“You’re a little girl, you don’t need to eat a lot,” I was once told by a 6’4 Thor-look alike and at that time, my boyfriend.
I was standing with my profile to his kitchen table, conveniently located next to the window overlooking the backyard. It was dark outside and I could see our reflections by glancing in the mirror. He was facing me and I was facing him as he put his arm around my waist and we spoke. I kept turning my head and gazing at my own reflection, checking to make sure that I was still a ‘massive’ one-hundred and fourteen pounds at 5’7″.
I was paranoid that the piece of cantaloupe I had eaten that day without doing yoga would balloon me into a gorilla.
I had been in an outpatient clinic for an eating disorder several months before; I left because I didn’t agree with what I had been told by therapists and nutritionists: that there was something wrong with me. That I was diseased.
I had not been allowed to move my body and had been encouraged to eat mindlessly.
I knew my soul craved movement—but I couldn’t tell you what my body craved. I didn’t know how to nourish myself.
I did know that I didn’t like being told that there was something wrong with the essence of me.
When I started practicing Bikram yoga over two years ago, I was fat. Naturally, I easily lost 25 pounds without dieting, mainly because I went from sitting on the couch all day to maintaining a physical practice. A healthy dinner for me was still ordering a Caesar salad with a small Frosty instead “chicken” nuggets and french fries from Wendy’s.
I didn’t really understand the concept of nutrition.
Then one day, in yoga class, I decided I wanted to be thin. My simple solution? Start running and stop eating.
I had a teenage-girl, American view of food: calorie in, calorie out—a mentality that hurt my body and could have killed me.
This view is killing millions of people, even if they are not on the eating disorder spectrum; it’s just killing those with so-called “disorders” more quickly.
The pain I feel because of this is unbearable, and I am making it my mission in life to encourage all human beings on this planet to be conscious of what they are putting in their mouths.
I believe with proper nourishment true healing is possible.
When I took yoga teacher training for the first time I thought I had found a home for my soul. I had really just found a home for my eating disorder in a world where fasting, detoxes, and cleanses were the “thing” to do.
While in training, I nearly stopped eating altogether. The thought popped into my head occasionally that I had transcended the needs of food. This lie was perpetuated by my boyfriend (let’s just call him Thor for intensive purposes), who had told me that he had heard about people while traveling in Malaysia that didn’t need to eat in order to sustain energy; they just photosynthesized and meditated.
I live in Chicago and I had meditated maybe once.
I tried to believe this, but deep down I knew I was just too afraid to eat anything. I had pressure to be a skinny yogi and an unspoken expectation to look a certain way to be Thor’s girlfriend. I didn’t know what to eat to be beautiful, so I just didn’t.
According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, 0.5 percent to 3.7 percent of all women suffer from an eating disorder at some point in their lives; nearly 1% of all adolescent girls do. One in 20 (5 percent) of these women (just women) die from complications related to the disorder. The most common “complication” is suicide. If you do the math, then that is a half-percent percent of just the adolescent girls in America that die from Anorexia.
I repeat, that is a half-percent of all of the adolescent girls in America.
Not to mention that a documented twentieth of a percent of grown women die. Some of these women look “healthy” and some my friends, are practicing on the mat right next to you.
Their deaths are only the culmination of the mental and physical pain that they suffer during the long process of starvation.
Long story short, Thor broke up with me when I gained 10 pounds after bizarre cravings started controlling my life (raw oats with salt, almond butter, honey, and cheese, anyone?). True love. He told me I didn’t understand the “authentic him,” probably because the authentic him had a fiancee. He moved to Australia to marry her; she was even thinner than me.
These cravings destroyed my yoga practice and what was left of my rocky health. They forced me to listen to my body and finally, to heal myself.
The latin term for food is “Victus” – which means”to nourish” or “to sustain life.” The purpose behind the beauty of every bite.
We are a country that is malnourished—whether overfed or underfed. We live in a society that wastes resources getting “skinny” and fixing health problems due lack of nourishment; buying the latest diet pill or taking the latest prescription.
We spend more time as a society watching other people cook than cooking meals and eating whole foods to nourish ourselves.
But a total of one percent of all of the women in America are dying due to Anorexia Nervosa. Clearly there is a problem. The scarier thing? Those deaths are only of those documented. And that is only one eating disorder.
Nourishing ourselves has never been more important. Clearly our mental health “system” is not doing it’s job and healing the victims of a world that doesn’t understand and refuses to acknowledge the importance of food. We as a society must heal ourselves.
How many more must suffer and die before we get back into our farms and kitchens? What will it take to make us take this seriously?
I would like to say that from experience—and from the people that I have met in my experience—that these men and women fighting eating disorders are those who are struggling to understand the role that food plays in their lives.
They are not selfish, crazy, or sick. They are human, struggling and beautiful.
They are confused on their journey and need to be shown compassion in order to heal. As a flower cannot grow straight and strong without light at the proper angle, humans cannot heal without nourishment.
The mental health system doesn’t nourish these souls; it labels them as inept and ill. It says that they are the problem; that they need to learn to adapt to warped way that our society views and consumes food.
But deep down, much as they try, these people cannot. So they starve because, just as I knew, they know that the way we view food as a society isn’t correct.
It’s simple and silly sounding: their souls won’t allow them to eat crap.
They recognize that having a beautiful, healthy body without an eating disorder is possible, and in fact, a right. But they don’t know how to accomplish this. These fragile souls are conscious of a overwhelming problem present in our society and are often trying to get their eating in order, but failing due to malnourishment and miseducation.
Without the tools to properly heal they really do become sick, and lives are lost in a battle of will.
Why should we accept that these beautiful people are turning inward on themselves with a self-hatred perpetuated by therapists, clinics and a mental health system that tells them they need to change the essence of their souls to fit a mold? Should we believe that a system that says to sit down, be quiet and eat the “food” presented without question, is right?
Really, nearly our entire country has an eating disorder—we accept blindly and are not conscious of the real problems present.
I think that in order to go into an era of true health we must examine the lack of nourishment that has pushed girls – and boys, and men, and women—to fear the very food that they eat.
We must examine what is truly behind this fear of food, and beyond that, how food has been warped past being something that nourishes.
It is now simply being used as something to fill.
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