How I lost 30 pounds through yoga & never saw them again, with embarrassing “before” picture.

Via on Dec 7, 2010

Early in 2008 I set off for a trip to India.

When I returned, I was 30 pounds lighter. The weight never came back.

A friend who knew me “before” and then “after” recently asked me how did this happen and as I tried to recall I noticed that it was not because of the yoga, or the trip, or the food, or because I starved myself, and certainly not because I was mean or deprecating to myself in an attempt to discipline my food choices. None of that had anything to do with it.

Releasing weight can be a drama or not, it can be hard or not—it depends on so many factors that I do not believe one single method can ever work for everyone.

But these steps worked for me:

1-Loving myself

There is no way around it, no matter who says that the US has an epidemic of whatever it might, or that I, or you, may need a diet or blah, blah, blah, it is all nonsense if we do not start at the beginning.  Loving and respecting me enough to sit down and look at what was important in life was the very first step.

I know it may sound silly but I followed Louise Hay’s exercise of looking at myself in the mirror and saying “I love you”, to my own image.  At first it felt silly, stupid even, and you know why? Because I did not believe it.  But a few weeks into it I did start to believe that I was worth of my own respect, and it helped me get grounded in acting as if I loved myself until I did eventually fully believe in it.

2-Daily Yoga-asana Practice

I find that the release of the weight for me had to do with a “momentum” rather than a “get thin quick” mentality.  By the time I took my trip I had been practicing daily yoga-asana for a year (6 times a week,  1.5 hours each day), and it had taken me 3 years to build up to such a strong and committed practice.

When it comes to releasing weight I find that it does not so much matter what kind of yoga one practices, but that one does.  The simple act of getting on the mat every day sends the body the message that one cares.  The body gets to be stretched, paid attention to, and aligned.

Throughout time my body began to take over, for example: it knew that we (body and mind) would have to enter kurmasana (tortoise pose) the following morning, and it knew that an empty stomach would make such exertions more palatable, and so it signaled me NOT to eat anything past 7 PM, a practice that has become a habit, because my body says so.

3-Verbal Messages

I find that people dismiss this quickly, so much so that I began to suspect it is a very well-kept secret.

When somebody wants to manifest something positive, then keeping the vocabulary clean (no curse words, no negativity), is key.  It surprises me to no end to see, even in yoga circles, a tremendous denial of the power of the word.  I hear people complain all the time, say bad/dirty/loaded words, and talk about their bodies with negativity.

Even as you read this, I will dare bet that you will either read through, or dismiss it promptly.  If you are still reading you are probably ready to hear it.  If you are, then do not allow negativity into you, in any form.  This in turn has the effect of cleansing the mind and to release bad ideas, extra anger and extra weight. Think of a diet of words as a foundation, the bad ones are very high in bad fats and calories.

There is a reason why I call it “weight release” (except perhaps in the title of this post), and that is because phrasing it that way is more powerful since usually whenever we “lose” something we try to “find it again”.

4- Cleansings

Weight release can also be thought of as “cleansing”.  What is necessary is to look at what is coming into our bodies and how fast it is coming out.  If we are not going to the bathroom (both for number one and two) daily, then there is a problem.

Just as an example, there are easy-to-use enema bags that help ensure that the “pipes” are clear. When I talk to friends about enemas they usually freak out, and so did I when I first heard about them.  However I was blessed to have a teacher in Thailand go over all of my fears and answer each one of them.  Will it hurt? No, it does not.  Will it be uncomfortable? Maybe but you are totally in control and can regulate the intensity.

Some people go all out and do a “colonics”.  Movie stars do these frequently because of the glow it produces.  I have not tried one yet, but I want to.  They are not too expensive and have an even deeper effect. And hey! If they are good for movie stars they are good for me too.

5-When you are hungry, drink water first

A yoga teacher once said that to me. Most of us get the signal of hunger when in reality it is thirst speaking. I know I confuse the signals sometimes.

I have tried this many times, especially at mid-morning when I hear the stomach rumble with noise in what seems like starvation, and found that drinking one or two full glasses of water may not stop the feeling of wanting to eat, but at least will delay it.  It will also hydrate the body, and help it with the elimination process.

6-Cooking

While in India I felt a little scared about eating in restaurants because the quality of their water is very dangerous for westerners so, for example, eating salads (or anything raw) outside of the house was not an option.  This forced me to start cooking, and I prepared lots of stews and soups with boiled vegetables and olive oil which I served with brown rice.  I also learned how to make lentil dal, and kicheri, easy meals that are tasty and nutritious.

