A Yogi & Her Vow to Eat Clean: Battle & Discovery.

Via on Sep 22, 2013
(Photo: pinterest)
(Photo: pinterest)

Over the next 20 days, this yogi, with a history of eating and body image disorders, has vowed to clean up her chaotic eating from a place of compassion and non-judgment and blog about it in hopes that it starts a conversation for others who also experience food to be a dual path of healing and crazy.

I identify as a yogi.

Some would say that a yogi should, by definition and practice, already embrace clean eating. I agree. But as a yogi with a long-standing relationship with disordered eating and body image, I walk a slippery slope with my food.

Sometimes I am squeaky clean, sometimes I am somewhere in the middle—and sometimes I am so far from it, it hurts. But wherever I find myself on the path, I try to accept where I am with compassion. This doesn’t mean I don’t recognize the need to make changes. Instead, it means I shine a light on my habits and beliefs and make the necessary adjustments without judging or killing the messenger.

In this case, the messenger is the part of me that keeps opening the bag of potato chips: she is the one in pain.

The messenger, by the way, is complex. It is a combination of our physical bodies telling us what we need and the parts of our selves we have cut off or banished telling us to pay attention to them. Their actions, whether they show up as chaotic eating or addiction, is the messenger’s not so subtle way of trying to get out.

When he or she shows up, we must realize we are being handed a gift. In order to deal with our underlying forces, we have to really get to know ourselves and how to deal with our life. We can’t afford to play at it—we have to get real.

Okay: I am getting real and recognize I am way off the healthy eating path. As a yogi, I believe our bodies don’t lie. My body has heartburn—this is its way of telling me that something is wrong.

I also feel lots of anxiety and dread, especially when it comes to making wholesome dinners for my family. It feels much easier to order pizza, which lately I have been doing a lot of. I have even been drinking wine (it’s kind of a carry over thing from all our summer parties) and tell myself only one glass of pinot, but somehow, one glass is not enough and leads to two.

I consume sugar and often times binge on handfuls of greasy chips—anything that is easy to get a hold of and gives me quick energy.

I am in training for a half marathon and have upped my weekly mileage from 12 miles per week to about 26. I am a mom of three kids and own my own yoga studio. I practice yoga, teach yoga and am under a self-imposed deadline to write a book.

Yes, I have to calm my crazy and look at the tightrope I walk when it comes to balancing my life. Making time for my own dietary needs, right now, feels like too much work—but the truth is I am paying the price and its not just with heartburn and pants that feel tight around my middle.

Each morning, at 5:45am, in the company of good friends, I go for a run, and when I am done, it is no exaggeration to say I feel amazing. This is the good stuff. The morning run makes me glow and feel blessed for being alive. I am sure it’s a direct result from the combination of released endorphins and the sunsets that rise up in the trees each morning as I make my way down a hushed and soft bike path embedded in the woods.

Regardless of how radiant I feel each morning, by lunch time I feel bad and gross.

By noon, I have eaten lots of terrible food; food that doesn’t serve me. Coffee and toast with butter for breakfast, followed a few hours later by handfuls of tortilla chips, as I decide what to make for lunch. Maybe I should have a salad, but the washing, spinning and chopping feel like too much work even though I have the time.

Instead, I opt for a sandwich and eat more bread with processed cheese and mayo. No greens, grains, or healthy protein choices. No substance. No surprise I am hungry an hour later and am looking for quick energy and the crappy eating begins again.

More handfuls of chips and chunks of bread. This time, I break off a piece of dark chocolate from a bigger bar. Wait, one square isn’t enough, so I break off a second one and eat it. And then break off another.

I stop myself, not quite satisfied; a chaotic food cycle has emerged.

I have decided to take the next 20 days and do something about it. Why 20 days you ask? (Okay, maybe you didn’t ask.) But my reason for this is because in 20 days, I will be running the Hartford half marathon and I want to be in the best possible physical condition I can, even though I am only planning on running this event at 11and a 1/2 minute miles, which is kind of slow.

So slow they might have to clean me up with a street sweeper. (I heard they really do put one on the streets to move the stragglers along—I am not just making this up.)

