Diet and Energy

July 27th, 2008 by Steve Pavlina

It wasn’t until this year that I realized that one of the blocks that prevented me from improving my diet was figuring out what to do with the extra energy I’d gain if the change became permanent.

For example, when I was going through my 30-day raw food diet trial earlier this year, I had a lot more energy — physical, mental, and emotional. This wasn’t a surprise to me because I’d experienced similar energy boosts during other raw food trials over the past several years.

At first it felt great to enjoy that extra energy — especially the feeling of euphoria — but after a while it began to feel uncomfortable. I was trying to contain all this extra energy, but I wasn’t used to it. I felt like an overcharged battery. Sometimes I felt so overloaded with energy, I thought I was going to explode. It was like feeling super-aroused but with no sexual outlet available.

After doing several 30-day raw food diet trials, I always returned to cooked food again. That always lowered my energy, and I lost all of the gains from eating raw, but the old feeling was more comfortable and familiar, so I felt a magnetic pull to return there.

What to do with the extra energy?

Eventually I asked myself, “Why are you intentionally lowering your energy? What is it about that higher state of being that makes it so hard for you to contain it?”

I soon realized what the problem was. That extra energy had nowhere to go. You see… my whole life was structured to handle a certain level of energy output that had been relatively stable for years. My exercise routine, daily activities, social life, and so on were all balanced to support a certain energy output. When I changed my diet and experienced a major energy boost, my life just wasn’t designed to handle it. It was like sticking a 12-volt battery into a 1.5-volt device.

Since I was increasing my supply of energy, perhaps I needed to increase the demand as well.

If my theory was correct, then in order to maintain my new diet, I’d have to change the rest of my life to support a higher energy output. I couldn’t just change my diet and leave everything else the same.

As it turned out, this was precisely the key I needed to return to the raw food diet and stay there without wanting to flee back to my old comfort zone.

The most important change was that I set some new goals as well as some bigger goals to create new outlets for the extra energy flow. These were goals that would have seemed like too much of a stretch on my old diet, but with a greater energy output, they seemed achievable.

Instead of trying to contain all this extra energy, I found new ways to let it flow through me. Some of the specific changes I made include the following:

  1. Increased physical output. Before this dietary change, my gym workouts would usually burn 300-400 calories. Now I’m doing 500+ calories per workout. Re-channeling the extra mental and emotional energy was more important than burning more calories, but I think this extra physical output helped.
  2. Increased creative output. This is by far the biggest change. I feel more creatively inspired than ever, so I’ve been doing more creative work than I used to, shifting between blogging, speaking, journaling, business planning, concocting raw food dishes, and other outlets. I was especially pleased with four of the articles I wrote this month; those particular pieces felt very inspired to me. On Thursday I wrote a 4,400-word journal entry because I had so many ideas coming through that I wanted to record. I now feel very uncomfortable if I go more than a couple days without creating new material. It’s like I’m overly aroused with creative energy and feel compelled to express it. Normally I don’t write on weekends, but this morning I just had to write an article to release some of this extra energy. Otherwise I’ll go through the day feeling like I’m about to explode.
  3. Increased intentional output. I feel best when I spend at least 20-30 minutes each day imagining new ideas and visualizing my goals. It’s like I’m releasing some of the extra energy in the form of positive intentions. I often go to bed 30 minutes early and just lie there visualizing new goals and possibilities until I fall asleep. If I don’t do this regularly, I feel a strange build-up of pressure to let some of this energy flow through my imagination and release itself as new dreams and goals.
  4. Increased spiritual/intuitive output. I feel more spiritually tuned in than ever. I’ve never enjoyed such a clear channel for intuitive guidance. I no longer have to meditate to put myself in the right state for “downloading” inspiration. I can simply close my eyes and access it within seconds. It’s like the switch is always on. Whenever I get stuck on a problem, I just tune in and request a solution, and it starts coming to me almost immediately. Consequently, I’m now relying on my intuition more often than my logical/analytical mind because it’s faster, more accurate, and more holistic. Yesterday Erin told me to “stop giving her readings” because she hadn’t had time to fully process the previous breakthroughs I helped her experience. I can’t help it though. When I pick up intuitive information, I feel compelled to share it, or it feels like the energy is backing up.
  5. Increased social/emotional output. Since I’ve been feeling so good lately, I needed new ways to channel those good feelings. Mostly I’ve been channeling those feelings toward my family. I’ve been having a lot of very connected conversations with them and pushing for more family outings. Last weekend I took the kids on the rides at Circus Circus, and next month we’ll be taking a family trip to L.A. and San Diego. I’ve also been teaching my 8-year old daughter about how to hold positive intentions and avoid complaining; this seems to be having a positive impact on her already. I’m sure some of these good feelings are coming out through my writing as well. A few people mentioned I seem more excited than usual. I can’t help it because that’s how I naturally feel now. I wake up feeling excited.
  6. Increased standards. Lately I’ve been feeling a strong desire to fix a lot of the little problems in my life — problems that are too easy to ignore. Yesterday I replaced a broken paper towel holder in our kitchen — it broke nearly a year ago and was still usable but slightly annoying. I’ve also been much more consistent at teaching the kids to maintain certain standards of order in the house, and they’re taking pride in cleaning up after themselves. I finally feel like I’m getting a handle on the little problems that have been backing up. Individually they’re no big deal, but collectively they can be draining if ignored for too long. Until now I just didn’t feel have the energy to deal with all of them. Now I’m finally making a dent.
  7. More sexy time. During my January raw trial, I experienced a temporary drop in libido while I was adjusting to the diet, and then it returned to normal. Now it’s definitely higher than it used to be. But at the same time, the desire to have sex feels more subtle and less distracting, so it’s easier to hold onto it for a while without feeling an overwhelming urge to release it. It also feels much more heart-centered… not so stuck in the lower chakras. Maybe it’s the maca. ;)

The most significant change was definitely #2 (creative output). Sometimes I actually have to hold myself back from sitting at my desk and writing so much; otherwise I’ll never see my family.

