Self-Care Series, Episode 4: The Time I was Asked About Diets

Thursdays I teach a small group class at a local St. Louis corporation. Some weeks I share with them interesting things I’ve read about or have been studying. Other weeks I ask if they have questions or want to share something.

Today one of the students said he had been getting into learning about nutrition and asked if there were any diets I follow or recommend.

Such an interesting question.

I understand why he would ask that because yoga is becoming such a part of the fitness industry it is easy to assume yoga teachers would eat certain ways, similar to the idea personal trainers eat certain ways. There’s also the understanding that society is hyper-focused on achieving a particular “body” and the assumption that it can be “done” through diet and exercise. Because of these understandings and assumptions, I wanted to give him an honest answer — an answer that was authentic and truthful for me. However, I didn’t want to come off condescending or righteous because that can happen when topics of food and dieting comes up. I wanted to create a space of sharing and discussion, not confrontation.

Here’s my answer.

I don’t diet. I don’t follow certain food protocols, restrictions, whatever you want to call it. At least not in the traditional sense. When I did do those things, they led to disordered eating. (He was sort of taken aback, which tends to happen when I say I’ve struggled with food.) Now, I try to practice more intuitive eating. I try to listen to the messages and cues my body is sending me as best I can and honor them. I focus more on how the things I consume make me feel, physically, mentally, and emotionally, without restricting and placing rules on myself. The only foods I avoid are the ones in which I have a sensitivity, i.e. soy, avocado, bananas. I try to not judge or punish myself for choices or amounts. Instead of restricting, I am practicing unrestricting. At one time I had a list of foods, while not considered “unhealthy” by most people, that were on a list of foods I couldn’t/wouldn’t/shouldn’t eat because of their nutritional value, or lack thereof. Now I have an incredible list of foods that make me feel functional, whole, satisfied, vibrant because that’s more valuable to me. I am not going to judge anyone who practices a particular restrictive diet, like Paleo, Keto, Veganism, etc., but I also won’t promote those practices.

(This might not be the popular answer, but it’s mine.)

Why did I make this part of the Self-Care Series?

I truly believe if we were not meant to enjoy food and drink then our senses wouldn’t attract us to it. Why do smells make our mouths water? Why do the bright colors of produce draw us in? Why are we able to notice the different textures and flavors? Why entice us if we aren’t supposed to experience pleasure and satisfaction? I also believe food can be medicine for physical, mental, and emotional bodies. I believe making empowered choices regarding what each one of us consumes is a big middle finger to an industry that wants us to be complacent. I believe the way we think about what we consume is an indication of how we treat and care for ourselves.

The diet industry is a big business. It makes approximately $60 billion dollars a year, and the focus is not on helping people. The industry’s focus is on shaming people into to believing their bodies make them unworthy and they’ll find happiness if they change their appearance. The diet industry is focused on making people feel guilty when a diet fails, and plays hero by swooping in with another diet for the person to try so the cycle can continue. The diet industry is about sales.

Start to notice and analyze your relationship with food. Do you feel empowered by your consumption choices? Do you find pleasure and satisfaction with food? Are you able to interpret your body’s messages? Can you read them loud and clear? Or do you ignore your body? Do you feel shamed, guilty, beat down? Do you spend more time thinking about food and planning meals that it takes away from the other things in your life? Is your list of “no-no” foods a hell of a lot longer than your list of “yes, please” foods? If you are feeling more negative toward yourself and food, maybe it’s time to practice something different. Maybe it’s time to say, “Fuck you,” to the diets. Maybe it’s time to become friends with your body because contrary to what the diet industry tells us the body is quite intelligent and knows what it is doing.

Self-Care Sunday, Episode 1: What is Self-Care

Welcome to Self-Care Sunday!

For quite a while now, I have been wanting to do a series of posts on self-care. However, I have also been hesitant about this idea. My intention with these posts is to provide readers with ideas for different ways to care for themselves. These posts are not meant to say one thing is better than another, and these posts are not meant to be the “be all and end all” of self-care. I think there is a real lack of self-care in people’s lives. For many, they feel self-care is selfish. It’s not selfish to take care of yourself. Showing oneself love, kindness, and compassion allows that person to show love, kindness, and compassion to others.