The other reason, and the one that feels the most truthful, is that I am proud of myself for setting out to run a half marathon and to have actually gotten myself in good enough shape to be able to run 13. 1 miles! I had to overcome chronic tight quads and calves and mega amounts of negative self talk and inner bullshit to get here.

If I can do this with running, then I can tackle my resistance with food.

Plus, I want to feel good. I want to surrender the next 20 days to training. I want to be as healthy and radiant as I can. Eating food that doesn’t serve me deadens the goodness I feel after I run; it sabotages me and renders me a victim. It goes against my true nature of being content and free.

Preparing for this marathon has reminded me, once again, it is within my power to eat in a way that sustains me and makes me feel just as sexy and alive as running (and yoga) does.

And I do recognize, that for those of us who have life long issues with food and body, getting to freedom and ease is a process. Sometimes we feel like we have mastered it and sometimes, something as common as an over-loaded schedule can throw us back in the pit.

I suspect that in order to nourish myself with food, I am going to have to look at the ways I lack nourishing myself in my everyday. I will have to slow down to give food the time and attention it needs to get on the table.

I will have to listen to the messenger and not kill her.

I will be blogging on this process for the next 20 days. I am interested to see what develops and welcome conversation from others who have walked or are walking this path.

After all, we are not separate—to think that we are is part of the problem.

Like elephant journal on Facebook.

Ed: Bryonie Wise

About Anne Falkowski

Anne Falkowski has been teaching yoga for fifteen years and has taught yoga to over thousands of students from all walks of life. In addition to teaching yoga, yoga teacher training and owning a yoga studio- Anne has published many articles on yoga. She is currently working on a non-fiction book. . Anne also unschools her two teenagers and snuggles with her six year old. Contact her at director@samadhiyogastudio.com

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22 Responses to “A Yogi & Her Vow to Eat Clean: Battle & Discovery.”

  1. Helpful reminders with a dash of compassion — thanks.

  2. laclyn says:

    It takes courage to openly discuss such a topic and it takes strength to take on the challenge of finishing a half marathon (on top of living a full life) along with it. Good for you! I have suffered from ED for half of my life and have now been in recovery for 1.5 years. Becoming an ultrarunner has played in important role in my recovery. It's amazing how many runners I coach that forget that food=fuel. I'm uneasy with the timing of this challenge and what goals you may be determining when you are only 20 days out from a race. Training, tapering, race day, and race recovery all require different fueling strategies and I worry you may be setting yourself up on a path that is self-defeating if you set unrealistic goals (which is common for people with disordered eating patterns). There are simple changes you can make starting right now though that can benefit your lifelong eating goals and prepare you for the upcoming race, such as eating an adequate recovery meal within a half hour after your morning run in order to fuel your recovery and prevent unhealthy temptations mid morning and sabotaging your entire day of eating. One tool I used in preparation for my last 50 mile race was printing off copies of the race logo and placing them in strategic zones: refrigerator, cupboard door, front door, office. As I'm writing out my shopping list, I look at this cue to remind me of my current goals and plan meals to fuel my journey. When I reach for food emotionally, I have that visual reminder that forces me to recall my goal race and shifts my thinking before indulging in excess food when I am already full. When I reach for the handle of my front door, I stop to see if I have remembered to grab healthy snacks in order to rid the temptation of grabbing food on the go (which is almost always not good for me) while I'm gone. We all have our unhealthy food nemesis—mine is cookies. If chips are yours than fully recognize that chips are not fueling your body and get rid of them—stop buying them (it really is that simple). Always remember, a mile run is a mile run no matter how long it takes.

    • Anne says:

      Laclyn, This is really awesome advice. I am totally with you on making sure I have enough fuel and am aware of the need for more calories. My issues do include not preparing food for myself or making healthy choices. And then I am so hungry I will cram the wrong things down, its not only chips, it can be a lot of other poor choices. And I also eat very fast. On the positive side, I do always have healthy choices at my house so when I am making the wrong choices it is coming from somewhere else. Even when I banish all the processed food from my house, If I am not practicing being mindful, I can still manage chaotic eating. I am now keeping Cliff bars in my house to grab as quick energy and I am hoping that will solve the chip binging. I also have been writing down my food on map my run and this has let me see exactly how many calories I am eating. I love love the idea of posting the race log around to remind me to take care of myself with nutrition. I am totally going to do that. Thanks so much for the advice. It is true that I need to make sure I eat enough food. And I hope to talk about this as I blog.