Improved diet = increased creative output

When I remember other dietary changes I’ve made, I see similar patterns. Each successful dietary improvement was accompanied by a significant increase in creative output.

I went vegetarian in the summer of 1993, before my final semester of college. A few weeks after making this change, I started working as a contract game programmer, eventually creating a pack of Windows arcade games that hit the shelves several months later. This was a very busy and creative time for me. I even designed one of the games myself. I also earned a lot of money during this time, especially for a student.

I went vegan in January 1997, just before I started designing a new computer game. It was my most ambitious project. Due to financing problems, it was never released commercially, but I was very proud of the design. This was an extremely creative time for me. A couple years later I released an award-winning game with a very original design. I have no doubt that my improved diet helped me a lot here. I also got into martial arts training and distance running during this time.

During my raw trial in January of this year, I was working on my book. I made a lot of important edits to the book during those 30 days. I also booked a speaking engagement at the I Can Do It! conference. This was a very expansive time for me.

It’s hard to say which came first — the dietary change or the demand for greater creative output. Upon reflection I think it was the latter. When I was ready to take my creative output to a new level, I also felt ready to improve my diet. It seems like the intention to be more creative and to contribute more value triggered the dietary changes, perhaps to put my body in a state where it could handle more energy flow.

Have you ever experienced anything like this? Have you noticed any connection between your dietary changes (the kind that made you feel much more energetic) and increased creative output?

If you do creative work like me, there’s a good chance your income is strongly linked to your creative output. The more you can create and the more inspired your creations are, the more value you create for others and the more income you can generate from your work. So there can also be a financial benefit to improving your diet and channeling more energy. There’s also a productivity benefit because more energy means you can get more done in less time — without feeling burned out afterwards.

Are you resisting a more energetic state of being?

Perhaps the most important lesson I learned is the role of resistance. When I initially resisted my transition to a 100% raw diet, the real reason was that I was resisting the consequences of the increased energy flow. I’d been enjoying a nice comfort zone, but I’d have to leave it behind if I wanted to successfully navigate this change. That meant accepting more responsibility and putting more on my plate than ever before. It took me a long time before I was ready to do that.

Of the various major dietary shifts I went through (omnivore -> vegetarian, vegetarian -> vegan, vegan -> raw), this latest shift was by far the biggest and the most difficult. The first change was definitely the easiest and the mildest. It’s too early to say for sure because I only made the shift this year, but I strongly suspect that going raw will also be the most beneficial change in the long run.

If you want to permanently improve your diet, you have to reach the point where you can say yes to all the consequences. Otherwise you may fall into a fear of success trap. If you resist the consequences, you’ll stop yourself from making the changes that would give rise to them.

If you improve your diet and then feel much more energetic (physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually), how will you channel all that extra energy? Where will you direct it? How will you use it to fuel greater creative output? I think those questions need to be addressed before you’re ready to make the shift. Otherwise it’s too easy to fall back into your old comfort zone (both diet-wise and energy-wise).

Imagine what would happen to your life if you permanently felt a lot happier, stronger, more motivated, and more energetic. What would you stop tolerating if you suddenly had tons more energy flowing through you? Would you direct all that energy into your current career, relationships, and exercise routine, or would you feel compelled to make some major changes? What if your job was incapable of channeling all that extra energy? Would that compel you to quit and do something more creative, so you could contribute more? Do you resist any of these potential consequences on some level? What would happen if you could accept and even invite all of these consequences?

Quantum leaps

Some of these consequences can be very challenging to accept… and even more difficult to intentionally invite. It takes courage to willingly push beyond your familiar comfort zone. You have to be willing to bust up old patterns, so you can create new patterns that will effectively harness the extra energy.

In my case the changes I experienced weren’t terribly disruptive because my career outlets are very flexible, so they can handle more energy without being torn apart. From the outside looking in, it may appear that little has changed, even though this was a huge shift for me internally. But if I had a job and/or relationship with less flexibility, I might have had to endure much more significant external shifts.

It really is like taking a quantum leap. In these situations you don’t gracefully improve along a continuum. You reach a point where you must abandon your old orbit in order to shift to a new orbit. There may be a lot of energetic build-up before this shift occurs, but eventually you hit a tipping point. You have to choose one side of the chasm or the other because there is no middle to speak of.

You can certainly have a quantum leap that doesn’t involve dietary changes, but you may find as I do that your dietary leaps induce major shifts in the other areas of your life too. So in order to make the dietary improvement, you have to accept the whole package of consequences. If you resist any part of the package, you resist the dietary change as well.

Is there some part of your life where you’ve been pushing for a quantum leap but always falling back to your comfort zone? If you made this important leap, what other related leaps would have to come along for the ride? What part of this package deal have you been refusing to accept? What are the physical, mental, social, emotional, and spiritual consequences? What will it take for you accept the complete bundle of those consequences?


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