Also I understood that very often our bodies are starving for real nutrition.  For example, I learned that taking spirulina supplements is a great way of supplementing the diet so as not to have to eat a pound of spinach every day, or that Niacin (a type of B vitamin) helps enormously in uplifting moods.

7-Take that overdue vacation, make it a real one regardless of how long

Taking time for ourselves seems impossible, but it is not.  When a body is overweight, it is out of balance.  When a body is out of balance it needs time for itself, to heal, to have an opportunity to assess what exactly is happening and what can be done to help it.   As long as the time we give to ourselves is dedicated, focused time, it is useful, otherwise we are not nurturing our soul, and an un-nurtured soul produces an unbalance that usually manifests in us reaching for the ice cream.

I have noticed that people who say that there is absolutely no way they can take time for themselves are actually saying that their priorities do not involve taking time off, meaning, their focus is not on their own wellbeing but rather on other things.

8-Surrendering

Our bodies are determined by our genes and ancestors.  It is important to respect nature.  Yoga and these principles can restore our body to our original blue-print, to what our bodies would be like if completely healthy, but they will not transform us into super models. The real miracle in weight release happens when we shift perception, when we can accept our body as it is and treat it well,  with respect, providing good nutrition for it, so that it can function at its peak, which also means, mind you, at its ideal weight.

9.-Choosing the middle path (satvic)

Trying to eat only spinach or only drink water with lemon for days or going completely raw overnight or any other extreme is not only unrealistic, it is also dangerous and guaranteed to never work because we are fighting against a very powerful force of nature: our own natural psychological tendencies, which have been ingrained into us over a period of well, think about your age, that long!  In yoga this has to do with our “gunas” or psychological tendencies, of which there are three, rajasic or overexcited, tamasic or lethargic and satvic or balanced.

Forcing ourselves to be always balanced or satvic is in itself rajasic or out of balance in a forcing way because we are trying to machete our way through into the middle rather than respecting what is actually happening right now.  Falling into denial is not the answer.

For example, a few months back I felt like eating marshmallows.  These are not exactly healthy treats as they have gelatin and are full of sugar, but I was fortunate enough at that very moment to be listening to Richard Freeman’s Yoga Matrix and to hear exactly this, and so I ended up enjoying the marshmallows, which was, albeit counterintuitive, the most satvic or balanced thing I could have done.  Interestingly, I have not felt the urge to eat them again ever since.

10-Attend a 12 step meeting

There is a cathartic effect in admitting our vulnerability to other people, as for instance when someone confesses to a group of people that he or she ate two pints of ice-cream the night before, or when someone says: “I am powerless over this”.  12 step meetings work because they are simple steps that demand enormous courage, of the type that can only be navigated with help from others who also happen to find themselves in a similar setting.

The benefit of 12 steps is that they open people up, they reconcile people with their own humanity, through them we find that what we think is “crazy” in us, is just as normal as it is in any other person, we all share a common humanity, we are all one, and I have yet to see a form of therapy that is more effective than people being brutally honest in a group, and under very specific regulations for sharing, with proper boundaries and respect.

Interestingly enough, it was a conversation with Carl Jung that led to the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous, and through that all related 12 Step Programs. [see comments below]

11- Patience

Recovering a healthy body may take time, but every day things speed up, there is a momentum that is generated by slowly adding more and more healthy habits and releasing the old ones that do not serve us anymore.

So what if it takes 6 months or a year, or three? I have seen with my own eyes fellow yogis practice for 5 years and then all of a sudden release an enormous amount of weight.  In the end, the recovery of the original healthy body also happens by grace; we put all the healthy and nurturing elements in place, and then surrender to divine intervention, Gita style.

12.- Train yourself in trusting your instincts

Before every meal ask: “what is the most nutritious thing I can eat right now”? and trust, and let your body have it.  Remember moderation, of course, but do go ahead.  It may be decadent chocolate mud pie today, it might be baby spinach salad with fresh olive oil sprinkled with raw almonds tomorrow.

And so here is the embarrassing “before” picture. I was at about 148 pounds.  just like all those “before” pictures this is a photograph of a photograph which kind of makes it look like one on those brochures that abound out there.

