Am I Not Supposed to Eat That?

I have a confession to make.  I use the money that my students pay me for my Wednesday yoga class to buy Diet Pepsi. It’s really quite simple. The students each pay me a dollar for class. Most pay with a single dollar bill. Some pay in quarters. So I’ve got a near endless supply of $1.25 to shove in the machine in the cafeteria.

Why does this qualify as a confession? Because I feel just a bit guilty about it. As a yogi, and an instructor at that, aren’t I “supposed” to avoid things like carbonation, caffeine, artificial sweetener, caramel coloring, disposable plastic bottles, corporations?

I struggle with this. When the fact that I practice yoga comes up in conversation, people make all sorts of assumptions about me, which I find amusing. One of the most common is that I don’t eat meat. Well, actually, I don’t. Because it grosses me out for the most part. But not from any senses of karma or because I practice yoga. My vegetarianism pre-dates my yoga practice by 18 years. And I nearly always have a few bites of steak when my husband makes it for himself. Is that bad?

yoga-and-food-proper-dietPeople who practice yoga often have a lot to say about what you should or shouldn’t eat. The yoga principle of non-violence lends itself to avoiding meat because it could be considered violence against another being. But do you *have* to be a vegetarian if you practice yoga?

Of course not. You don’t have to do or not do anything as far as I’m concerned. But since this is an issue that comes up a lot. I’ve got a few things to say about the topic in general. We, as a society, need to seriously get over our obsession with food. Easier said than done in a culture that bombards us constantly with “eat this” and “don’t eat that”. Or rather “eat all this amazing stuff AND make sure that you are still a size 0”. Ridiculous.

As I say a lot, yoga is about balance. Does the way you eat work for you? If it does, then keep eating that way. If it doesn’t, then a change might be in order. I have a strange relationship with food. I’d really rather just not have to deal with the whole eating process at all, if you want the truth. Eating is a colossal inconvenience. You eat, only to be hungry again in several hours and you have to eat again. Because of this, I spent a lot of my life eating poorly because convenient food tends to be processed food. So I was the yoga instructor who basically lived on Diet Pepsi and cereal. Hardly the poster child for healthy eating.

Change on that front has come slowly and took some deliberate effort on my part.  It took observing other people and doing some serious thinking about my own pathology regarding food and making the decision to explore that. Michael Pollan’s book “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” probably did more to change my relationship to food than anything else I’ve been exposed to. Reading that book was the first time I’d actually done any real thinking about what I eat and where the food I eat comes from. And his practical and measured approach to the topic appealed to me. A lot of other things I’d seen came across as yet another rant about something I should or shouldn’t do. And I hate that.

So back to my question “does the way you eat work for you?”. Eating shouldn’t be something that you hate or that you feel guilty about. Some people choose to be vegan and eat nothing but locally grown, organic food. Some people’s diet includes meat, but only meat raised and killed in a humane way. And some people do the best they can under the circumstances. I’d put myself in the latter category, for sure. In the last 2 years or so, I’ve taken out a lot of the processed food from my diet. I’ve added more produce, I’ve learned to chop an onion and make pasta sauce mostly from scratch (ok, I used canned tomatoes). I even joined community supported agriculture and got a box of organic, locally grown produce delivered to my work every week. That last experiment was sort of a disaster insofar as I was really intimidated by that much raw food and often didn’t know what to do with it. Lesson learned. I drink Diet Pepsi (less than I used to) and I drink wine.

Don’t listen to anybody who tells you to adopt a diet that sounds like a chore. Do your best and let go of the guilt. Whatever you eat, make a conscious decision about eating it. If you want to make a change, make it in increments and see how it goes. Find what works for you and do more of that. Acknowledge what you do that doesn’t work for you and do less of that. Breathe. Eat. Live.



Categories: Food, Health

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