Hi friends - I've actually never shared about this before. It's also not a secret - so let's get real.
To say I had a rocky relationship with food is an understatement.
Years ago, I used food as a reward as well as a punishment.
There was a time when I only ate red bell peppers with balsamic for a week and that's not even close to my craziest food story.
It was just a mess.
My body was NOT okay with this - but more so, my mind and spirit were deeply hurting.
I want to hug that version of myself so badly. She really struggled.
Foods were binary to me: There were GOOD foods and BAD foods.
Of course, I stayed away from what I considered 'bad' foods.
This included not-actually-'bad'-foods like pasta, pizza, bagels, anything processed, and if you even mentioned donuts, I would go on a vehement rant on how they shouldn't exist.
It was strict and pretty severe.
That harmful mindset also implied that every time I did have a 'bad' food, that I was being a 'bad' person or making 'bad' decisions.
At the same exact time, I'd overeat or eat food that my body was telling me wasn't right for me but I couldn't hear the messages because I was in a full-on BATTLE.
It was ME vs. FOOD
Now I have a love affair with food.
We dance together in the living room.
Maybe we even flirt a bit but it's harmless, ya know?
I flipped from fighting with food to dancing with it.
Here's what shifted me:
A Life-Changing Homework in Yoga Teacher Training
In my yoga teacher training, we had an assignment to eat a 'yogic meal'.
What is a Yogic Meal?
A yogic meal is a meal eaten with no distractions, just 100% present with this gift of food and nourishment.
Just you and food.
Instead, look at your food.
Really observe it! All the pieces, the different colors, the specks of spice, the textures.
Deeply appreciate the aroma. Is it savory, sweet, nutty, creamy? Close your eyes, take it in.
Eat slowly. Pause between each bite. Put down your utensil and close your eyes. Feel the texture of the food on your tongue, the spices, savor each flavor.
Think about everything that had to happen to make this food possible to be right here for you.
The rain that watered the seeds.
The clouds that held the rain.
The Earth that grew the plants and veggies.
The sun that sprouted the food and allowed it to thrive.
The farmers that took care of the crops.
Every beautiful thing that had to happen one after the other, in perfect timing, for this meal, this gift, to be here to nourish you.
It's incredible, isn't it?
It almost brings me to tears.
And not everyone gets meals each day. I can turn off watching Schitt's Creek for the 5th time (Ew, David!) to be with the food that's giving me energy, nourishment, and joy.
This practice shifted eating into a gratitude practice.
I don't do it every meal, but even a few mindful bites bring more joy and gratitude to any meal.
Yoga Practice Flows Off the Mat
As my yoga practice became an integrated part of my day and I listened to my body more closely. That mind<>awareness, and the kindness that I treated myself with began to transfer off the mat and into other verticals of my life, especially my eating habits.
Instead of mindlessly eating or eating as just a thing to DO, I'd listen for my body to tell me when we needed food.
I started to work with my body.
The body is smart and strong, it tells us when something feels good, not-so-good, when to stay away, or when something is needed.
We just have to slow down for a moment and listen, or intentionally check in to get aligned.
Here's a Quick Mindfulness Practice - Let's do it right now:
After reading this sentence, gently close your eyes, take a deep breath, slowly and silently ask yourself:
"What do you need right now, body? I am here for you."
Then just listen.
I'll wait. . .
Did you do it? :)
Maybe you just got a glass of water or a snack or had a stretch. Maybe you even put your phone/laptop down (but then you wouldn't be reading this!).
That's cool! Showing up for yourself is radical and loving and the ultimate #selfcare.
Jumping right back into it - Layered on top of my deeper listening practice, I started to become really aware of how food made me feel AFTER I ate it.
If I couldn't do yoga after eating or if I felt bloated or sleepy, that was my body's way of telling me that that maybe I ate too heavy or ate inflammatory foods.
Now, before I choose what to eat, I ask myself:
"How will this food make me feel physically/emotionally/morally?"
Sometimes that means choosing pasta with pesto sauce and bread because I had a slammin' workout or yoga session. Other times, it's comforting soup or a bright colorful salad.
Either way, I started to listen, ask, and attune to my body. We're a team, after all.
This shifted eating into a nourishing, self-care practice.
It's not perfect - and that's perfectly okay.
I don't always get it right - Far from it!
Sometimes I still eat too many chips or something that I know may not sit the best with my body.
Last week at ATL airport I ate an entire bag of trail mix because it was that or nothing and nothing just didn't seem like love to me.
I give myself a lot of grace around it.
I forgive/support myself again and again if I get out of balance because this is a lifelong partnership. It is a love relationship.
My body and my mind are BFFs - for this journey at least.
We're a team and we work together.
I do not share this as a cure for eating disorders, although it absolutely helped with mine.
I do not share this as a cure for mental illness, although it absolutely improved my mental health and my emotional intelligence.
A dear friend of mine introduced me to the adage "Your mess is your message".
I know my experience isn't a unique one but it certainly was a big 'ol mess(age) for me.
I've been a part of many women's groups where I hear variations of this story so I offer mine humbly, open-heartedly, with grace and strength.
My wish is for us all to sit in a place where our relationship with food is a practice of self-love. Hand on my heart - All my love and support to you, Kate P.S. Going to end this with a few pics of awesome plant-based food I've made. :)