About Claudia Azula Altucher

Claudia Azula Altucher has studied yoga for a long time. Her only focus these past eight years has been on Ashtanga through which she studied at the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute in Mysore, India (three study visits so far), and at Centered Yoga in Thailand (focus on practice, philosophy and pranayama). Currently she studies at Pure Yoga in NYC. She has taught yoga classes in both Spanish and English. She is also the Author of: 21 Things To Know Before Starting an Ashtanga Yoga Practice (you can get a free PDF at her blog). She writes daily at ClaudiaYoga.com And you can follow her on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ClaudiaYoga

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157 Responses to “How I lost 30 pounds through yoga & never saw them again, with embarrassing “before” picture.”

  1. tstock says:

    The sentence "If it's good for movie stars it must be good for me" um really – you were joking there right???

  2. Deborah says:

    Claudia, your words have inspired me. I've gained weight after a job loss and divorce (both of which happened in the same year) and I know that I've been eating junk to comfort myself, to protect myself from pain, but in reality it has only made me feel worse. I used to do yoga years ago, and reading this article woke a memory in me of how powerful and healing it can be. I am going to a beginner class this weekend to get re-aquainted with the practice, and I so look forward to stretching, breathing, feeling in touch with my body again…and hopefully healing what is broken in the process. Thank you for reminding me how important it is to start at the beginning. That first step is essential, and nothing else will work without it.

  3. tee says:

    Claudia, I'm at a time in my life when the sands are shifting. You've reminded me of the age-old truths that will keep me centered and healthy.

  4. SatyaJen says:

    Thank you for making your eBook on Amazon affordable and accessible :)

  5. Danielle says:

    This article is disturbing on many levels. I wish you love, healing and peace.

  6. tsukaira says:

    I really love this article. The title is misleading because it is about weight loss, when it actuality it applies just as a basic foundation to everyone, regardless of size. I'm also glad that I am not the only one who started off with saying "I love you" in the mirror every day! It feels stupid but then it really starts to work!

  7. Marissa says:

    Claudia~ I liked very much of this article. I really did. But I feel that you went against her first rule, “Loving Myself”, right off the bat, when you referred to the pre-weight loss photo as an “embarrassing before picture”. You even wrote in the article that you practiced daily saying “I love you” to you body in the mirror. It’s a small thing, but words can be just as damaging as actions. I believe it subconsciously sends the wrong message, one of shame and not fully being able to love yourself unless you were not overweight. Practicing true “Ahimsa”, is practicing compassion & non-violence to not just animals and other humans, but also to ourselves – the hardest practice, in my opinion – in actions, thoughts, AND words. Regardless of this perspective, thank you for sharing your positive story. It was inspirational & motivational & much of it resonated with me.

  8. Faye says:

    I’ve just read this for the first time and I was very taken back by it I will start today by looking in the mirror,am on a diet find the start very hard but because of the support from my brother I carry-on my journey thank you!

  9. Veronica says:

    OMG look at that smile (in your before pic) FYI you were always beautiful!

  10. Laura says:

    I'm fat and a woman and I am NOT offended. Claudia was sharing HER story.

  11. Maree says:

    I don't think you should call it an embarrassing "before" photo, this is what my body looks like and I'm not embarrassed…

    • elephantjournal says:

      Many of us are obviously uncomfortable with ourselves and our relationship to eating. It's vulnerability, sometimes, not judgement.

  12. Sharan Sidhu says:

    Negative people react with negativity, if you cook your own wholesome meals, the body does shed, not only the toxins but the extra pounds too; absolutely nothing violent about that! Love it and happy for the author:-)

  13. Sarah says:

    Thank you…perfect timing for me to read this article.

    Over a 10 year period I seem to have acquired an "estrogen storage for later use – band" around my waist (and elsewhere) that is somewhat uncomfortable, and doesn't afford me the greatest mobility.

    I joined the local Taoist Tai Chi Society and participate in tai chi at the center 5-6 days a week. It is very nice to regain a more caring and intimate relationship with the physical aspect of my being. This is not just a one time class to learn a particular form of tai chi. The Society a community of long term members where caring friendships are being established that could easily last a lifetime. Many people eat and overeat out of loneliness.

    Re our words spoken out loud or otherwise: blessing or cursing anything – we experience that first. So we ask ourselves, what is it that we want to feel? Love and self-respect, or guilt and self-hatred? My cats are my canaries…I can always tell "how I am" by how they are in relation to me.

  14. You've got to be happy in your body; it's the only one you get. With that said, if you feel the need to lose weight for any reason other than health concerns I think you're missing the point of a healthy happy life. We all want to be our optimal selves.

