This post discusses disordered relationships with food.
The seventh thing yoga taught me was how to think about food.
I appreciate that in yoga circles, there is a lot of talk about “mindful eating.” For various people, this may mean eating vegetarian, vegan, organic, local, fair trade, or ways and whats and hows that people can eat. There are many good posts that can be had about these issues; this is not one of them.
Because what yoga taught me about food was a little different. It can, however, be summed up as this — Yoga taught me to view food as fuel.
Before, I viewed — I had been taught to view, by many insidious messages over many years — food as a guilty habit. Similarly, I viewed my body’s need for food as a personal shortcoming and one that should be indulged only to the smallest degree necessary for adequate physical and social functioning. Eating less, and being able to function on eating less, was to be admired. Requiring — let alone wanting — more was weakness.**
Yes, this is sort of warped in general, but it also has some consequences that are yoga-specific. (Well, yoga-specific for me, though a lot of them extend quite easily to other types of exercise or activity.)
For example, it’s tough to have the stamina to do vinyasa after vinyasa when I’m not providing my body with enough food to maintain those energy reserves.
It’s downright dangerous for me to try some less grounded poses — let’s say wheel and headstand — when becoming lightheaded as a result of them is a real and regular occurrence.
And it’s completely non-restorative to try any kind of stretching or opening when my body is too preoccupied with a basic survival need to relax.
Regardless of how many absolute calories I was or was not eating — or the more nuanced nutritional makeup of them — in terms of fueling the activity I wanted to do, they were not enough. There was, of course, some experimenting with amounts, times, and proportions, but the basic premise of the realization was simple: If I wanted my body to expend energy in activities that I liked, I had to take care of it and fuel it appropriately.
** For anyone who is curious, I was having these feelings — and experiencing these physical issues — while following a well-known weight loss plan’s caloric recommendations for healthy weight loss.