The Cannabis Yoga Diet
I'm in the middle of an experiment, and it seems to be working.
I'm losing weight with cannabis and yoga. I've lost 40 pounds so far, and it's the most fun diet I've ever tried. I've been overweight my entire life, so I know the rules of dieting like the back of my hand. The problem is, my body doesn't respond to the math of weight loss. If "calories out" are greater than "calories in", the weight comes off, right?
Nope. Not for all of us. I can spend hours on a cardio machine at the gym and eat nothing but lettuce and I won't lose weight. I'll get sick and fall over, but the scale won't budge. But every once in a while, my body sheds 20 pounds while I eat nachos on the couch. I had no control over my weight, so I gave up. I ate whatever I wanted and worked out only when I felt like it, and stayed fat.
When I fractured my spine, they found tumors on my adrenal glands. These little buggers increase my cortisol levels and mess with my hormones. Cortisol is the stress hormone, and too much of it results in a spare tire around the belly. When my stress is high, so is my weight. When I lead a low-stress lifestyle, the weight comes off.
The opposite of the "fight or flight" response is the "rest and digest" response. "Fight or flight" is the sympathetic nervous system that revs us up while the "rest and digest" parasympathetic nervous system slows us down. Our bodies need a balance of both, but the stress and fear of everyday life makes us constantly ready to fight or flee, which upsets the balance of the nervous system. Focusing our attention on the parasympathetic nervous system - calming the body - brings the entire nervous system back to homeostasis.
WHY THE CANNABIS YOGA DIET IS WORKING:
1. Appetite Reduction. I'm not hungry, so it's easy to stick to a low calorie count. Mindfulness like meditation and yoga reduces stress eating and CBD reduces appetite, so I don't crave food. I drink enough water to stay fully hydrated, so my body isn't telling me I'm hungry when really I'm just thirsty. Sleep deprivation makes us eat more, so I stay rested. Yoga doesn't increase appetite like cardio. When I swim a mile I burn a ton of calories, but I eat them back faster because after I swim I am STARVING.
2. Calorie Restriction: It sucks, but we don't lose weight without it. I eat 1,000 calories less, everyday, than I need to maintain my current my weight, so I lose 2 pounds a week. And losing 8 pounds a month is an excruciatingly slow process. I've been starving for months and still have months to go. I need treats, rewards, carrots to keep me going, otherwise I'm going to reward myself with cake. Getting high is a nice reward for my efforts, and so is yoga. I feel wonderful after a yoga class - the tension is gone from my neck and shoulders. I feel strong and loose and confident in a way that cardio doesn't reward me.
3. Stress Reduction: My theory is that the more time I spend in the "digest and heal" nervous system, the more easily my body is able to lose weight. So I do everything I can to get, and stay, chill. Yoga reduces stress, lowers blood pressure and heart rate and turns on the parasympathetic nervous system. So does meditation. So does cannabis.
Friends have asked for specifics of the Cannabis Yoga Diet, so here are a few of the rules I've made up, and why they're important.
1. Food: I eat 1200-1300 calories a day. I track them with my Fitbit app. I can eat anything I want, but the party ends at 1300 calories. I entered my sex, age and weight into calculators to get this number, so you need to figure out how many calories you need everyday to lose weight. I follow a general healthy diet meal plan when I cook - protein, greens and veggies, fruit for dessert - and I make sure to get enough protein and fiber to avoid hunger, but I allow myself cheat meals and sometimes I eat so much candy my Fitbit only allows me a protein shake for dinner.
2. Water. So much water. Constant water. I drink at least 120 ounces of water a day. Ignore the water weight fluctuations on the scale and keep drinking. Hydration is so important, not only for weight loss but for good health and a good mood.
3. Sleep. Losing weight stresses the body, so it's important to sleep as much as possible so the body has time to recover. Aim for 9 hours, not 8.
4. Very little alcohol or caffeine. I don't keep it in the house, but I do meet friends for coffee or drinks every once in awhile. Too much caffeine will affect your hormones (and reduce the effects of cannabis). You don't have to stop drinking alcohol, but if you are drinking more than 1-2 drinks a day, alcohol is making you puffy and dehydrated. You don't need it, you have weed.
