt from description on Goodreads)