Not Playing

I went to yoga class on Christmas Eve. As I mentioned on Facebook, after class, the instructor gave us candy. Specifically, they were small squares of dark chocolate. And specifically, the instructor laid them out on top of the cubby rack and said, “I’m setting out some chocolates here. Feel free to take one on your way out if you’d like.”


  1. As far as I’m concerned, yoga and chocolate is a winning combination.
  2. It was a relatively low pressure situation. That is, for anyone who didn’t want to take a piece of chocolate, there was pretty much zero external pressure on them to do so.

So I was surprised when the woman in front of me turned around and said to me, “Just what we need — more calories!”

Now, I had just had an awesome practice, and I was looking forward to ending it with chocolate, so I really, really did not want to have to engage and come out of my happy place. I kind of stared for a few seconds, then said, “I’m not sure what you mean.” Then I walked to the other side of the room to put my props away.

[Sadly, our chocolates did not have Jesus on them.]

I know, I know. Lying is not actually a good thing. But in a way, “more calories” are what we need. I mean, I’m sure most, if not all, of us did not need the caloric content of that chocolate piece at precisely that moment. But all of us — even people trying to lose weight or slim down or whatever — do require caloric intake on a fairly regular basis.

Okay, okay. That’s not what she meant, and I know it.

What she meant was something more like, “The ‘bad’ of eating those chocolate calories will somehow negate the ‘good’ of me exercising this morning!” Moreover, because she felt she could say this to me — a stranger — with no additional context, she expected me to know what she was talking about. She expected that this type of remark — food policing — was so ubiquitous that I’d both understand what she was getting at and respond in kind.

Not playing that game.

To be clear, I don’t feel like she was trying to police my food intake. I don’t think she noticed if I took a chocolate or not — and I don’t think she would have noticed, really, no matter what I’d said.

I do, however, think she was thinking about her own food intake in terms of calories out being “good” and calories in being “bad.” I do think she was looking for some feedback that started from that same framework. Maybe my eyes would widen, and I’d exclaim, “I can’t; it goes straight to my hips!” Maybe I would roll my eyes and go, “Chocolate! It defeats us at every turn!” Maybe I’d shrug my shoulders and say, “Whatever, we just worked out: we earned it!” They’re all different responses, but they’re all responses that operate under a framework that assumes food — especially certain kinds of food — requires penance, either before or after the fact.

Certainly, people are welcome to choose or not choose whichever foods they like or don’t like, for reasons that are entirely their own. But that’s the thing. People don’t have to seek approval for their eating choices from others, and I do not like being recruited to be the curator of someone else’s food baggage. Certainly, food choices and feelings are a person’s own — but then they need to own them. Don’t ask me to be complicit in your choice to eat or not eat any given thing.

Because as far as I’m concerned, that is a twisted, tangly emotional game, and I am not playing.


I'm here. I like stuff. Some other stuff, I like less.

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Posted in ahimsa
4 comments on “Not Playing
  1. Jo says:

    Ah, food and Christmas – pretty much the triggers for all sorts of getting pissed off when I’m home with my family. I sometimes forget that it’s still too radical of me to not worry about whether I’ve had two or three pieces of chocolate in a day. Like you, I refuse to play that game. Why is food the enemy?

  2. Caitlin says:

    I’m always troubled by this idea that calories are somehow this awful thing to be avoided at all costs rather than something that is required for our bodies to function properly. The idea of food as nutrition for bodies has lost out to the idea of food as an abstraction that is tangled up with virtue and sin and that signifies moral character.

    • Lisa says:

      It’s really annoying that calories and weight loss are something that people bring up as casual banter. She was probably just trying to reach out; I have often tried to spark some friendships in yoga and meditation settings to find friends with those interests. But why do we all feel the need to form a comraderie against food?

  3. I had left a yoga studio that was exceptionally food phobic (particularly the founder and former owner), and in short order praised a nearby yoga studio (absolutely no less spiritual than the first, I specifically add!) that was not afraid of food or of joy (for that matter)– and celebrated life, food, kirtan, etc.; on yelp. I wouldn’t even bring it up such bygones, but that review is still garnering upvotes to this very day!

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