Nutrition: What's Good
For Chi & Health

Speaking of nutrition, everyone knows that fruits and vegetables are good for you, but what about meat? Is it really a healthy part of your diet?

If we practice qigong/chikung, we know that the chi is the life energy that is responsible for giving us life, and therefore our health. It stands to reason that what feeds the chi should be good for us, and what foods inhibit its flow would not be conducive to promoting health.

Thus, qigong masters know that chi is a barometer of health: by measuring their levels of chi they can tell whether the food consumed was good for their bodies or not.

Studying the diets of qigong masters also give us a good indication of what they considered was a healthy part of their diet. If we look at the diets of traditional masters, we find that most of them drew their nutrition from whole grains, fruits and vegetables, supplemented by Chinese herbs.

Some might argue that this was because qigong originated with ascetic monks and the practice of Buddhism which advocated a vegetarian diet.

However, Taoists and secular groups also contributed greatly to the development of qigong and these groups were eaters of flesh. Yet they too note in their teachings that a vegetarian diet was most conducive to promoting the flow of vital chi.

I, myself, grew up in a family of meat eaters and never believed that a vegetarian diet was a well balanced one, especially since my parents were restaurant owners. We truly enjoyed our Chinese cooking and believed that meat was part of a healthy diet.

Much later, however, when I lived on my own, I began to experiment with a vegetarian diet as part of my training. To my amazement, not only did I feel much more energetic, but my chi became much stronger, and I became much more aware of what foods I consumed gave me energy and what made my chi move more sluggishly.

It was also during my ten years of being a vegan (i.e. consuming only fruit and vegetables but no dairy products) that I was able to advance the farthest in my qigong development and far more quickly than I ever did when I subsisted on both meat and vegetables.

During those ten years, I never touched any flesh or dairy products, but I seldom got sick, and my chronic calcium deficiency and skin allergies disappeared.

Despite practicing regular three-day water fasts at least once a month, I would often run about 20 miles, and practice qigong for several hours each day, starting from meditation at five in the morning and a second one at eleven at night, in addition to practicing and sparring tai chi qigong for several hours every day with my students.

This was at a time when I was teaching university part-time and doing a full-time graduate degree at the same time! Should I have felt stressed out or tired from my heavy regimen? Perhaps, but those years were the healthiest of my life.

When the body is stressed out, it requires additional calories to supplement regular diet & nutrition. Despite my heavy workload, I did not appear to suffer from any nutritional deficiency.

Even athletes are also discovering that a meat diet does not provide the same energy that a vegetarian diet provides.

You don't have to take my word for it, try it yourself for two weeks. For the next two weeks, try eating only whole grains and vegetables, lightly cooked or in salads, and I promise that you will feel completely different: you'll have more energy, more strength and vitality.

And if you practice qigong, you will find that you'll not only feel more attuned to the healthy, or sometimes not so healthy, chi energy but will gradually become aware just by immediate consumption, what foods give you energy and nutrition, and what foods make you feel sluggish.

You never hear people saying that fruits and vegetables are not good for you, but you often hear physicians cautioning their patients to cut down on eating too much meat. That is because too much meat can cause all kinds of health problems: high cholesterol, high blood pressure, hardening of the arteries, obesity, diabetes, etc.

Does that mean that you should cut out of meat entirely? Not necessarily. But be aware that it is not necessarily a healthy food, and a diet without it can certainly be beneficial.

Although I still think we can get all our nutrition from whole grains, fruits and vegetables, I choose not to be rigid on my diet. I confess, I am no longer vegetarian, since I choose to compromise my diet for the sake of family and friends: When I socialize with my friends and family who are not vegetarian, I will still partake of meat and processed foods.

Because of my choice, I have noticed a huge difference in my state of health, energy and sense of well-being. Practicing qigong does help, but without adequate nutrition, it is still a compromise from the optimal vegan diet that I and my chi prefer.