How I Justified Eating Issues With Austerity
The raw, sometimes dirty, truth has become my biggest ally. My motives can range from disappointing to amusing, and seeing these clearly fosters more evolution than the resulting action. Fundamental? Of course, but ‘spiritual growth’ is easily tainted by pride in being a pious, ‘good’ ______ [yogi, Buddhist, vegan, whatever] and overlooking our motives.
‘I meditate three hours every day, I follow a very strict diet, I never miss a yoga practice’ — these are admirable behaviors when in complete balance with self and nature. However, most of us operate with a healthy dose of ego that slyly mangles austere guidelines to justify neuroses. If we listen closely, we may hear : ‘I’m avoiding my relationship, I’m afraid of getting fat, I want to prove my dedication.’ Avoidance, fear, and acknowledgement are driving these ‘spiritual’ or ‘healthy’ endeavors.
This clearly doesn’t apply to everyone, nor do I think people need to change what they’re doing. I just encourage complete honesty [to themselves, if no one else..] about the why. There’s a beautiful relief that eventually comes with acknowledging and embracing the dark crevices in our being.
How do I know, you ask? I started practicing Mysore-style Ashtanga Yoga with a decade’s worth of ‘disordered eating’ under my belt. I craved the intensity and regimen of the practice, and best of all, the lifestyle enabled my control issues with food. No eating before yoga, wait for awhile afterwards. Try not to eat after 4PM; certainly not after 6PM. Don’t eat this, only eat that to ensure a light practice.
What a relief — I didn’t have disordered eating, I was a yogi! By adopting a system that conveniently fit and encouraged my habits, I could ignore the deeper truth and delude myself into thinking my actions were ‘yogic.’ In reality, I was feeding my ego and misconstruing the tradition.
With this rationale, I could restrict my diet even further. I tried vegan, raw, and even mentioned sun gazing to a boyfriend who literally replied with a panic attack [he always encouraged me to eat more]. Despite being so ‘healthy,’ I had to cleanse. One-week juice fasts evolved into 10-day juice fasts, which escalated into a 16-day fast complete with colonics and bentonite clay.
My family showed concern over the fasting, and I dismissed them with yogic jargon — I wasn’t neurotic, I was austere — these laypeople simply couldn’t understand. Despite my delusion, fear eventually crept in: If I quit practicing or fasting, I’ll gain weight.
Toxicity hypochondria finally inspired a Candida cleanse — zero carbs of any type. No problem. By this time I was having some health issues, so mid-cleanse I went to an Ayurvedic doctor who took my pulse and asked a few questions. I gave her a rundown, including my current endeavor. She interrupted, ‘Stop cleansing and eat! Everything about your blood is bad [meaning depleted]. Eat before practice. Eat three times every day.’ Naturally I listened, Ayurveda is Yoga’s sister science and could be trusted — unlike my family who has known me my entire life. Most importantly, I was ready to listen to myself. I drank a blood-building tea and started eating a bit more.
The next year I returned to Mysore, India with a friend to practice Ashtanga. One day at lunch, someone commented about how much food they consumed. My homegirl nonchalantly said, ‘Well everyone here has an eating disorder. Look around.’ Silence followed looks of shock while I held back a laugh. That statement forced everyone to reflect, whether it was true for them or not. That trip, I started eating more normally and my almost-30 year old body held on to the food in gratitude. I accepted the weight gain as best I could, and treated myself with more patience and compassion.
I returned to Los Angeles with a ‘womanly figure’ and was met with some surprised looks and the occasional comment. The pounds changed my practice, and all of the fasting had jacked up my metabolism and hormones. Yoga was now about self-acceptance. It was like trudging through a swamp: painful joints, internal struggles and I felt like a hamster on a wheel. Nothing was shifting due to my efforts and dedication. So, for many reasons, I stepped off. I quit practicing, teaching and [minimized] projecting insecurities.
I met a guy who drank coffee with heavy whipping cream and made bread pudding with leftover pastries. Frankly, that scared the hell out of me. I started to loosen up and ate brie on white bread, fish, and whatever I felt I needed. Without guilt. I exercised, got ‘hangry’ and reduced obsessing. I watched residual fears creep up, and acknowledged them. After a few years and more Ayurvedic regimens, my systems started rebalancing and I settled into a natural, maintainable weight range.
Recently, I began practicing yoga again. A few days per week, at home, alone. No rules apart from being aware, allowing freedom to rediscover my body and a balanced practice. My 37-year-old self still feels accomplished when I’m more toned, and conscious when I get a bit soft, but I meet my demons with curiosity and truth, ready to dive into the depths. Armed with heavy whipping cream, of course.