What the heck is self-care?

Self-care is the care for oneself, according to Merriam-Webster, but so many of us still don’t know what that means. Self-care is the practices, activities, and routines that support ones physical, mental, and emotional health. It is what refuels, rather than takes away.

Like I mentioned above, many people have come to think self-care is something selfish. As in, “How dare you take time for yourself to fill your figurative cup of well-being, instead of continuing to give all of your energy to beings, even when you no longer have any energy to give!” Self-care is actually quite the opposite of selfishness. By taking care of ones needs and refueling themselves the person is then able to take better care of others. Our world must be quite ill for self-care to be considered a negative thing.

How does someone practice self-care?

Here are some tips for practicing self-care.

  • Actively pursue it. Schedule it. Write it on the calendar. Block out time for yourself.
  • Have a clear intention that this is for your well-being. If you’re just doing something without a clear intention, then the result won’t be very fulfilling.
  • Figure out what you like and dislike. There’s no point in doing something you don’t like, even if the internet says you should do it. Not everyone has the same needs so test out different things to find what works for you.

With all of that being said, self-care is not always a “pretty” thing like bath bombs and coffee dates. Sometimes it’s looking at failures, re-evaluating, and trying again, if necessary. Sometimes it’s disappointing others by saying no to something. But most of all, self-care isn’t about fixing oneself. The focus is on taking care of oneself, and it is a necessary and essential thing for a balanced life.

My goal is to post a different method of self-care each Sunday creating a series of offerings to readers. These offerings will range from taking a bath to movement to stepping away from something negative. I’m quite excited for this series, and I hope you are, too. If you ever have a suggestion or have a self-care practice you love and would like me to share, please leave a comment and I will do my best to add it to my list.

Tune in next Sunday for episode 2!

Nourishment for the Heart and Soul

nourishment

At the moment I am participating in an online course called Manifest: A Corse About Standing in Your Power hosted by Amber Karnes of Body Positive Yoga and Kelley Carboni-Woods, author of Manifest: 30 Days of Intentional Mantras. The course is a practice of self-exploration to build trust with ones self and stand in ones power. Each week we are given two mantras for reflection and two asana practices that correspond with each mantra.

The first mantra of Manifest was, “I nourish myself with the best.” Typically, the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about nourishment is food. The body derives nutrients from the food and drink consumed to help it function and sustain life. But what comes to mind if you look beyond what you eat? We nourish ourselves with quality of the media we choose, the music we listen to, the activities we participate in, and the people we interact with. Personally, I find nourishment through reading, creating art, moving my body, taking naps, snuggling my dogs, and spending quality time with my boyfriend. However, I think nourishment goes even further than just what we take in. I think it also involves what is released.

Think about the thoughts, events, people, feelings, etc. that you might continue to harbor negativity toward. Are you someone who holds a grudge? I certainly was. Are you someone who revisits some past event and replays it differently in your head so there is a different outcome? Again, I was. What does holding on to all of that do for you, especially if it is something that happened years ago? Holding on to all of the negativity not only gives that person/event/thought/feeling power and control over you, but it takes up space that could be used for something else, something more positive and productive. Lessons can be learned and growth can be produced from certain situations, but once that has happened let the negative go. Granted that is easier said than done in many cases and can take a long time to happen. Keep in mind it doesn’t mean you have to forgive and forget.

I held a lot of anger toward someone for many years. It wasn’t until a couple years ago that I realized it didn’t serve me to be angry. It wasn’t going to change the past, and it drained my energy, which took away from the important things in my life. While I may not have necessarily forgiven this person, I have been able to release my anger toward them. This has allowed me to see some of the growth this person has gone through, as well as see this person as an actual person.

Allowing the negative to be released clears up space for you to take in nourishment from the things that light up your soul. It allows you to give energy to the things you enjoy, rather than to the things that bring you discomfort, pain, heartache. Offer yourself the best quality nourishment you can because you deserve it. You deserve to be filled with positivity. For it’s this positive energy that allows us to share the best parts of ourselves with the world.

Do you agree with the idea that nourishment can come from letting something go? In what ways, do you find provide yourself the best nourishment? If you are holding on to something negative, will you consider or work toward letting it go?