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

Via Claudia Azula Altucher
on Dec 7, 2010
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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.


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.


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.




10 (Healthy) Ways to Lose Weight (& Feel your Best).


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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 And you can follow her on Twitter:


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

  1. Mama2two says:

    tamingauthor – thanks for the warning about "negative attitude ahead" =)

    While I think you have great points that deserve conversation, I don't think this is what the article is about at all. I enjoyed reading the article and think the authors main message is to START by loving ourselves. That to me is the main take away message, one I wholeheartedly agree with.

    You ask Elephant to vow not to publish another article about weight loss + yoga. However, look at the great discussion on this board. Your reaction alone is a great example as to why I'd say we need *more* of these articles. Let's talk about these important issues and find ways (like starting by loving ourselves) to help young girls and women to find PEACE with themselves.

    For me (40 yr old woman), this article title caught my eye and I read it. Clearly others did too. While it didn't even cross my radar, I can see that readers would be triggered by the author calling the before photo embarrassing. For her it was. I don't think it was the number on the scale but for her that she wasn't in balance with herself. AND maybe it was that word that caught my eye to read the article. As right/wrong as that is of me, I admit it =).

    Namaste =)

  2. dawn says:

    I've been pondering the "loving oneself" verbiage that gets tossed around quite a bit. Seems to be an egoic pursuit, pointing us a direction of separation as opposed to being love which points us in a direction of recognizing our true Selves and our connection with others. I love me as opposed to I am love. And the "embarrassing" comment (which seemed to evoke response, quite probably because there are quite a few 148lb+ women out there not embarrassed of their bodies – thankfully) seemed to come from that place of egoic separation as well.

  3. 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.

  4. Maria says:

    Thank you Shaun for this well written comment! We need a new view on what food is. Food is the essential fuel for living beings. We need to limitate the sugar intake, but it is hard to do that if we only rely on processed food.
    If you people need a wake-up call, check this out: (Jamie Oliver: Teach every child about food)

  5. camilleblake says:

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

  6. Hilary says:

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

  7. jesusssecondhandsmoke says:

    Yeah…That pic broke my heart…I am so much bigger than that and I didn't know that I was supposed to be embarrassed by that in this open-hearted realm. Also, I think she's absolutely gorgeous in that photo. Perception is such a magical and mysterious thing.

  8. Kristin says:

    Umm, I think you look somewhat healthier and more approachable in your blurred before picture.

  9. Koni says:

    I'll tell you all something – the first point is how I knew this was a genuine article. Loving your body is indeed a permanent way to keep weight off. As someone who's recently gained a lot of and started doing something about it just last week I can tell you one thing for sure-
    Every single day for the last year hating my body and thinking to myself I'm "gross" always kept me at a mental state where "working out, exercising and eating healthy" seemed like a "punishment" and hence I avoided it. But once I started loving myself and gave myself the liberty to "be happy with this body" I began to notice something – I wanted to eat healthy, I wanted to climb stairs without panting so I started dancing after coming home from work at night instead of lounging about on the bed stuffing my bed feeling bad for myself.
    There is a deep connection between the mind and the body – The more positive you feel about your body the better it will get. I have dropped 2 kgs in one week and I'm so in love with my body and my new mindset.
    Claudia love your article. Keep it up 🙂

  10. Linda Thomas says:

    Claudia – I liked a lot of your article but one thing that struck me right away was your point about “verbal messages” which you then follow-up by showing a photo of your EMBARRASSING ‘before’ photo! Is that loving yourself? While you may prefer the ‘after’ I think more acceptance, empathy and love for the ‘before’ would be more yogi-like and more in line with ‘namaste’ and the spirit in me loving the spirit in you. Just a thought . . .

  11. sydneybell says:

    I think this article is dangerous and unhelpful. 'Woman to woman violence' a previous commenter says…and yes, i agree. One woman's body changed…maybe influenced by her lifestyle changes. This does not mean that the steps in her path will cause a change in body for other women, and yet that is what she is selling here. Many people will engage in all the steps she is talking about – yoga practice, drinking water, inner work, etc and their body size will not change. If they are making more nutritionally sound food choices, moving their body more and practicing self-compassion their likely are positively impacting their health. But again their body *may not change*…or not change as drastically as this woman is claiming is possible. Or they may gain weight. My point is, we cannot predict how our body will react to lifestyle changes, which is why we need to take the focus off body size.

  12. Eatmyfeces says:

    Really Claudia, that was the most uninspiring, lackluster story I've ever read in my life. How much woo and anti science bullshit do you believe in? You went to India, did a bunch of fucking yoga and lost 30 pounds. So you were unhappy with your 148 pound image(Which some women are really happy with) so you slim down to the size of a stick? Amiright? Come on hon it's clear that you a food elitist and seem to never take anything with truth for face value.

