As long as I can remember, rice has been something I could not give up. Well, I am born Chinese, where no-one would question this as unusual. Rice is served almost in every meal; I was so attached to my rice that I grew my own once.
Rice, being a staple in Asia, is used extensively; from the plain steamed rice that accompanies a meal, to the sweets made with glutinous rice, steamed sticky rice in a lotus leaf wrap with meats, the ever famous fried rice, rice noodles, breakfast congee (rice cooked in water until a porridge consistency), steamed rice rolls and so on – who would ever question the consumption of something so inherent to our culture and traditional identity?
I was no exception, and although petite I could probably eat more rice than someone twice my size, and not really gain weight. If there was rice, I would be content. When travelling, rice is the first word I learn in a foreign language, just so that I can ensure my ability to order it. In my opinion, eating other carbohydrates like potatoes or pasta doesn’t even come close to the feeling I have when eating rice. I would also choose rice over meat, as meat fills me up quickly; but rice, I can eat a lot of it. Being always hungry, rice has become my comfort.
Rice, unlike alcohol or drugs, is not illegal if you buy it under 18 years of age, or consume it in public. But like any addiction, it takes a lot of courage and honesty to feel and acknowledge what is really true for the body. From young, we were told that we are good children if we ate a lot of rice, since rice, being less expensive than meat, is consumed in much greater quantities. We were also taught, through a traditional saying “fan hey gung sum” (direct translation: ‘the energy of the rice invading the heart’, which is pretty spot on), that it is natural to feel drowsy after eating rice, and most would not question it. We would just feel somewhat unlike ourselves and unable to have optimal clarity after a big rice meal.
Yet the ‘comfort’ that results from eating rice is worth it, or so I told myself, even if being a bit muddle-headed was the payoff. I have long since given up alcohol, and sugar is not something that I crave (probably because all the rice I have been consuming has made that redundant), milk and chocolate were foods I had disliked since young, and when I had worked my way even into relinquishing cheese, oh boy, was I not prepared to give up rice. Whenever life felt stressful, I would make sure rice, a lot of it, would see me through. As such, this could be a situation that would go on, never to be questioned for the rest of my life.
But in 2012, I joined an Esoteric retreat organised by Universal Medicine in Vietnam; in fact, it was my first time joining anything Esoteric. Throughout the four days of the retreat, rice was not a part of the meals. I had enjoyed the retreat and its teachings, group discussions and wonderful nurturing food tremendously. Having said that, the experience also allowed me to feel how hungry I was without my rice. It was the beginning of an unmasking of the emptiness I had been covering up all my life. I felt how I had numbed myself from my own light and how I had been hiding who I truly am with this feigned comfort given to me, such as by consuming rice (I had myriad different numbing techniques, apart from rice). This emptiness was not something that was easy to swallow, and it so much fed into my arrogance and ignorance that on the last day of the retreat I went to the market and ate a plate of rice!
Throughout this past year, what has been initiated from the retreat has given me the courage as well as the support to be much more honest with myself. Who would have imagined a female Chinese, who cannot live without rice, would one day, not out of abstinence, nor because someone told her that rice is bad, but through an honest exploration and self-love, choose not to include rice in her diet anymore?
For in the stillness of my heart, overriding how my body is feeling is not okay anymore, hiding from the fullness of who I am is not okay anymore, and being led by a perception of any culture is also not okay anymore. Ultimately, when I chose to be in the livingness of who I truly am, the need to numb myself disappeared. It is truly no longer okay to perpetuate what is not true even though it has been accepted as normal. Once I realised this, my attachment with rice simply ended.
By Adele Leung, Fashion stylist/Art director, Hong Kong
That’s beautiful Adele. If we are tuned in, our bodies will let us know if what we are eating is working for us. Next up comes the discipline, if we know it doesn’t work for us are we going to continue just because it tastes nice or will we commit to ourselves and not put anything in our bodies that will lessen us?
I always liked rice but what I really liked was toasted bread or fresh bread, i.e. wheat. It turns out that parts of wheat break down to peptides in the stomach and peptides can get through the blood brain barrier and give you a mild euphoric feeling. That makes a lot of sense to me – no wonder I felt good after a big plate of spaghetti even though I could hardly move.
