Boston Medical Center recently published an article stating that "An estimated 45 million Americans diet each year and spend $33 billion annually on weight loss products." Whether people choose to pay money each month to follow a food program, find a new fad diet that allows them to indulge in eating chocolate, or they follow a plan that emulates the diet of a certain geographic region, they make a tremendous investment of time and money to make it happen.
But the far more known statistic is the one that stares us in the face every day: More than half of America is overweight or obese.
With so many diets, trends, and new scientific studies finding their way through our cultural pipeline, it can often seem daunting to find the most valuable information for creating healthy change. But what is also significant is that we as a species have existed for many thousands of years -- but much of the information we're applying to our lives hasn't even been here for a decade. It hasn't been tested over the course of generations, and much of the information is presented not because of its validity or inherent truth -- but because of the monetary benefits of selling information as news. This is why each of us stands to benefit from considering the most ancient information we have access to -- information that didn't have to be sold to be true.
The ancient sages of India developed a tradition of personal health and growth that stood the test of time through many centuries of practice and implementation. Though there were many texts developed over this period of time, one sage in particular -- Patanjali -- developed a text known as "The Yoga Sutras." In this text, he provided a succinct but thorough exploration of a system for growing ourselves spiritually and alleviating the feeling of lack that compels us to live poorly and need diets in the first place.
This system, of course, is known as yoga.
Yoga, despite its association with the physical postures through which people bend themselves into unlikely positions, is actually a system for alleviating personal suffering. It is the type of suffering that causes us to fill our emptiness with food and other forms of sensory gratification. When we alleviate this suffering, we no longer eat poorly and no longer become part of disturbing statistics.
But, like modern self-help authors, Patanjali knew that we would need guidance -- that we would need an easy-to-understand, step-by-step program for implementing this change. Within the Sutras, he laid out what he called "The Eightfold Path" -- a series of eight different steps for attaining peace and contentment.
There are many self-help programs out there promising us change, and many step-by-step plans that supposedly make it easier to achieve our health and lifestyle goals. But if these programs are so easy, why are we spending $33 billion each year to implement them? Why are more than half of us overweight or obese?
When considering the type of program to follow, stick with what has existed for a long time. Patanjali didn't lay his program out a decade or two ago.
In fact, The Yoga Sutras has been in existence for 2,500 years.
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