To supplement or not to supplement with white bean paste?

Recently, I received an email from an old friend. No personal message, just a link to a weight loss product Forskolin, made from white beans. It included a video of Dr. Oz promoting the product. White bean paste sounded like a winner especially with  Oprah on a sidebar giving it a thumbs up. According to the info I received, white bean paste can help a girl to get rid of excess belly fat. The hidden persuaders tempting, I went online to purchase a round.

Just as I was about to click on the add-to-your-cart button a pop-up of my father appeared in my mind’s eye. When I was a child, he was fond of asking me if I lived to eat or ate to live? I thought of his question as his humorous way of making me conscious of how much food I was consuming. I never gave him an answer; I knew he didn’t expect one, but as he sat there in my mind’s eye, smiling no less, I finally responded. One cannot be separated from the other; the act of eating is both necessary to life as well as part of why we live.

Several decades back, I began to reflect on the kind of vehicle with which I had been blessed to carry me through this lifetime. I noticed early on that in spite of my mother’s well rounded healthy cooking my body gained weight rather easily. By the time I was in high school I frequently went on grapefruit and hardboiled egg diets so popular at the time, to help maintain my girlish figure. I had friends with the opposite issue; they drank lots of milkshakes.

After high school graduation I joined a western monastic community where we were served three squares a day prepared by professional chefs. Between meals, we had coffee breaks peppered with pastries and cookies. A year after joining my knees began to bother me. Our horarium included several daily rounds of prayers – knees to kneeler! When I approached my director about my knee issue, she told me I was overweight and suggested a diet. So, while my fellow classmates ate the fabulous dinners prepared by the chefs, I hightailed it over to a special dietary kitchen to pick up my perfectly balanced, oil and butter free, low carb diet. And coffee breaks became just that: coffee breaks sans cookies! The diet worked and in a short time, as I took off ten pounds, the knees went pain-free! Goal accomplished, I returned to a normal diet but minus desserts. However, my fat loving body had its own plans and the weight slowly inched up. How I longed for grapefruit and eggs.

I had a slew of relatives with adipose tissue issues, far worse than mine. As I observed their plump bodies I knew the genes had it in for me as well. From high school on through the years in the monastery, and long after leaving it I returned time after time to a “diet.” Not binge, but just to what helped to prevent bulge. Not only was I prompted by vanity, but also the desire to be healthy. I rotated through low carb, no fat, juice, all veggie, two annual ten-day water fasts and Weight Watchers. They worked. I cleared the toxins, slimmed down, but after awhile I would have to return to a more rigid disciplined way of eating.

On another note and while living in India in the nineties, I was introduced to the 5000-year-old Ayurveda health system. In what has been called the oldest holistic health system in the world. I learned about the three body types and the appropriate diet for each type or dosha as they are called. Kapha, pitta and vata refer to the elements earth, fire and water. Each body, it is said has a predominance of one or two and is called accordingly.

Wouldn’t you know it? I am heavy on kapha-earth with just enough pitta-fire to keep the fat under control. It is recommended that kaphas abstain from wheat and dairy.

After I returned from India the blood type diet became the rage. According to its guidelines, Type O’s such as myself should avoid dairy and wheat! It was beginning to sound like a conspiracy!

From a yoga regimen in India I went on to Tai Chi and became interested in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) where herbals instead of chemicals are used to overcome negative body conditions as well as to cleanse and energize. In general, nine body types are described; we have physiological, structural, and psychological elements that create our unique bodies. TCM looks at the person’s constitution for clinical treatment, to promote health and to balance the yin-yang in one’s body. Once again, I found myself confronting foods that I should avoid or in this case, add to my diet.

As I made my way through the various traditions and paths of eating, not to mention my interest in farm to fork and Slow Food, fortunately, I began to listen to my body. At one point it told me to stop eating meat. I did, not for any moral or spiritual reason, but only because my body said, “don’t eat meat.” I agreed. In recent years it said, “don’t eat wheat.” OK, I said. Every time it speaks I find its message generally in alignment with the information I had garnered from my studies. I think that’s what’s called body wisdom.

I have learned that I need to make food choices according to my genetics, doshas, blood type, common sense and perhaps most important, body wisdom. How I carry them out depends on whether the body and spirit are willing.

We eat to live, but what we eat has an impact on how we live. We also live to eat but how we live is determined by what we eat. In its Greek origin, the word diet means a way of life. According to the above mentioned ancient health systems, the intake of food is advised according to the body type. If one follows what is suggested and listens to the body as well, diet does become a way of life.

In my growing age I finally reached a point where I had everything with my diet nicely settled. And then I receive the email about bean paste. Here’s the upshot. An active ingredient in white kidney bean extract, phaseolus vulgaris blocks the enzyme necessary for starch digestion. Theoretically, the starch will pass through the digestive tract without being broken down into simple sugars and later stored as fat. At last, with this miracle supplement I can eat pizza, pasta, bread, in a nutshell. all the carbs I want.

Tell me, what’s a girl to do?