Now all I have to understand why fresh bread was even more addictive.
Rice is such a tricky customer, it looks so innocent, it slips down so easily, it often doesn’t seem heavy as we eat it, it can be plain, and yet, as Adele’s blog illustrates, if we stop to feel, we may well find that eating innocent looking rice numbs us, and takes the edge off the realities of life. Sometimes I crave rice, and sometimes I give in and eat it, but it is good to be reminded to look at why, because I know from my own experience that Adele is right, rice does make us foggy, so if I am craving rice, it makes sense to ask why.
“For in the stillness of my heart, overriding how my body is feeling is not okay anymore, hiding from the fullness of who I am is not okay anymore, and being led by a perception of any culture is also not okay anymore. ” Powerful, inspiring and so very true. Thank you Adele for the light that you shine through the truth that you are.
What I asked myself when I read the introduction to this article was; ‘Were you born Chinese or were you Adele born in China where your family tradition was to have rice as a staple food?’ We so easily take on the habits and traditions of our parents and place of birth and assume that that is who we are and need to be to fit in. I am finding it very liberating as I learn to just accept myself for who I am and this is allowing me to see others in the same way.
Thank you Mary, that is a great point to ponder on. And so much easier for us to be liberated from the ideals of a tradition or culture, even though certain beliefs have been existing and embraced by many for a long time, they do not necessary express truth. Perpetuation of a tradition does not make something truth, does it? Truth is something the body feels and knows.
From my body to yours Adele, your willingness to listen to your body when it said rice dampens my heart and makes me feel sleepy, is inspiring. Our bodies tell us so much when we choose to listen and feel, not always very comfortable for our brains!
Adele this is beautiful – I too have felt the “stillness of my heart” which when given opportunity can override any feelings of desire towards a food of comfort, craving of stimulation, or search of a dulling food.
“Who would have imagined a female Chinese, who cannot live without rice, would one day, not out of abstinence, nor because someone told her that rice is bad, but through an honest exploration and self-love, choose not to include rice in her diet anymore?” How amazing to break a mould that doesn’t fit and feel honestly what feels right even if it goes against the norm of culture.
So true Rachel. The norm of a culture once felt so huge and overpowering to me. But actually beliefs only bind when we allow them precedence over what the body feels. It is empowering to be with the body, for we cannot hurt the body when we are with it, it does not allow us to. If it’s not truth, it is not truth, and this is a daily on-going revelation.
Thank you Adele for a great article on rice and cultural foods. I stopped eating rice and potatoes at the same time last year as I felt that these foods were having the same effect as bread on my body. How fabulous to have a body that we can listen to, directing us to the foods that really agree with us.
Thank you Adele for your honest sharing of your experience with rice that says so much more. “It is truly no longer okay to perpetuate what is not true even though it has been accepted as normal.”
A very powerful article loaded with the love you have for yourself for us to feel.
“When I chose to be in the livingness of who I truly am, the need to numb myself disappeared” – this is huge, it shows a different way for approaching every addiction/vice we use to ‘numb’ – it’s not about getting a person to understand that the vice is not good for them, it is about allowing them to feel who they truly are and how to support that with the ‘livingness’ – then the vices are not needed.
I grew up in japan where rice is also a staple. People eat it like they eat bread in the west – breakfast, lunch and dinner! Now wonder so much of the workforce of the world are ready for a nap in the afternoon. It took me a long time to let go of my attachment to rice. I realised in the end it wasn’t really the rice, but it was the comfort that it provided that I was enjoying. Then I thought – if I’m turning to food to be comforted, there’s got to be something amiss in my life. These days when I feel a craving for comforting food, instead of hopping to the nearest chinese takeaway, I look at what is going on in my life, what am I feeling, what am I trying to avoid feeling.
Jinya I love what you share something for me to ponder on, as I am still using some foods as comfort. So really I need to look at what’s going on in my life, what am I feeling and what am I trying to avoid feeling.
What am I trying to avoid feeling? Thank you Jinya and Amita for this question, we often don’t allow ourselves to feel what is really going on, and our body has to suffer the consequences. A great reminder to keep feeling and listening to the body.
Definitely part of the fun and empowerment–the refinement process, thank you Fiona.
Thanks Adele Its great when we come to the realisation that certain things aren’t doing us any good and are able to rid ourselves of them.
