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Emotional eaters


According to Chopra, humans eat for two reasons: hunger and emotional replacement

According to Chopra, humans eat for two reasons: hunger and emotional replacement

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Deepak Chopra

Deepak Chopra

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According to Chopra, humans eat for two reasons: hunger and emotional replacement

Deepak Chopra exudes an overwhelming self-belief that's almost inhuman, mechanical even. He never falters in the absolute certainty of his teachings and wisdom, never a doubt. At least during our conversation.

Though a meandering in his abilities would hardly be the path to a colossal empire- with an annual revenue of $20million for the prominent advocator of alternative medicine and spiritualism - surety equates success.

Chopra speaks to me over a wavering phone line from his home in Los Angeles. His clipped, New Delhi accent delivered in a warm conveyor-belt tone.

We're chatting about his latest health tome, What Are You Hungry For?, which boasts the strapline, 'the solution to permanent weight loss, well-being and lightness of soul.'

He's quick to point out, it's far from your standard diet book with a grocery list of recipes. "It's rather a way to live your life towards achieving weight loss and a healthier standard of living," he says. "It's not about counting calories and going to the gym. That simply doesn't adhere to sustainability. It's about a mind and body approach to weight loss. All parts of the body must be healthy.

"It's a new approach which ditches the faddy diets that promote awareness eating through purity, energy and balance. And elevating your consciousness. With this approach, there is no concept of failure."

So this is a fool-proof method for losing weight, I ask. "Yes it is," Chopra replies, without hesitation.

It's a bold statement, I remark.

"But it's the truth," he says.

The world-famous doctor, scientist and alternative medicine guru, has written over 75 books, translated into 35 languages dealing with health, spirituality, faith and humanity. Among his health titles; Ageless Mind, Timeless Body, Perfect Health and Creating Health.

What Are You Hungry For? is only his second book to deal directly with weight loss after his 1996 bestseller, Perfect Weight, which promoted the ideal of 'only eating when you are truly hungry.'

Now, the guru to the stars, including Oprah and the late Michael Jackson, is focusing on the reasons behind overeating through a combination of scientific research with alternative remedies.

"This new method is about being conscious and aware on a very practical level," he says. "I would say for anybody who wanted to lose weight, before they put any food in their mouths, they need to ask themselves, 'Am I hungry?'

"And on a scale of one to 10, 'how hungry?' Famished; very full; not hungry at all. It all depends on the certain levels of hunger. And you need to get in to the habit of doing that."

According to Chopra, who studied endocrinology in India before relocating to the States and following the teachings of transcendental meditation, humans eat for two reasons: hunger and emotional replacement. The latter, in his opinion, is the vast cause of weight problems.

"That is the basis of this book. We put food in the body for one of two reasons; hungry for food or hungry for something else - either attention or appreciation or acceptance. Or love, or acknowledgement of some kind. I'm trying to teach people if they start to become more conscious of this, they will immediately realise the impulse will start to go away."

According to Chopra, the body enters four stages of a sliding scale that drastically effect weight gain. Recognising where your hunger sits is key to regaining your ideal weight.

"There is 'normal eating', which makes you feel good. 'Overeating' that feels good in the moment but leads to bad results in the long run. 'Giving into cravings' which doesn't feel good at all. It leads to remorse, guilt, and frustration sets in almost immediately. And 'food addiction', which brings suffering, declining health, and total lack of self-esteem.

Surely this is easier said than done? And potentially more arduous than simply going on a diet? Chopra disagrees.

"If you want to return to your ideal weight, two choices face you. You can go on a diet or do something else. This book is about that something else. Dieting involves the wrong kind of motivation, which is why it rarely leads to the desired goal. You are taking the route of denial and doing without.

"Every day on a diet involves struggling against your hunger and fighting for self-control. Is there a more unsatisfying way to live? Weight loss needs to be satisfying in order to succeed."

Recognising the impulse for hunger is only part of his weight-loss wisdom. Chopra goes into detail of combinatory factors.

"Getting enough sleep! I couldn't stress enough the importance of sleep in finding a healthy balance. You must have enough sleep to generate enough hormones that control your appetite.

"I also talk about movement in the book. And I'm not talking about hours in the gym, on machines and treadmills. I'm talking general walking. Movement. I move on average 10,000 steps a day, sometimes 20,000.

"And finally, and this is the big one, I speak about food. Good and bad. Particularly the bad. Any that is processed, manufactured, refined, has sugar, comes in a can; all those foods increase inflammation in the body and disrupt your hormonal balance. These need to be eliminated."

In his assured, certain tones, it almost sounds so easy. So achievable. However, Chopra seems to forgo the schedules and hectic responsibilities of modern daily life. In today's world, are his ways ever practical? Is it realistic for the average Joe and Josephine?

"It's a good excuse, but it's up there with what I always say; 'if you don't have time to meditate 10 minutes a day, you should be doing it twice a day. Because you're the very person who needs it.'"

What of those who would eschew his complicated teachings and say all you need is 'simple moderation'?

"Well, yes," he stalls, "but you know, I think information is very empowering and it's knowledge. Ultimately it's knowledge that you just don't read about, you become that knowledge. My books are about transformation. You don't just dip into them".

In What Are You Hungry For?, Chopra details a number of individual success stories. But surely his methods can't work for all? Has he encountered any failures? Any who were dissatisfied with his teachings?

"If somebody follows and understands how metabolism works, there is no question of failure," he says.

He sighs. "The people who read my books are interested in my work and come to workshops. They've already selected themselves from cynicism or scepticism or they don't want to try."

The good doctor never relents. There's a syntactical pace to his words, which often prove allusive and evasive to listen to. There's lacking in preciseness. But the man is worth $80m with hundreds of thousands of loyal disciples around the world. There must be some truth to his teachings.

Nevertheless, the criticism of his methods is always present, mainly from scientists eager to dispel his non-medical style of self-help.

"It doesn't bother me," he explains. "I'm getting over it. I don't normally get angry but I do get angry at the arrogance at the people who call themselves scientists and are not even aware that there are other ways of knowing, than science.

"This method provides results. But as I've said before, I am not outcome-driven. I am process-driven. And I want to teach the ways of purity, energy and balance when it comes to weight loss. About removing toxins and returning to nature. And fuelling your body, not just from eating, but from the joy of eating. And balancing out a life that you want to live."

At 68 and having once been, admittedly, 20lbs overweight, Chopra even uses himself as testament to his own teachings.

"It's worked for me. I have followed everything I say in this book and I am fully satisfied with my balance, my health. And at my age, it's very important to me to feel vital and energetic.

What Are You Hungry For? is out now.

Health & Living