    Keep writing!

  15. elissascott says:

    Brilliant writing and insight… "When it comes to releasing weight I find that it does not so much matter what kind of yoga one practices, but that one does. The simple act of getting on the mat every day sends the body the message that one cares. The body gets to be stretched, paid attention to, and aligned." You rock seastah!!!! Imma gonna share the sh*t outta this ;)
    xx, live and love now, el scott… (aka el nino!!! :) you made my day!!!

  16. LizEm says:

    NO ENEMAS! They should only be used in cases in which they are needed for medical reasons. If you use them constantly, your body will forget how to move bowels on its own, and then you will become DEPENDENT on enemas — very bad!!! They are not to be abused for weight loss!

  17. erin says:

    loved this.

    great read

  18. Justine says:

    You are very pretty in your before picture. Nothing to be embarrased about ;)

  19. fourlittlebirds says:

    To my eyes, you were very beautiful before. Perception is an interesting thing. :)

  20. monicasicoe says:

    great article. thanks for sharing

  21. @AngelicinNY says:

    Love love love this article! I'm going through this "releasing" presently. Thank you for sharing.

  22. Chris says:

    Wow. I like the before picture too! Beautiful!

  23. JLM says:

    You talk about loving yourself , and then refer to your ‘before’ picture as embarrassing. Where is that love you showed yourself when you were heavier?

  24. Cassie says:

    Claudia, very inspiring post! I am going to between to incorporate you knowledge into my life because you've made some profound points that I didn't even realize I was doing. Although unfortunately I looked into #4 and I cannot do because I have severe colitis/Celiacs and Lupus. Would you suggest another method for cleansing for those with contraindications? Juicing, perhaps?

  25. MeghanMathis says:

    Thanks for such a nerve triggering, personal and engaging artice Claudia. The owner of the yoga studio I where I used to practce removed all of the wall mirrors at the request of students who felt mirrors became a distraction in their practice. Is it really healthy want to ignore the refection of one's own phyisical shape during a practice designed to gain personal equanamity? If the images in the mirror (or photo) becomes a hinderance (or embarassing) to our practice are we really practicing acceptance of ourselves in the present moment? I've gone from a regular yoga practice to a yoga fence sitter over the whole body image thing and so I find the arcticle and comments interesting and helpful. Namaste.

  26. vegancinephile says:

    I love my pre-weight loss pictures — I looked slightly different back then but I was still the same good, kind person – with a big appetite! What's will all the shame?

  27. Megan says:

    I think it would be more respectful, and more productive, if we stopped judging the author of the article and focus on the brilliant and LOVING message she’s offering to everyone (overweight or not). If she’s embarrassed by her before picture that’s her business, if she lost weight and loves being skinny that is her business, if you are overweight and you are not embarrassed by it but are offended by Claudia feeling embarrassed by her own history of being overweight, your opinion really has nothing to do with Claudia and how she feels towards her former self, and she shouldn’t be reprimanded for it. Self love needs to be learned. It takes a tremendous amount of work to love yourself if you are not used to it. And we all fall back into old habits. I’m skinny as a rail. I always have been. I struggle with keeping weight ON and I’ve always hated not being able to beef up. Once I started to love myself, accept myself, and nurture my body and my mind, I was able to put weight on and feel HEALTHY. Claudia looks amazing, and if we quit judging people for making positive, healthy changes to better themselves, we might start to *gasp* feel healthy and positive too. :)

    • else says:

      thank you for being willing to say this. i agree wholeheartedly. this article was about the author and her journey and the realizations that she made along the way. anyone insinuating that she should convey her story differently so that it resonates better with their personal understanding of the world is missing the point. each of our stories and paths to wellness are unique. it is impossible to write one article for all.

  28. Mel says:

    You lost me at "embarrassed"…..

  29. Seema says:

    i agree with a previous commenter…tapping into the spirituality to heal the belief that any previous versions of ourselves are "embarrassing" can be so liberating and truly healing on all levels. our paths brought us to where we are today. it is all a progression of learning. we cannot chide a 3rd grader for not knowing how to do calculus….and we must not be embarrassed for the times when we did not know the truth about how to treat our bodies. it's all learning, and every step along the way has its own beauty. no embarrassment and shame, that's just more negativity!! loving all parts of ourselves, even the parts that were stuck in suffering, is essential to true self love.