  13. Jen says:

    I absolutely agree with some of the above comments that find this article disturbing and hypocritical. To equate a positive body image with losing weight is not only dangerous but completely in opposition to the idea of truly loving your self in all it's physicality. To my mind this is not at all what yoga is about.

  14. nancy says:

    I was excited to read the article. Lots of good information, bringing in the 12 step program was refreshing. Then I got to the end and the "embarrassing" picture….made me so sad. Lots of women would aspire to be that size. She looks beautiful. I guess it's how you feel inside…it was an unfortunate choice of words…..still faking it 'til you make it?

  15. nancy says:

    Made me sad….

  16. intuitiveeatingpath says:

    As a yogi and someone recovering from an eating disorder, I find it more helpful to not focus on weight at all.
    Bodies shift in weight. We don't know if anyone will be heavier or thinner in different times of life. True surrender calls for letting go of ideas of how our body shows up. Yes, love ourself, but putting out a weight loss message to the world, no matter how it is packaged just perpetuates the thin is better message that we need to heal from. I hope we can get over this idea someday. People get cancer and lose weight. People get older and metabolisms change. They get injured and cannot exercise or do yoga. People have ruined their metabolism due to dieting and will always be heavier unless they get an eating disorder to control their weight. Weight loss focus needs to go.

  17. intuitiveeatingpath says:

    Well said!

  18. intuitiveeatingpath says:


  19. dawn says:

    I really respect and believe in everything this article had to say….with one exception…… That picture shouldn't be embarrassing….even through all she said about negative vocabulary she still used a negative term to describe herself in her old form…. There is nothing embarrassing about being overweight or not at a place in your life where you haven't yet reached and understanding with mind and body…. It also gives those people still not on their self loving journey as having to have something to be ashamed of….. Everyone is different and their journey personal… Leave judgement out of it..whether directed outward or towards yourself.

  20. emma says:

    I know this is about your journey, but it honestly hurts my feelings to see a photo of somebody thinner than me labled as "embarrassing." Now I know you would be embarrassed to be me. I think it's important for people to realize that how we talk about ourselves effects how other people feel about themselves too.

  21. riddhi says:

    It was an interesting article and I am re-reading it but I agree with Dawn and Emma…you talk about eliminating negative vocabulary from our life yet you talk about "embarrassing" picture of yours. All that positivity "yoga people" talk about yet they seem to equate "thinness" to healthy and happy living. I understand being over weight is not good for your health but weight has nothing to do with happiness…so being thin is not the answer…having a good, healthy life style is…Lots of obsessive, cranky, unhealthy thin people out there who "think" they are happy…
    All these articles start on a very good positive way but always end in a very disappointing note 🙁

  22. skybluepink says:

    I agree, the embarrasing comment was written recently!

  23. Debbie says:

    I couldn’t agree more. Also, many women could look at that before photo & think, “That’s embarrassing?! Then, I must look horrible!”

  24. Andrea Spielvogel says:

    I find the tag line for this article offensive. “See embarrassing before photo”. It would be nice if you could find a way of sharing this information without putting yourself or other people down. Everyone’s journey is different. I’m a curvy girl and practice yoga. Just cause I can’t harness my boobs and belly into an expensive name brand yoga top does not say anything about me as a yogi or as a person for that matter. My size might make some things/poses challenging for me but overcoming those challenges makes me a stronger brighter compassionate and confident person.

  25. jocelyne says:

    it is so, so, so sad that your are embarrassed by the ''before'' photos –

  26. Janet Bernskevitch says:

    Statements 1 and 3 are completely invalidated by the ” embarrassing” photo comment. No matter how innocently you may have included comment it deeply detracts from what is otherwise an incredibly valid article. I am in the midst of working towards self acceptance and improving how I feel about my body which is very close, a few pounds difference, to the size and shape of your photo so you may be able to imagine my objection.

  27. Siena s says:

    She seems to still have am eating disorder herself and full of mixeds messages. Sadly I feel she doesn’t really love herself that’s why she needs to tell herself everyday. We are all works in process. Yoga is really about breath work and meditation. Focusing in the inside not the outside. Yoga helps tire our bodies so we can finally feel peaceful enough to focus on our inner self. If we do that 30 lbs isn’t an issue

  28. Gina R says:

    Much of what you said lost credibility when you open with the negative and describe your earlier photo as "embarassing" and then end with the same sentiment. Interestingly enough, at 148 pounds, you look normal and heathy and while I personally respect that you have chosen another extreme, you have insulted many others who would be perfectly blessed to weigh 148 pounds.