I also went down the route of cutting out stodgy filling foods. Rice was the last to go after bread, pasta and potatoes, although I still have cravings for certain high sugar starchy foods, I have a register in my body of how I felt after I’d eaten it last, so that helps me to not choose to eat it again.
Adele, I found your story so moving. The last paragraph brought tears of joy as I can feel your honesty showing you your own truth…and how this rediscovery of and choice to embrace yourself has allowed you to open up and love humanity….
Here is the answer to all the worlds hatred and abuses.
I love how you realized that living as less than you are and all that goes with it is “…not okay anymore” and then how your need for comforts dropped away…this is So beautiful.
So true Jo. The greatest joy is in our choice to finally surrender and then every day this joy continues and deepens with what our choices reflect back.
Hi Adele, This blog brings a clear message of how we can use food in life. Its not always used to bring health and vitality to the body, its actually mostly eaten to stop us feeling hunger – but is the hunger we feel real? – of course for some in war torn places or during famine it can be – but for most in the western world food is readily available and we rarely stop to look at or feel the true needs of the body. Thanks for sharing your journey with us Adele, it reminds me to continue to look at my own diet and ask does it bring me vitality or numbs me.
“For in the stillness of my heart, overriding how my body is feeling is not okay anymore, hiding from the fullness of who I am is not okay anymore, and being led by a perception of any culture is also not okay anymore.” The power of these words, Adele, is deeply inspiring. Thank you.
Thanks for highlighting that line Anna, it’s very inspiring indeed and relevant to all the areas where we override what we feel.
Thank you Adele. A beautifully graceful blog. It is true, food can be addictive, these addictions are painted over with cultural identity to cement their place in the world. For example, my Cream Tea and Pastry that was a pre-requisite each time I visited my home country from the big smoke in the past. I was collaborating with so much more than just a scone and a pastry, they were loaded with comfort, numbing and false belonging, thorough identity with a place and culture. That is even before I looked at what they were doing to my body physiologically. Simple without judgement, let’s just ask why and see what our bodies have to say… Thank you.
I use to fry Mochi on the pan which is a Japanese desert made with glutinous rice and then have it with Maple syrup. That would completely give me a buzz but would also plunge me into daydreaming afterwards!
Adele, this is truly inspirational! I particularly love the revelation you had: “It was the beginning of an unmasking of the emptiness I had been covering up all my life.” I could stop rice no problem as I always felt uncomfortably full yet not satisfied after eating it. I have however replaced rice with Quinoa which doesn’t bloat me but I know I’m eating it to “get full”.
I must say that I do also try Quinoa from time to time and it doesn’t agree with my body so much any more.
This is such a great reminder to feel if we are eating something to ‘get full’. And then to get more honest about why we aren’t feeling ‘full of ourselves’ at that time.
I enjoyed reading your article Adele. Rice also played a big part in my diet as a child and I continued to have it as a staple in most meals well into adulthood. I have been observing the effects that certain food have on my body over the last few years and since cutting out things like dairy, sugar, and gluten I feel less tired during the day and have better energy and concentration levels. Rice also went, because I noticed it used to make me feel very bloated. Now that I don’t eat those foods anymore, I look back and realize what a huge impact my food choices had on my health and my moods. Its very empowering to make new choices and feel the beneficial effects.
Thank you Adele. This article reminds me of my personal fix which was cheese. Cheese in the fridge shouted at me to be eaten and, yes, I recognized it as being something of an addiction but dismissed this with the excuse that all that calcium was good for me. When I started feeling my body and how I felt after indulging in a cheese fest, I realized that I had been fooling myself and that my body did not enjoy the effect of cheese. I am now free of this addiction and feel so much more healthy.
Even when I was on a rice diet I would allow myself a tiny amount of Roquefort (a soft blue cheese) because it would go “well” with a glass of red wine!!! Then I would make myself believe that eating rice after that would clear the whole thing away … Seriously! The dangers with some so called Detox diets is that people think they can get away with eating anything and clear it afterwards, when actually the detox in itself is not even near being healthy at all.
So true Mary that we so often eat from our heads when that is not what the body wants. It is so harming what is taught in schools and society as of what is “good” for us–how many portions of meat and vegetables we should eat–this is all educating our children to never feel what their bodies truly require, how many of us then head down the road of using food as a form of comfort and abuse when we grow up?
