The path of yoga can create changes in the lives of practitioners that are both expected and unexpected. As a reader of Living in the (k)Now for some time, it has been interesting for me to read, in her unflinchingly honest posts, how Thais has grown/changed/evolved in this process. In this guest blog, Thais considers how her development in yoga has impacted her relationship with food – not because of the stereotype of yogis as vegetarians, but almost in spite of it. ~ Lorin
Whenever I tell fellow yogis I went vegetarian soon after I started intensifying my yoga practice, I usually receive a nod of understanding. But sometimes, I receive The Look. You know, the look of “oh great, another bandwagon yogini who went vegetarian because it’s what yogis SHOULD do and probably eats fried chicken late at night when no one else is looking”.
I just smile and let it drop – let them pass their judgments. And hey, being a stereotypical yogi and saving the life of a sentient being (9 billion chickens are raised and killed for consumption each year in the USA alone) trumps any thoughts someone has about me.
But between you and me, I did not become vegetarian because the yogic lifestyle urged me to. In fact, I know a lot of yogis who are much further along the path than I who feel fully justified in eating meat (take Anna Forrest and Sadie Nardini for example). Whatever floats their boat; it’s not my job to change anyone. It’s simply my job to change myself. Lead by example, one could say.
So why DID I become vegetarian?
For the past four years, I have dealt with a minor case of binge eating disorder. In my opinion, it’s one of the least heard of but most rampant of eating disorder. Binge, or compulsive overeating, disorder is a disorder where you find yourself stuffing your face uncontrollably with food. In order to be diagnosed with the disorder, one must binge regularly for a length of time. Although my binges were not as frequent as required to be fully diagnosed, it still wrecked havoc in my life and on my body. Self hate coursed through my veins. Despite the therapy sessions, the support of friends and family, the endless diets and countless other techniques I endeavored to put in place, nothing really helped. I starved, I worked out for hours and hours, yet nothing stopped my inevitable weight gain after consuming 10,000+ calories in one sitting. So the hate for my ever increasing waistline deepened. I fell into an awful vicious circle of depression and agony. And then I found yoga.
I was bored one day and decided to take a yoga class. One class led to many. I took classes in every city I visited. I tried every style I could get my hands on. The more time I spent on my mat, the more I learned about myself. I learned how badly I was treating my body, not by binging, but by attacking myself when I binged. How as much as my mind wanted me to touch my toes, it took patience and love before I was able to get there. That lesson of patience carried me through to other aspects of my life, including my eating habits. I slowly began to perceive the relationship between what I ate and how I felt. By spending so much time practicing, learning, and living yoga, I started respecting what I could and could not do. Eventually
I no longer wanted to put bad things in my body. It just wasn’t worth it anymore.
I started taking away processed foods from my diet. Then I stopped drinking caffeine. I eliminated soda. And I started feeling good. Not because I was losing weight, but because my energy levels were not dependent on a drug. As I began respecting myself, I started to see the world with eyes of compassion. I did not want to cause others harm. If I deserve respect, then other sentient beings do as well. And just like that I stopped eating meat.
Unlike the other diets I forced upon myself, this one did not feel like deprivation because it was based on love rather than hate. In the past, I would count calories and not allow myself to eat because I hated my fat and wanted to lose weight. Now, as I learned to love myself, I only want what’s best for me, which includes not eating anything that causes pain to others.
My yoga practice has changed my life. Although my binge eating is not fully gone, it is no longer a prominent part of who I am. It’s a work in process, as is my path towards self love and veganism.
So go ahead, judge me for not eating meat. Label me any way you like. Try to convince me that we NEED animal protein. I will just smile and nod. For the first time in four years, I am finally starting to love who I am. Whether that means I am a stereotypical yogi makes no difference to me. I’m saving my body, my soul, and countless lives. What more could a girl need?
Thais is a 20s something yogadork with a passion for living life to the fullest. You can catch her taking naps in the park with her black lab, Caviar, reading ten books at a time, or tweeting away about some quote or another. Check out her corner of the blogging world here.