5. Yoga. 4-6 vinyasa classes a week. You don't have to pay $15 for a yoga class everyday. I pay $20 a month for access to a dozen new yoga classes a week. I do them in my underwear on the kitchen floor. I also hit a yoga studio for a class every once in a while, just to avoid the boredom of the kitchen floor and try something new.
6. 20 minutes of meditation everyday. I do this at the end of my yoga class. Download an app if you need a guided meditation, or simply focus on your breath, letting all thoughts simply come and go. 20 minutes is a long time, but it got me in the habit and now I do a couple of deep breaths in any stressful situation. When I stay regular with meditation I can drive through heavy traffic and make it through Trader Joe's at rush hour. When I don't I have to wait until 9 PM to grocery shop so I won't run someone over with my cart in frustration.
7. Cannabis. Stick to a low dose of THC for yoga, but eat/inhale a moderate-high dose of CBD before your yoga class or meditation. Vinyasa yoga requires a clear head and strong muscles to focus on your breath and keep up with the flow of poses, so don't get too high. Plus, more than 10 mg THC will increase anxiety, not reduce it. I prefer 1:1 THC/CBD flower and edibles. I eat the edible an hour before class and I smoke flower a few minutes before so that the effects of the cannabis kick in while I'm on the mat, not an hour afterwards.
I need at least 25-50 mg of CBD a day to keep a lid on my appetite and stay happy. You may need more or less. Experiment with your dosage until you find what works for you. We want to feel happy and healthy, not high. Start with low doses and only increase by 5-10 mg at a time.
8. No Cardio: I want to be calm, not sedentary. So I do vinyasa yoga to build muscle and increase my strength, and the sun salutations in vinyasa yoga 4-6 times a week are enough cardio to keep me healthy without increasing my sympathetic nervous system or appetite. Exercise is good for us, but too much is too stressful.
9. No hot yoga. Just stop it. High temperatures and humidity do not improve your fitness. They don't burn calories. They make you FEEL like you worked really hard, but you burn fewer calories in a hot yoga class than in an unheated vinyasa, flow class. Heat and humidity just make you dehydrated and sweaty. For the best yoga workout, start in a cold room and do sun salutations until you warm yourself up with movement, not the furnace.
That's it. It doesn't really cost anything, except the yoga. And marijuana. But I pay for yoga with the money I save from skipping coffee, so it it all works out. It feels good, and maybe that's why it works. Diets don't usually feel good.
DISCLAIMERS: BACK OFF, I ALREADY KNOW:
1. My lungs aren't great, and this plan isn't helping. Smoking isn't good for me and vinyasa isn't the best exercise for improving lung capacity. I don't like vaping and I have no intention of climbing Mount Everest or doing an Ironman, so I don't care. You might care. That's okay. Just stick to edibles and do your cardio along with yoga.
2. I don't focus on sugar or gluten or carbs. I'm not vegan. I'm not vegetarian. I eat wheat. I love salt and butter. Some days I pull out an Alice Waters cookbook and hit the farmers market and other days I eat an entire frozen pizza because it has 1200 calories and cost $3. Again, let's not judge each other. Eat what you want. We're all grownups. Make your own food plan, just make sure you stick to it. I had a cheat day turn into a cheat month because I stopped following the plan.
3. I'm still fat. There's no after picture. This is a process and I have a lot of weight to lose. But it's working really well, and nothing else ever has. I'm losing weight and I'm not miserable. I'm hungry but it's manageable. I'm well rested, well hydrated, my skin looks amazing (I use cannabis on my face, too, but yoga really is magic) my body feels good, and I feel good. Usually when I try to shed pounds I feel hangry, all the time, and I give up. But I don't want to give this up. It feels too good.
4. Is this doctor approved? Kind of. When my doctor asked me how I'd lost 35 pounds, I was honest. "Yoga and weed."
"Sounds like more fun than Weight Watchers," she said, laughing.
I'm not sure if that counts as approval. But she didn't say no.