Like many, I struggled for a long time with my eating. Although I was never diagnosed with an eating disorder, I knew that my relationship with food was unhealthy, and that I didn’t want to live my life that way. I developed a regular gym routine, deprived myself of desserts and stocked my freezer full of Lean Cuisines; but never felt any relief from the stress of trying to be “thin.” (Sound familiar?) But still, I always had this itch inside me that insisted: There is another way, something better.
I started Bikram yoga in 2010, my sophomore year of college and the height of my “health” obsession. After three years of almost-daily practice, I felt great and was my instructor’s favorite, having seemingly mastered the 26 posture series. Of course, I hardly basked in this accomplishment, and instead sulked in my frustration that I needed to do more, be better and look better. How was it that I was killing myself in the hot room, and still didn’t look like a Victoria’s Secret model? In my unceasing frustration, food became my solace – and my secret vice. My anger at myself for over-eating resulted in self-hatred, and the cycle continued. My “health” obsession – always grappling between not eating enough and binge eating – had become very unhealthy…and then, finally, something clicked.
I remembered a challenging time I’d experienced while studying abroad in Costa Rica. To help cope with my discomfort and anxiety, I had yearned for yoga. But there was no Bikram yoga studio in San Jose, so I took up classes (in Spanish) at a local vinyasa studio. Here, yoga made me feel safe and confident because, when there, I allowed myself to let go of my fears. This had never been the object or focus of my Bikram routine (which for those who don’t know, is a highly physical, half-naked practice in a 105 degree room, leaving few thoughts to ponder “letting go”). So, by shifting my attention and setting the intention to explore and let go of my fears, on and off the mat, I hoped to relinquish myself from nagging insecurities and food anxiety – Forever. This is when yoga clicked for me as something to dedicate myself to – not for the physical, but for its psychological promise: to be liberated and finally be comfortable in my own skin, just being me.*
What I learned in this process regarding my eating, is that diets don’t work. The nature of a diet is exemption or exclusion. They’re not saying what you can eat, they’re telling you what you can’t. And who wants to live their life being told what they can and can’t eat? Where’s the enjoyment in that? Think about it. I’ve done it, too and that’s no way to live. There has to be a better way.
I also learned that by confronting my insecurities, I was free to focus on caring for myself. What I live by now (and have lost 20 lbs doing) is simply practicing self-love when it comes to food. Think about your spouse or your children (present or future) – What would you want them to eat? Probably, things that are good for them. Food that gives them energy to sustain themselves for business trips and soccer games, but that also tastes really good. They deserve only the best. Well, so do you. And more likely than not, if you start feeding yourself this way, the one’s you love will soon follow. This display of self-love, and analysis of your own thoughts (about eating or otherwise) is the key to happiness, and is a living practice of yoga. More specifically in yogic terms, this can be considered a practice of ahimsa, or non-violence against yourself or others. (Read more about practicing ahimsa, here.)
I feel incredibly blessed to have reached this conclusion, and I want this for everyone – especially my lady friends, everywhere. You deserve only the best. Feed yourself, love yourself. Food is love.
A post will follow with a recipe to get you started. I always encourage substitutions and new creations when it comes to cooking. Make it your own, from what you have at home, and make it something that you and your family will love.
In the meantime – Chow on, with love Xx
*Note for the Soul Seeker: What ensues when you make this commitment, to “let go” and allow yourself to explore your deepest fears, is a real challenge – but it is the real practice of yoga. Things come up, and you start to deal with what you might have otherwise, gratefully, left buried deep inside. To the soulful explorer, I’ll say – as was advised to me – just trust. This means letting go of knowing what the end result will be. Will this work (to address whatever vice you’ve developed)? Will you really be happier afterwards? Let it go. And trust yourself, that if you’ve taken this step toward self-exploration, then you know what’s best for you. And you do. So follow it, see where it takes you. And feel free to report back – the road ahead gets bumpy, no need to go it alone.*