  29. Brandy says:

    The after photo is startlingly thin. Forgive me for judging, but if that is what "healthy" looks like, I'm out. Yoga is not anorexia. It doesn't state how tall you are, but 148 pounds isn't a "brochure" for obesity at any height.

  30. Brian says:

    I am proud of you Brandi!

  31. Jan says:

    Thank you tamingauthor and touché.

    I think weight loss should be a taboo subject, left to the confines of doctor/patient confidentiality. I have heard the very youngest of children discuss their concerns about becoming overweight; some of my nieces included. Two of them are now severely underweight.

    My son when he was about 8 decided he would only eat low fat food. Yes, he was actively seeking out the "low fat" produce himself when I went shopping. He most definitely was not and is not now overweight. I discussed my concern with his paediatrician who reinforced my view; telling him not to worry about getting overweight. I always said if you look like you are becoming overweight I will tell you, but until then forget about it.

    Why are such young children being affected by this? Is it the "healthy pyramid" talks by teachers, overhearing parents and siblings discuss weight issues or the media itself? Perhaps it should be banned from media sales etc.

    Mental violence? Yes. Every time a person starts on the subject of weight they are usually within hearing distance of some young, impressionable children. About time those people started to think before they opened their mouths.

    Thank you again.

  32. wrensong says:

    Thank you for sharing your journey with EJ readers Claudia. I wanted to say that I think you look beautiful in your ‘before’ picture and that your smile glows. It was really helpful for me to see that picture because I judge my own pictures so harshly, and when I read that you were 148 lbs, I felt empathy for you. Just like you described in point number 10. I agree, 12-step meetings and/or group therapy are so helpful because when we experience empathy for others’ struggles we can grow if we reflexively transfer that to ourselves. Numbers on the scale really shouldn’t matter, feeling good inside and being healthy is what is important. I am happy for you that you seem to have found both!

  33. Vicky says:

    Loved the article and the list. Maybe just by removing “embarrassing” from anything before-related will help. People are fixating on that. I was just focused on the list and can really appreciate her balanced, middle of the road, approach. It takes time and work into undoing negative self-talking sabatoge. Most cannot simply just start accepting. But with time and work, we can truly start undoing the negative bad habits and start forming healthier ones.

  34. jzgplj says:

    I find it hard to love this body, as it's been taught from a fairly young age that it's never going to be good enough.

  35. Finkeli says:

    Claudia, how long were you in India? or rather how long did it take for the 30lbs to come off? thanks…

  36. Sara says:

    Thin doesn’t always equate healthy. It always makes me sad when people who practice yoga don’t know that. Yogis would do well to focus on more important things. I am curvy. Go ahead and say “fat” if you like. I have six living children, a happy sexy marriage of 21 years, and have been practicing yoga since I was 4 years old due to my hippy parents. Loving my body has only ever been hard due to additudes like this wherein a beautiful woman would find her sexy curves “embarrassing”. That picture is NOT embarrassing, nor was losing 30 lbs a triumph. If you think so, it is advisable that you might want to meditate on the diagnosis of body dismorphic disorder, wherein one thinks they are “fat and ugly”, when they are not, and striving for a more skeletal look becomes ideal. I’m sorry you dislike your past. I hope you can come to love that “you”, as well.

  37. Pri.Lahiri says:

    Hello Claudia, very inspiring post! How do I start this journey? What should be my first step??!

  38. Wendy rosko says:

    Seriously, you feel you are comfortable with yourself, while degrading your formal self. I think you need more work with self image. This elephant journal is really crap. I’m glad I have not subscribed

  39. Laura E says:

    I wonder if you could share what makes the before picture embarrassing please ?

  40. elephantjournal says:

    Whoa! This is just one article—we have lots. We are reader created. We don't expect every person to like and / or agree with every article! You are under no obligation to read, but if you want to offer feedback, whether positive or negative, try keeping it mindful and constructive (if you don't like something, say why.) 🙂 ~ Ed.

  41. Tracy says:

    OMG! I thought my dog was the only one that knew the F-word!! LOL Thanks for sharing that!! 😀

  42. Lucy says:

    Perhaps it is embarrassing to her because she feels she failed herself at that point in her life? Sometimes it’s embarrassing to acknowledge that we don’t love ourselves or do things to ourselves that are self destructive. Maybe her earlier weight was a reflection of these things. I still do things to myself (like eat a whole packet of cookies) that I find quiet embarrassing and yes my body does reflect this. It’s not a laudable quality lol. Her earlier body might be your perfect body, it just wasn’t for her. I thought it was a marvelous article. I think her journey is one I would be thrilled with. So I think perhaps everyone shouldn’t read their own fears into a word. It’s a beautiful world out there … honest!!!