Yoga & Food as Love
What we eat can be a touchy subject. We are so careful, counting calories, following the latest fad diets, trying to do the right things for our bodies, and suffering because of it. We deprive ourselves, and then we overindulge and end up feeling like crap. Food is a major way in which we nourish ourselves, emotionally and physically. Yoga helps bring awareness to what we eat, and tunes us in to what our bodies really need. It allows us to learn how to be moderate and it encourages healthy lifestyle choices. Food should be celebrated and there are lots of very healthy foods that just happen to be delicious as well!
I struggled for years to eat healthfully. In high school I spent hours in front of the TV snacking on processed junk. Luckily, my mother cooked healthy meals and I was very active. I guess this somewhat saved me from completely succumbing to my Snickers ice cream bar and Doritos habits! I was never very overweight, but I never felt too good either. After high school, I tried to improve how my body looked (based on what I thought was expected of me). I exercised excessively at times and I ate lunches that consisted solely of raw, plain veggies, leaving me less than satisfied and my nutrient needs unfulfilled. I was always sore, often tired, and probably too thin. Through developing my yoga practice, I’ve come to cherish my body and try to take care of it in whatever ways I can. I have learned how to listen to my body. I give it rest when it needs rest, exercise of varying levels of intensity depending on the day, and always, perhaps most importantly, creative, healthy meals. What we eat is so important and it affects so much — how we look, how we feel, how we behave… I’m passionate about finding and creating healthy recipes that are also delicious! This blog post will discuss the part yoga plays in all of this, and explore ways to incorporate healthy eating into our daily lives.
As I’ve mentioned in the past, yoga can help us create a healthier relationship with food. It can contribute to losing weight and maintaining a healthy body and body image. There are conflicting opinions on the weight loss aspect — some say yoga is not a good weight loss tool. However, I believe it helps in a few ways. First, active styles of yoga like ashtanga and vinyasa (particularly heated power yoga) can be quite strenuous and aerobic. Practicing these styles of yoga absolutely burns calories and can contribute to weight loss. Also, living a yogic lifestyle (including pranayama, meditation, practicing self-restraint, non-violence, compassion, etc.) brings you more in touch with yourself and others. Aside from the practice of asanas (physical postures), yoga can help us embrace other healthy lifestyle practices, thereby ensuring our bodies are in top form. It grows your self-love and desire to take care of yourself. This naturally leads to eating healthy foods in moderation, sometimes allowing us to shed extra pounds.
I don’t want to focus on weight loss per se; I mentioned it because it is a goal for many of us, and the US culture in particular is one of over-indulgence and instant gratification. This has led to a health and obesity epidemic. At the same time, we are inundated with messages that we must lose weight and be a perfect size in order to get respect. Yoga can help us be at peace with who we are, inside and out. To find our own unique “perfect size” without judgment or criticism. Eating can and should be a joy. It’s a ritual to be celebrated. There are so many awesome, healthy, delicious foods out there — after years of research I am still learning new things all the time! I’m amazed at the foods I’ve never even heard of until now, and excited to discover more. Learning how to eat healthfully in a way that truly satisfies us, while not criticizing ourselves for how we look or whether we are perfect in our habits every minute, is well worth the endeavor.
Here are some ideas for incorporating healthy eating into our daily lives. As always, a daily yoga practice also supports other healthy lifestyle habits!
* Start your day with warm water and the juice of 1/2 a lemon (but know this can cause tooth decay — use a straw and/or rinse your mouth afterwards, and don’t brush for at least 30 minutes to ensure enamel safety)
* Drink the GGS (glowing green smoothie) before eating anything else. I definitely notice a difference in my energy level throughout the day when I do this! It doesn’t have to be all the time; it can be just for a “cleanse” or just weekdays … whatever works for you! When you do drink the GGS, though, you’ll be getting more greens into your diet than many people get in a week in one easy drink! Pretty cool.
* Buy a Vitamix! It’s an investment but well worth it! I make my own nut milks, sauces, smoothies, hummus, soups, ice cream, salsas, and the list goes on and on and on. I’ve discovered so many new foods and how easy it is to make your own items you would usually purchase healthier and cheaper. I use it every single day.
* Check out some of the many amazing healthy food blogs! They are so inspiring, full of good information, recipes, and links to other great sites. There are far too many to list, but here are some of my favorites: Oh She Glows, Deliciously Ella, Detoxinista, Food Babe, Green Kitchen Stories, Minimalist Baker, Mind Body Green
* Eat whole foods
* Create a rainbow on your plate
* Incorporate one new healthy meal and/or dessert per week. This is so easy to do with the wealth of information and recipes available online. It keeps it interesting and fun! It’s a great activity to share with others, too.
* Practice mindful eating
* Eat when you are hungry and don’t eat when you’re not (eating small meals/grazing throughout the day may work better for you than eating three bigger meals at breakfast, lunch, and dinner)
* Allow yourself to “indulge” once in a while! If you feel you’re depriving yourself, it isn’t really healthy. If we drown in guilt and shame every time we “cheat,” it is damaging and takes all the fun out of eating! Let yourself have treats; don’t call it “cheating.” It’s OK to indulge sometimes. Everything in moderation.
So many people want to eat healthy but aren’t sure where to start. There’s so much (conflicting) information out there it can be overwhelming. Really, though, it’s not that difficult. It can take time and patience, but the learning process is fun! Enjoy it. Every body is different, so you need to experiment to find out what works for you. I personally eat a plant-based vegetarian diet including eggs (and occasional dairy). I think everyone has different needs, though. I have seen a great improvement in my health by eating mostly whole foods and making as much of my own stuff as possible (i.e., not eating processed foods). I greatly limit dairy as it is congesting and difficult to digest. I know, I hated hearing this at first and totally resisted it, but it’s true. I can feel and see the difference, and don’t really miss it (shocking because I’ve always absolutely loved cheese, ice cream, and yogurt). There are so many alternatives (vegan sour cream is my latest exciting discovery!). At the same time, if I’m at a Mexican restaurant and I want an empanada with cheese, I’m not beating myself up over that! I enjoy it and then continue with something healthier the next day. I truly believe that the guilt and self-criticism we sometimes display after eating something less than healthy is just as (or more) toxic to our bodies as the food itself. Food is love!
What about you? Do you have other ideas? Recipes? Please share!