  3. lisa says:

    thank you for this article Anne. Awareness, compassion, honesty….i can so relate…as a yogi, a sugar addict, and someone with a long history of disordered eating and body dysmorphia. thank you…just thank you…

  4. sdversace says:

    No coincidence we became friends. I am here for you woman… every step of the way and a click away. Namasté my new angel.

  5. Megini Yogini says:

    Anne,
    You are my new favorite person. I'm grateful, grateful, grateful. Food has been a continuous teacher, over and over and over again…Let's not kill the messenger. For whatever reason, some things need to be looked more than once (way more, in my case). EnJOY this next passage! I'm rooting for you from the sidelines
    Thank you!

  6. MahaaYoga says:

    Thank you for this Anne; I am in a very similar situation, and your frankness is welcomed. I look forward to reading your blogs over the next 20 days.

  7. Maru says:

    Thanks for this post, I just loved it and will be following the updates. Maybe building habits is the key (I hope so) since willpower is limited and if it is focused on running our busy lives, there is nothing remaining for our relationship with food, specially for the ones who love food. I'm one of those

  8. Anne says:

    Hey Guys, Thanks for all the positive words. I think it is so important that we give voice to the struggles with body and food. I find it to be taboo or scoffed at as a privileged woman's problem. I recently read this quote,
    "The rhythms that make up a woman's body are the same rhythms that make up the dance of the universe." by Iris Steward, a noted scholar of feminine spirituality. This made me think about how, we as a culture treat womans bodies both publicly and privately. I think some of us that struggle with hunger are in fact hungry for something a lot larger than food.

    • babs says:

      Amen! Despite KNOWING this truth, I also find i am in a vicious cycle of binges, remorse, new promises to myself and reaching for the filler around 8 at night again and again. The hunger is my soul needing nourishment from my yoga practice, from meditation, from the joy of helping others, and knowing that I belong to something greater than myself..call it God, Buddha, spirit…I need to know that I am not alone in this struggle, so thank you for shining the light!

  9. sabine says:

    reading this post,it made me squirm just a bit in discomfort for you. Oh dear….you sound very hard on yourself.
    It's good to want to do better.
    It's good to want to be more.
    But please don't judge yourself too harshly for participating in the modern world that we live in filled with pitfalls and danger zones (of nutrition and junk food etc.)
    Walk gently and love yourself, no matter what the journey brings.
    Namaste.

  10. Erica says:

    Man can I relate to this…mostly on the two glasses of wine tip. Keep fighting the good fight– you've got company :)

  11. Catherine says:

    I have the same issues: I can get into such a bad place where I am eating too much of the wrong thing like an entire pint of Haagen Dazs gelato.

    One thing I have recently figured out: If I do not get enough sleep, two things happen–I have much less ability to make good food choices AND I tend to grab anything in an effort to make up for my lack of energy due to lack of sleep.

    Another idea that helps me enormously is to have a protein shake for breakfast. The only thing that changes is the flavor I use. So I can have blueberries/strawberries or mango/peach and occasionally cherry/chocolate. When breakfast is already a given, I almost never make a poor choice because I don't have to think about what I am having. Also this results in the fact that I have started my day on a healthy note which can set me up for the rest of the day. You just have to find a recipe that you like.

    Speaking of which, another thing about eating right I have figured out is, "If you don't like it, you won't eat it." You can't build healthy eating on forcing yourself to consume stuff you just flat out don't like. I don't like vegetable protein powder. I have tried all kinds and it is just too damn grainy, like drinking sand.

  12. Yogini says:

    Thank you for writing about what most won't talk about. I have had a challenging relationship with food since the age of 10.. When I was put on diets by my mother because I was the chunky kid. At 41, no matter how many miles I run, or yoga classes I take, I always feel like the chunky one. I eat clean (no processed foods, fried, or sugar), and I am always hungry. Perhaps what one of the folks above said, I am hungry for something other then food. I long for the day when I can have a slice of pizza like a normal person and not feel horrible about myself in the aftermath.