It’s amazing, to see the way rice acts as a drug when you have investment in it, causing an addiction and also quite physical symptoms.
Yes Oliver, it could be rice or anything else really. And how many billions of people who live under the belief that rice is what gives them energy and vitality, how many people are born into this addiction of comfort, feeling into this is deeply uncomfortable, because so many believe there is never another choice. But there is, there is another way, with The Way of the Livingness, we get to feel the truth of everything in life.
I love this line Adele “For in the stillness of my heart, overriding how my body is feeling is not okay anymore, hiding from the fullness of who I am is not okay anymore, and being led by a perception of any culture is also not okay anymore.” Clearly calling out and speaking the truth of the body – wonderful!
I loved reading your blog Adele! This has been such a big stumbling block for me. I go through long periods of eating healthy light foods and then I find myself reverting back to old eating habits which I realise dull my senses and limit my awareness. Why would I do such a thing? This is most definitely a question for me to ponder on. I love the clarity of your writing and am inspired to look more deeply at why I choose to eat foods that I know will stop me from feeling the beautiful light that I’ve felt I am.
Hi Adele. Thank you for your honesty – I love how simple it was for you to simply understand why you were using rice, and with that realisation the attachment just dropped. It inspires me to look into more detail at why I use my own rices.
Yes Jane, and I find it interesting that it isn’t any particular food, but more likely to be the staple diet we were brought up on, and often that is the carbohydrates which fill us up. I guess this stems from times when there was nothing much else to eat, and the proteins and vegetables difficult or expensive to come by. Now we have a huge range of food to choose from in some countries and cultures and are privileged to have the choice, and yet the habits are so strong, and the comfort so great, we find it difficult to come to the place that Adele describes, to be still and loving enough with ourselves to feel the fullness of who we are and make a different choice and listen truly to our bodies. And this takes courage, as the whole system still hangs on to the accepted notions of what constitutes a healthy diet; we only have to look at hospital food to see that!
I agree Jane and Joan. We all grow up with different staple foods in different cultures–and that plays such a role in entrenching us within the consciousness of that culture.
When looking at the staple foods of most areas they seem to be very rich heavy carbohydrate type foods. Such as Rice, Wheat, Corn. These staple foods make us feel heavy and bloated after eating them, yet they are the main source of food in most countries. These foods are cheap and are used to fill out meals so as to keep the cost of a meal down. I know for myself I found when I stopped eating wheat, rice and corn based products, meals became more expensive. This did not last to long as I noticed my meal sizes reduced overtime. Now I eat the same amount of meat I used to eat when I ate the accompanying carb based foods, but without the carbs my meals are smaller. It is as if the hunger you wrote about is why we seek these extra dense foods to achieve the full/bloated feeling so we don’t have to feel the emotions and feelings we have buried deep within us. So if we deal with these feelings and emotions there is no need to pack out our meals with these “filler” foods.
‘It is as if the hunger you wrote about is why we seek these extra dense foods to achieve the full/bloated feeling so we don’t have to feel the emotions and feelings we have buried deep within us. So if we deal with these feelings and emotions there is no need to pack out our meals with these “filler” foods.’
Thank you Toni, that is a very useful observation. Only when somebody is overweight there is talk about how they eat their issues away but if food can do that, then everybody is doing that all the time taking into account the growth of all inclusive formulas and the all you can eat restaurants. People want more, more, more. Food seems to be used in the same manner as alcohol and drugs. Pondering on that, listening to your body and working through your issues seems to be the only sane thing a person can do.
Thank you Adele, I know there are foods that I eat and have eaten because they make me feel “better”, which really just means comfortable and not feeling what’s going on i.e when stressed, anxious etc… But It’s great to be reminded that perhaps the foods are simply stopping myself from feeling that empty feeling inside – something to explore further!
Yes, and Adele has shown how beneficial it can be; what transformation, expansion and love can be found by choosing to stop covering over our feeling of emptiness with foods!
This is great article Adele, thank you for your honesty. I loved reading, “It is truly no longer okay to perpetuate what is not true even though it has been accepted as normal”.
