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September 25, 2013

Keeping it Real: A Yogi Vows to Eat Clean.

On the first day of my blog, I wrote about binging on potato chips and, honestly, I could have written about binging on anything.

I have been known to eat handful after handful of dry Rice Krispies. (I don’t recommend it.) It’s not the food thats the issue, although some foods are easier than others. I have never purposely set out to “binge” on anything. I have never disguised myself in dark sunglasses as I shopped the aisles of Big Y and thrown 10 packages of cookies into my shopping cart knowing that later on I would secretly eat them row by row.

I’m not judging this type of behavior. It’s just not mine.

Instead, I find myself returning to the cupboard over and over again to have just one more. Or I will cut off a slice and then another and another. Its like I could never give myself enough of what I wanted the first time around. It’s as if I am saying my hunger is a dirty secret.

I received a few comments this week about overeating the potato chips. One reader sent me an email and stated, “Just don’t buy them anymore or have them around. It’s that easy,” she said.

Hmm? Well-Meaning Reader, I get that you are trying to be helpful, but it’s just not that simple. And this is not a bullshit story I am telling myself to keep my victim alive. If it was as easy as you say, every one of us with food issues would have figured it out by now. Your well-meaning and practical comment is like telling a sensitive person to suck it up and stop being so sensitive. It heaps more shame on top of shame and suggests that we are weak or are so blind we cannot see the obvious. It also creates a separation between you and me. You must be more evolved. You have figured out how to say “no,” and I am still not there yet.

Plus, if I banned every food I could possibly overeat, then there would not be much left in my cupboard.

It’s not fair to expect two teenagers, a six-year old, and the grown man I live with to limit their food choices because of my issues. Been there, done that and its just furthered my fear and shame. (As a matter of fact, at one point I was so scared of “forbidden” food that I dreaded going on vacation with my family because of the type of food they liked to eat.

It was me vs. them and their evil food.

A few years back, I took a yoga workshop, along with 100 other female yoga students, from a famous yoga teacher. The kind of male teacher with tons of charisma and piercing blue eyes. His body was trim and tanned and it would be no stretch to call him handsome. He taught an awe-inspiring challenging class full of backbends and hip openers and sun-salutations. At the end of the practice, when the whole group of us was wrung out like wash clothes and feeling our hearts expanded to the sky, he held a question and answer session.

The idea was, Are there any questions you would like to ask the handsome rock-star teacher?

A woman raised her hand. She was the biggest yogi in the room. The majority of bodies were typical of what you would see in a moderately challenging yoga class—thin, toned and fit. I hesitate writing this because it makes me sound like I am thin-shaming, which I am not. Nor am I suggesting only thinner bodies are toned and fit. I believe there are fit bodies of every size. But the truth is, there are some yoga rooms where the majority of yoga students have minimal body fat. I notice this because I am never one of them.

“Do you have any suggestions for those of us who are trying to lose weight?” she asked.

The rock star yogi paused and looked straight at her. Through his microphone, he said, “Eat less food”

Smile.

Pause.

“Its that simple.”

I wanted to hug her and slap him, although I had no idea if she thought his answer was insensitive. Fortunately, someone else raised their hand and asked a question totally unrelated to weight loss and the moment moved on.

Hmm. Anybody sense a bit of stigma here? How about fat-shaming? The idea that a larger-sized person is not doing the work is a deeply-rooted belief in our culture.

Fat-shaming, thin-shaming, age-shaming and slut-shaming are nasty little acceptances we are just beginning to talk about. The ways in which our society views women’s bodies says a lot about us and it seems to me we still have a ways to go to get free from oppression.

“The rhythms that make up a woman’s body are the same rhythms that make up the dance of the universe,” said Iris Steward, noted scholar of feminine spirituality.

Maybe a woman’s body is a metaphor for the mysteries of this world and yet we are trying to tame it into a certain look, age and socially acceptable dress and behavior. Perhaps society expects us to look and behave in a way that makes everyone else comfortable.

What if those of us who hunger for food are rebelling against the underground pressure to not take up too much space in this world and to play it pretty, safe and small?

Sorry, food and body issues are not simple. Instead, they reflect our private relationship with our bodies as well as our public ones.

One thing that is simple is kindness.

The rock star who told the heavier woman to eat less food was not being kind, even if he didn’t know it.

Public blogging is making me feel exposed as I reveal my shadow side to the world. Today is day three and so far I have been eating the way I want to—healthy and without chaos. But I do feel the forces tugging at me to stumble. Potato chips, cookies, ice cream are all in my house, but so are healthy food choices. Today it feels easy; but tomorrow it may not.

So, I hang on to kindness. We all should. The kindness you show to yourself and others, in this moment, is not just for today, but also for tomorrow.

 

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Ed: Sara Crolick

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