  13. Lauren says:

    With a long history of bulimia and thankfully now a longer history of a healthy relationship with food, I want to bring up something that may feel uncomfortable. Disorded excersize ……I over worked out for many years, 1/2 marathons and triathlons and many hours at the gym. This is a set up for disordered eating. It has been called excersize bulimia and eating disorders go hand in hand with this form of body abuse. It is natural to want more food when you excersize so much, your body is going to be depleted. Let's be honest we'd like to think we are working out for our health but we aren't, we are working out to have a better looking body.
    I got to a certain point (40) where I didn't want to look back on my life and realize I had spent endless hours working out! First let me say that I eat almost everything on the planet moderately I also drink wine at night. However I make sure that I get most of my nutrient dense food from protein and healthy fats, keeping sugar and grain carbs very sparse. If you begin a moderate amount of daily excersize and follow this approach to eating, your body will not be starving and you will not crave foods that make you feel bad emotionally and physically. Dr Mercola ( google him) has great advice on this way of eating and working out. Let's face it we don't want to wear our bodies out! At age 51 I can say I am in the best shape of my life, I work out a total of about 3 hours / wk, I am mostly lean muscle ( 5'2" 108) and my relationship with food is as close to normal as I think I could get. Be kind to your body it can't keep that pace forever…… Excersize cannot undo a poor diet, but over excersizing is a set up to over eat! Ask your self why you are trying to get numb from food and excersize, what really are you running from? Seek therapy ( I did tons) and also consider a small amount of the anti depressant Welbutrin, it can take away the oral fixation of stuffing your feelings with food. Mostly be well and know THIS IS YOUR LIFE RIGHT NOW. THIS MOMENT IS ALL WE REALLY HAVE, DONT WASTE IT BEING NUMB. this message comes with a large amount of compassion and understanding.

    • Anne says:

      Hi Lauren. I appreciate your sharing and it seems that you have come to an understanding around exercise and what works for you. I do want you to know that I have worked extensively with a therapist around eating/body image and will be blogging a little on that today. I do believe we can use exercise to numb us but we can also use exercise to empower us and feel good. I will never in my life weigh 108 pounds. I am a curvy woman. Exercise helps me to feel good about my body and recognize its strength, power and limitations without basing it on weight. So for me, it is a good thing. But I agree, we shouldn't have to break our bodies down and exercise like our lives depended on it. Thanks again for your comments. I think yo bring up an important point.

  14. KIm says:

    I am a male runner in my 40s and never had food issues. I am part of a group, male and female, who are quite serious runners….we train annually together for Boston, and some of us are under 3 hours. The foods you describe as "unclean" can and have actually been part of a healthy diet. Sandwich and chips, coffee, bread and toast…..these foods were considered wholesome until around 2003. We often joke that we run so we can eat what we want. Sure I eat fish and salad sometimes. but my friends and i also enjoy a nice cheeseburger for lunch or a chocolate croissant and coffee after a long run. I get that eating disorders are all about being hard on yourself…..but stop being so hard on yourself!! and stop being so hard on bread! Bread is good, people have been eating it for millennia.

    • Anne says:

      Kim, really like your reply. I am not down on bread at all. My grandma used to say," a day without bread with butter is like a day without sunshine." My problem is not what I eat but how I eat it. But the other thing that inspired me to do this was that I am experiencing heart burn and am trying to determine which foods play a role. It does seem to feel worse after certain foods and alcohol. And I said nothing about giving up coffee!!!! Thanks again. Under three. Wow!

  15. Joe Sparks says:

    Hi Anne, For all of us, each new moment continually offers us a new opportunity for starting a new future which can be as we choose and which can be different than anything in the past. And hardly anyone can be talked into doing something good or constructive and positive that you want them to do, but almost everyone can be listened into doing such good things. Who listens to you? Most of us are starving for attention. We must learn how to listen to each other to interrupt these old hurts and feelings. To ask to be listened to, instead of complaining, avoiding, numbing, exercising those feelings away. Otherwise, It will be hard to notice how good our lives are, if we have with these feels in the way. We all need groups of people committed to each of our lives, for change to become possible and permanent. That is what I figured out and what works for me. Good luck.

  16. jools says:

    a woman after my own heart x …where can i follow the blog???

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