I had a similar experience with the humble potato. It was our family’s staple carbo, often disguised as chips, roast potatoes or crisps, sometimes agonisingly bland as boiled potatoes or’ mash’ and becoming particularly insidious in inducing drowsiness when jacket potatoes, laden with fat-fuelled fillings became fashionable. Noticing the consistent link between my potato consumption and subsequent rapid-response blood sugar crashes, I eventually waved the potato goodbye, but shifted to rice as a substitute, only to find the same thing happening. It took me several years to accept fully that rice just wasn’t the health food I believed it to be – for me, anyway. These days I listen to the wisdom of my own body, It tells me what works well and what doesn’t. That often means being different and standing out like a sore carbo-free thumb, but it’s a small price to pay for vitality and a clear head. Thank you, Adele for putting the spotlight on a major cross-cultural issue that brings addiction, weight-management and wellbeing implications.
I agree Jane, so many foods have a very obvious, adverse effect on the body, and yet we brush it off as acceptable. Coffee for example can give you several days of bad withdrawal symptoms. clearly marking it as a drug, and yet it is being drunk increasingly by most people.
I can relate to the example of the coffee Rebecca! At the time I used to drink coffee (very strong at that), I knew the negative impact on my body (which included feeling racy, bloated etc.) and yet I couldn’t imagine my day without my coffee hit, and I tried to give up many times without success. In the end, it was only by being truly honest with my body and taking responsibility for being prepared to look at ‘why’ I needed the coffee in the first place (which was essentially as a reward for all the other stuff I didn’t want to do and because I was exhausted) that I was able to give it up for good.
Thank you for a beautifully honest blog. Its amazing how things so socially acceptable can be so addictive. And its amazing that you came to the realisation, through honesty, that rice was not everything you had been told it was, or believed it was, and instead felt the way it numbed your emptiness.
Thank you Adele for your honesty about your relationship with rice and how inspiring that ‘It is truly no longer okay to perpetuate what is not true even though it has been accepted as normal. Once I realised this, my attachment with rice simply ended.’ I have used food as a comfort most of my life and felt that I was getting away with it because it didn’t affect my weight. Once I started to listen to my body I stopped eating, for example, potato because I noticed a sensation of my throat constricting when I took a mouthful – a clear message from my body which I chose to listen to.
I too have had a defensiveness and strong attachment to my comforts that I have not wanted to let go of. This is a very supportive blog in the sense that, it’s okay to just simply say no to the comforts. I can see what you mean by the arrogance and now understand that letting my comforts go is all that is needed.
Thanks Adele, your rice was my potato. Before Universal Medicine I didn’t consider a meal a meal if there wasn’t any potatoes, but like everything else that wasn’t true for me such as ciggies, alcohol, drugs, gluten, dairy the list goes on and on, potatoes eventually went out of my life. I now can’t actually contemplate what it would feel like to eat the amount of potatoes I used to.
Kevin I so get this with potatoes – especially growing up in the UK – the potato was the ‘filler upper’ food. Roast potatoes, mashed potatoes, fried, boiled, baked – they were the staple that weighed us down so we did not have to feel the true lightness we are.
How amazing the body truly is.
By being in connection with its truth, much will be exposed, including what has been believed for ages and in tradition. Indeed how truly amazing to have a body.
Adele, what you share is so great, having come back and read your blog. My body has been crying out loads when I eat rice, potatoes or any small amount of gluten or cheese. I have become more aware how my body shows me straight away how awful it feels, but yet I have been ignoring it. What I have noticed is the after effects last for days and weeks, I feel tired, on edge, anxious and I am unable to be present with myself. What I am starting to do is listen to my body and honour what it feels and not override.
Adele this is so profound – I feel you could replace ‘rice’ with anything – TV, sport, any number of foods and drinks, smoking, getting attention, relationships, family, we can use just about anything to distract and numb ourselves. You perfectly describe how we as a society have manipulated certain things to be normal, that in fact are not normal or good for us or our bodies. It feels revolutionary the shift you have undertaken from using something everyday and growing up believing it’s normal, to be able to see the true effect it has on you. It really makes me wonder what else I consider normal that really is not.
