In our first interview with Mondo Samu, we asked him how it feels to have lost 100lbs with mindful eating and living over the last year. He spoke of mental and physical agility and stamina + how mindfulness has improved his relationships. Here we dig a little deeper - he shares with us what tools and knowledge have been most helpful in this journey.
S: You tried a few diets before practicing mindful eating and living- what did you try and why do you think those didn’t work- while mindful living has?
M: Ugh. Well. I tried many over the years. I couldn't begin to recall the names of them. More than anything, I just tried generic "dieting"...meaning, restricting something from myself. The only one I could name, and it was the only "Diet" that worked at all, was Body For Life by Bill Phillips. That one involves a healthy diet of 6 meals per day, portion control, and 6 days a week of very good workouts. I lost 65 pounds and kept it off for a while, but ultimately it came back.
The reason that NONE of them worked was ME. I never changed my lifestyle or my relationship to the food. I viewed all diets as something I did for X amount of time, to lose Y amount of pounds and then I reverted to whatever I was accustomed to. Savor, which I do NOT refer to as a diet or diet book, worked for me because it made me realize this.
I'm a professional problem solver, and my weight has been the one problem I haven’t been able to solve. When I read the apple meditation, the four noble truths...it was as if a switch got flicked in my brain and the lights came on. I suddenly understood the simple facts of my relationship to food and exercise, and I was able to easily fix it.
People never believe me, and always accuse me of being very strong willed or dedicated. Well I guess I can be, but I promise you it isn't true with respect to food, or I wouldn't have been fat for over 40 years!
S: In your blog, you mention a lot of strategies to eat more mindfully. What lifestyle change has been the biggest/hardest for you?
M: Initially I really didn't struggle much at all. I read it, I understood it, and the weight started to come off. But now as I pursue Buddhism more, I've decided that I want to be - at minimum - vegetarian, and I would LIKE to go fully Vegan. I already eat vegan whenever I can, but chicken and dairy are my biggest weaknesses. I eat a lot of chicken. I don't really want to, but I haven't felt right when I've gone too long without it. The good news is that I have a very strong desire to give up these things, so I just have to find the right solution. I'm fortunate that I get a lot of opportunity to travel, which has made it easy for me to eat some great vegan food.
S: What would you say to someone, who wants to live a healthier lifestyle, but feels burdened by excess weight or downtrodden because diets they’ve tried in the past didn’t work?
M: I would say to read Savor. I would say to explore mindfulness. I’ve told many people about my experience, thinking that would inspire them, but they immediately write it off as me being extraordinary in some way that they are not (like self control or discipline). I try to make them understand that it is absolutely possible, and NOT hard. Ultimately, though, I think that the "switch" I mentioned before would have to flip for them like it did for me. I think the Third Noble Truth must be understood. There IS a way to lose the weight, be healthy and end your suffering.
S: What TNH saying has helped you the most, in your everyday life?
M: What attracts me to TNH is the simplistic beauty of his teachings. I'm an analytical person by trade, so I appreciate technical descriptions, but Thay boils down these incredibly deep teachings to simple one-line thoughts. One of my favorites has been "Smile, Breathe and Go Slowly" but my absolute favorite, and it has become my mantra of sorts, is "SAVOR!"
S: How did SAVOR help you in this journey? What sections of SAVOR do you find most helpful?
M: Savor was the catalyst for me, and has served as a reference or manual for me when I've needed guidance, explanations or just motivation. I found a really cool picture of Savor with a nice bookmark in it, on a table with a teapot and cup of tea. I use this as my wallpaper on my iPhone to this day. It's a constant reminder.
I use a lot of tools to help me besides Savor. I rely extensively on iPhone apps. I use a pedometer for walking, a timer for meditating, and many more. I recommend using technology. Don't think that it will do the work for you, but use those tools. The most important app for me is "LoseIt!". I highly recommend it, and think it's EXTREMELY important to track your calories. Seeing the calories that you’re consuming forces you to acknowledge it mindfully.
I had the great honor and pleasure of seeing Thich Nhat Hanh in California this year at Deer Park Monastery. I consider him my teacher. I would like to publicly give my warmest, most heartfelt thanks to Dr. Cheung and Thich Nhat Hanh for the dramatic change they ushered in to my life. Thay turned 85 recently, and it would please me greatly to know that he hears of this and knows what he means to me.