  30. mermar4 says:

    I was loving this article and really resonating with it until the end when you dubbed your before picture "embarrassing." Your writing that really undermined your message of loving yourself and being accepting of who you are, regardless of the current package you come in. You really diminished your message, and sounded far less evolved at the end of the article by citing your before weight and being embarrassed about the heavier you. What a shame.

  31. Sam I Am says:

    One of the best articles I have read on Elephant. I like to read about people who experience things first hand, who learn and grow in their own lives; people who are a walking example. Kudos to you, and extra points for just being real. I am going to follow your advice and see what happens. Thank you.

  32. I shared this on my page. This is why my family is working aggressively at attacking our debt, so that we can move to India (Pune) for 6mo-1year. A vacation isn't long enough to help me heal. I want to go and be humbled by living in another (read: 3rd world, even though yes, some areas are 1st world) country. I'm an Army Veteran with the VA as my only source of medical. It is my idea to get enriched in the culture, seek out medical other than western, and get away from TV, internet, phone dependance. I'm also a Bikram fan, and chose Pune, as they have a home base there.

  33. Kristine says:

    I am trying to learn to love myself, trying to get into a good yoga practice.To say I have a crazy schedule is a major understatement. This year was supposed to be different for me, but I gained all my weight back and still have not found my happy inner self. Thank you for writing this

  34. Jess says:

    I love this. Thank you xx

  35. Sparkle says:

    I'm sorry you feel embarrassed about your "before" picture (and completely understand why it's upsetting/triggering for other people to have self-body-shaming used in this way, even if it is how you feel).

    Hopefully one day you will reach a point where you can look at even those old photos of yourself and see the beautiful person in them no matter her size!

  36. Jordan says:

    You talked about telling yourself in the mirror how much you loved yourself and then at the end you called your before picture embarrassing….

    Also you’re movie star comment was silly. Movie stars do diets and cocaine..does that make it good for you?

    Your article did, however, inspire me to do more yoga.

  37. Olivia says:

    I think that as with anything it is about the intention we bring. Doing yoga for an hour and a half a day can be a sign of nurturing a routine and a rhythm that makes us feel good, of trying to take care of ourselves. Or, it can be another compulsive attempt at control of ourselves in a bid to make ourselves feel ok and banish difficult feelings. Perhaps it can be both and perhaps it depends upon the day or even shifts within the same practice. So many people attracted to yoga, I suspect, have an underlying sense of not being "good enough" as they are, of needing to become whole again – the implication being that what was there before was not ok. This can be damaging. We will be ok…. if we are the right weight, have the right practice, have studied the right philosophy. As far as "negativity" goes, I find there is often a spiritual bypass in yoga. I don't want to banish the dark and just focus on the light – for me, balance is about accepting that both arise and co-exist. As Jung, who the article refers to, liked to say, the more we banish our shadow self the stronger it will assert itself. I hear that the writer is wanting to make very conscious choices in her life now about how she lives that she feels honors where she wants to be. I respect that and wish her well.

  38. Corrine says:

    I hope you realize how beautiful you are in your 'before' photo. Much love xo

  39. caiteg says:

    Is it possible you picked up a parasite in india and lost the weight due to that? This is very common after people spend time traveling/eating/living in India.

  40. adeocle says:

    Hi there… so I just posted above as a response to Kala and I stand by it. At the same time I wanted to let you know I've read this article three or four times since you wrote it and every time I feel a little hopeful about the phrase "weight release", as opposed to "weight loss"… that also gives me a sense of loving myself.
    Love and gratitude to you…

  41. Jennifer says:

    I was going to comment on Facebook, but for some reason I can't comment on anything on the main Elephant Journal page (Why?). However I think she was pretty in the first picture. I understand that people disagreeing or feeling unsettled because they feels shes "fat shaming." Elephant stating that we're shaming her? Some are, some aren't. It's just sad she wasn't happy before she lost the weight. I think she looked healthier and more robust before. In the after picture she looks gaunt.

    • elephantjournal says:

      Jennifer, have you "liked" our main page on Facebook? If not, maybe that's why you can't comment?

  42. camilleblake says:

    You were beautiful before. Maybe you can recalibrate your perspective and recognize that beauty.

  43. Hilary says:

    I was really sad to see the word "embarrassed" as a part of the message contained within this article. :-(

  44. joysuzanne says:

    Claudia has plenty of muscle; I've seen her yoga vids. And gorgeous skin and great hair– she's healthy!

  45. @Joysuzanne, thank you

    @13rh floor, these days I am at my ideal weight

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