Meg you are very right about all the different things that we use to not feel what is going on with ourselves. I like many have spent numerous years employing several numbing techniques at the same time, e.g. a big meal in front of something mindless on the telly, followed by a dessert, cup of tea and a smoke ! That certainly insured that I wasn’t going to feel how crap I felt inside.
Well said Meg. Exactly, we all have many devices to numb ourselves but food would have to be biggest. I know for years I used food to fill me up that is fill up the emptiness/numbness when I was hungry with not much thought as to the type of food I ate as long as it did the job. I still ate healthy but didn’t have the understanding to feel how the body responded to certain foods. Nowadays I can feel when a food is not agreeing with me and decide to remove it from the diet. I had never considered the possibility that food is for nourishing the body which is a loving gesture not over eating and filling full.
Thank you Adele. Your article highlights how we get into a pattern of eating foods without stopping to consider what affect they are having on our body. We so easily conform to the ‘norm’ and stick with it because it is familiar and ‘what everyone else is doing’.
That is huge, Mary – not questioning and just following because everyone else is doing it, when we can all feel what is truth and what is not. Imagine how much anxiousness this must feel, and how much more comforting foods would be required to numb this feeling.
Thank you Adele for sharing this! It really helps me look at where I have been struggling, I like you come from a Hindu culture where rice and wheat is normal. They are the first solid foods given to a growing baby, crazy as it sounds but they are. To then make it a normal part of your life is easy. So here it is great for me to explore, why I haven’t been able to completely knock it on the head and still have cravings, there’s obviously some numbing still buried that I need to feel and work out. Really great to read your article as it has inspired me to look deeper.
I was first introduced to rice porridge at the age of 30, and often ate rice for lunch and dinner as well. At the time I believed that a 30 day rice diet only, would renew all my blood cells, so for a very long time I was eating rice without questioning it, even though my weight was like a yoyo. For five years now I have been listening more and more to my body rather than following any set diet and my weight has stabilised. I can’t say I am always listening with close attention but now I am more aware that my body will expose to me more quickly if it’s right for me or not!
Alexander, I have also vouched for a brown rice diet in the past, and with trying that my body was clearly telling me it was not working, nor was it nourishing me. Yet, I stuck with it because I was holding on stubbornly so many beliefs and ideals about what to eat and what not to eat. That did not work either.
It is so powerful to listen to your body rather than listen to a ‘diet’ as you have shared Alexandre. It is something that I too have come to learn – that my body knows exactly what does and doesn’t work for it.
Adele, I love this article about your journey with rice and how the comfort of eating it would make you feel less than who you are. Personally I have never been a rice girl, but I can relate this feeling to other ‘comfort’ foods such as chocolate, so I particularly love the line… “For in the stillness of my heart, overriding how my body is feeling is not okay anymore”. Your words are truly inspiring. Thank you…
Hi Sue, relying on the feeling of comfort, especially with food, is so common with us all, isn’t it?–however it is amazing that we do also have the truth of the body always too, when we choose to listen and feel. Comfort in all honesty, is truly not comfortable at all.
That is so true comfort in all honesty is no comfort at all, it is just some mad way we have chosen to be instead of being ourselves. What you share about when you make it about loving the body and that being the priority over the taste buds it really is simple to let go of yet I do manage to hold onto things that my body really is not happy about, I am yet to put Love first. But I have seen enough people do this that I know it is worth much more to be who you are than live life in comfort. A work in progress…
What a great line here Adele “Comfort in all honesty, is truly not comfortable at all.” It’s so true, that we so often resort to comfort (be this food or other behaviours etc) but if we listen to our bodies and are honest about this, it’s not comfortable at all!
“Comfort in all honesty, is truly not comfortable at all.” Yes Adele it is just a mechanism we use to hide who we truly are and ultimately dull our expression. Over time comfort is really painful and takes much more effort to take us away from who we really are.
This is so true Adele. I have experienced for a short term feeling of ‘comfort’ by eating certain foods leads me feeling awful for ages. Like you shared, ‘Comfort in all honesty, is truly not comfortable at all.’ When I choose to seek comfort in eating, the consequences and feeling of discomfort lasts much, much longer than the comfort feeling itself. Now, I realise it’s my mind that entices me to choose comfort and my body letting me know it wasn’t a wise choice, over and over again until I stop falling for the enticing feeling that takes me away from feeling amazing.