I can recall exactly where I came to discover my harmful pattern of eating.
It was in France, the “South of” to be exact, while volunteering on a farm as part of the World Wide Organization of Organic Farming. It was a lifelong dream of mine that was finally being fulfilled. For two months, I was the “keeper” of the farm. Every morning I awoke promptly at 6:30, stretched, looked out the foggy window over the cascade of green hills, pulled up my long socks, bundled up and I was off.
Up I went, ascending the sloping green to meet and feed the horses that had spread themselves sporadically along the pastures to soak up the early morning rays. After that, it was time to prepare breakfast. Fresh warm bread, croissants, homemade preserves and pan du chocolate: a consortium of delicious baked goodies and a perfect blend of cultural treats.
Along with the cleanup of breakfast came the opportunity for me to feast upon all of the “leftovers.” I experienced tastes I had never experienced before, and at the same time, I had me the opportunity to ease my morning cultural stresses with food—a habit that would envelope me most mornings during my stay on the farm.
The small kitchen that created all of these French delicacies was the setting for many self-realizations during my stay on the farm. Every morning, I cleared breakfast, and I observed myself as my mind raced through all of the expectations that lay before me for the day: to please the host, to clean the toilets before ten. And then came my emotional break. Before I knew it, I began to devour as many left over French pastries as I could. The conclusion to this observation: I eat when I am stressed, worried or anxious.
There is a special ability gained when we are taken out of our day-to-day comforts and forced into a situation where we don’t speak the language.
So through this experience and my own meditations, I had gained the ability to observe (Acharya in Sanksrit means “self study and observance”).
When I came back into the United States, I continued my habit. However, I was aware of it this time; awareness is, after all, the beginning steps to solving a problem. I was able to finally see more clearly and begin my attempt to solve the problem. The solution: I would cleanse and detoxify. I knew I would have to start from scratch.
I wanted to use this cleanse to start to understand the solution that could be for me. Within the first two days, I began to see things more clearly. I could take a breath away from my daily food routine giving me yet another chance to gain new perspectives. When deprived of the things that are so constant and reliable in life, I realized that most of the things that I demand and feel privileged to are things I don’t really need on a daily basis.
I chose to do the Master Cleanse, and as I drank sweetened lemon juice and water for the next week, epiphanies came to me daily. I began to think about all the times I had spoken, “I am starving” or “I am sooo hungry.” I began to truly realize how much these statements were in a way unjust and untrue. I wasn’t hungry at these times, and I certainly wasn’t starving.
When I looked outside myself for an answer to my dilemma, it occurred to me that compassion and a better understanding of myself and the world could become a way for me to overcome this eating habit. I had a luxury many others don’t. For every day I went without solid food, I reflected on the many people that go days without a decent meal and how much I take for granted what I eat in my daily life.
While I was shoving apple tarts in my mouth, the hungry homeless man on the street wasn’t in my mind. Instead, I worried about when the laundry would be done. I was wrapped up in myself. I made a vow to myself that after the fast, I would forever be grateful for the food that came in and never again would I eat when I was sad. Instead, when sad, I would think about all the homeless men, women and children in the world, and then perhaps my “hunger” would subside.
Throughout the days of my cleanse, visions of Gandhi’s work and dedication flashed in my mind. His pilgrimage brought awareness to hunger through his devotion to the forty-day fasts he would take. In my own special way, I was following the footsteps of Gandhi, and my fast was a part of a pilgrimage of my own. On the fifth day of my cleanse, I went to a local city park and handed out sandwiches to the homeless population that occupies the area. The feeling of peace that I encountered doing this shifted me. I felt, if only for a second, the gratitude, dedication and selflessness that Gandhi must have felt.
Traveling to France gave me knew perspective, and I now keep the wisdom of Gandhi in the back of my mind all the while as a small cheerleader and role model for me. Gandhi offered wise advice when he said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” This pilgrimage of overcoming my old stressful eating habits was the first time in my life that I had truly felt that I was following these wise words.
Editor: Kate Bartolotta.
Caitlyn Patch has been practicing many art forms since a young girl and has continually been on the path of creative expression through many mediums including beauty, diet, photography and yoga. Caitlyn realized that to incorporate these life forces, she would be able to serve the world and her community in a fuller capacity. Caitlyn holds a 200-hour Yoga Alliance Certified Yoga Teacher Certificate and has completed I, II, & III Anusara Immersions with Ami Hirschstein. Caitlyn also teaches retreats and classes in yoga and food philosophy. She can be contacted at [email protected], and her website is foodwithwit.com.