OFF THE MAT, ON THE MENU: C is for Control

by Frances Sheridan Goulart

You’re constantly scooping your abdominals during your workout, but what are you scooping up when you hop off your apparatus or mat and reach for the menu?

The Pilates philosophy is not just about using control at the studio—it’s also about how efficiently you feed your body between those Saws and Spine Twists.

Listen to the master: “Incorrect habits are responsible for most, if not all, of our ailments,” Joseph Pilates said.

This is reminiscent of Buddha’s Middle Way, or the Sutras of Yoga’s Patanjali. Indeed, like yoga, Pilates is more than an exercise path. It is (or can be) an expression of the mind/body/spirit evolving in harmony—and in control. Pilates may not have formulated a set of dos and don’ts like yoga’s yamas and niyamas, but the method’s guiding principles reflect the same holism. And we can take those precepts designed to shape the way we move on the mat to guide the way we eat so that we not only look better, but we emerge as better people—both physically and spiritually.

Applying the concept of control to your diet as well as to your practice will produce a sleek, authentic powerhouse of a body faster than just physical practice alone. Having a salad or a fresh juice after working on that C curve (rather than a coke or a sugary candy bar) imprints the principle of “not too little, not too much” into your muscle and appetite memory.

The shape we are in and the shape our practice takes on are reflective of one another. When we have everything under control in our practice, it will be reflected in the way we carry out our polished Pilates body and, when we have everything under control in our diet, we will see it in the mirror and feel it in our mind and the conscience.

So, yes, Joe never talked about calories, but we know the idea of control was important to him. We know he probably wasn’t eating French fries and banana splits before or after he imprinted his spine on his mat. And you shouldn’t either. When we mindlessly munch on foods that are highly processed or fried to save time or effort, this actually costs you more and doesn’t give back nutritionally, esthetically or often ethically either. Like a sound practice, eating the right amount of nutrient-dense foods has a satisfying rhythm to it. It feeds you without fattening you—and without trashing the planet. Next time you sit down to dinner, imagine you are sharing the table with Joseph Pilates and check out what’s on his plate and then on your own.

Here are a few tips to help you gain control of your eating:

  • Water or soup can help you lose weight or control the weight you’re at because it helps turn stored fat into burnable fat. Take in an extra cup each day for each extra 5 pounds you are carrying.
  • Retrain your sweet tooth. Eating something sweet to end a meal or satisfy a craving leads to extra pounds and diminishes your ability to appreciate healthier foods. Everything will taste better once you get rid of this acquired habit. Switch to whole raw foods instead of sweets when the urge strikes and use water instead of soda or juices to quench thirst.
  • Check your protein intake. Protein maximizes fat loss while minimizing muscle loss. Protein should be 20 percent of your daily calories, more if you are very active.
  • Eating small amounts of fat throughout the day can help normalize or suppress the appetite. Try a pat of omega-3 enriched butter spread on a whole-grain cracker.
  • Choose foods with a better after-meal burn: Plant-based soups and snacks, compared to animal-based products, increase insulin sensitivity and convert calories into energy more rapidly and efficiently.
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