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The Yoga of Eating: Part 1

A dear friend recently told me to read The Yoga of Eating by Charles Eisenstein.

From the title alone, I knew I had to read this book. 

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For the past three years I have been studying the science of nutrition and building muscle. But long before interest in bodybuilding and fitness, I was deeply intwined in holistic nutrition, intuitive eating and yoga. In my twenties I read every natural nutrition book I could find (I have books upon books in France, Vancouver and California), took workshops, visited various holistic nutritionists, experimented with all kinds of natural herbs and supplements, and even applied for a loan to go to a holistic nutrition school in Vancouver but my credit wouldn't allow it. 

Recently something has been calling me back to my roots. I find myself more interested in what my body has to say than in following a prescribed set of numbers. 

This book could not come at a better time.

I am enjoying it so much that I want to share excerpts and my interpretations as I read it. I will start with notes from my favorite sections within the first seven chapters of the book:

THE FALLACY OF WILLPOWER

Eisenstein suggests that reliance on willpower reveals a 'profound distrust of one's self.' And that maybe without willpower we would be more creative, abundant, productive and dynamic than in a world of should and shouldn'ts. He explains that in eating, discipline comes naturally when we fully experience food, and that true discipline is just self-remembering, not something that involves forcing or fighting against oneself. To shut out our inner voice is unfortunate. What if our bodies and minds are sending us important messages (maybe we are hungry, tired, not living our purpose) and we are ignoring this. How much happier and freer would be if we stopped working against our natural gifts and inclinations? He further explains that relying on willpower makes us destined to fail because we are working against ourselves and eventually our true desires will express themselves as actions. I love how this applies to food and appetite: 'Healthy eating is not a matter of clamping down on unruly appetites. It is not a matter of the rational mind using its sophisticated nutritional knowledge to overrule a stupid body which craves foods that are bad for it. Second-guessing and ignoring the body is what has gotten us into this mess in the first place, and we will not get out of it by imposing on the body yet another set of dietary principles, no matter how new-and-improved they may be.' The Yoga of Eating asks the reader to abandon the habits of distrust, restriction and denial and to see the body as a friend.

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FOOD AND PERSONALITY

Back in the day I experimented with every kind of diet (actually, I still like to do that.) I remember searching for some kind of purity within food. While living in Paris one winter my diet consisted mostly of nuts, dried fruit, and vegetables. I was in a deeply focused state of writing my guide book and being alone with myself, and it was all I wanted. But it also did not suit my life. It was a cold winter and I needed more nourishment. When I started working late hours at a bar I found myself frequently getting sick at work. Eisenstein suggests that our diets must come naturally to us based on our current place in the world. That while a vegetarian diet makes a lot of sense at a retreat, in a place of calm, it might not make sense for someone living in the fleshy world, and if our diet is not in line with our world it will manifest itself in the form of intense cravings, aversions, and eventually physical illness.

THE KARMA OF FOOD

In this Chapter Eisenstein says that every time we eat something, we affirm a certain version of the world. That the food choices we make say yes to something within our modern food system. An when 'our food production system throws nature out of balance, is it any wonder our lives too spiral out of balance?' He doesn't say explicitly that one way or another of eating is right or wrong, but that our choices should resonate with who we are now and who we would like to be. That we should be nourished and happy with the reality we are saying yes to. 

THE CENTRAL PRACTICE

I love this chapter. And it's something I personally really need to work on: 'The central practice of the Yoga of Eating could not be simpler: to fully experience and enjoy each bite of food. From this practice, all the other subsidiary practices of mindful eating are born.' It sounds easy right? But myself, and many others, often eat without fully enjoying the sensations of food. We are thinking about the next bite before we enjoy the present one. We are eating while talking, worrying, watching TV, and are therefore consuming those things more than the actual food itself. No wonder we are still starving. No wonder we overeat! Eisenstein says that when we eat inattentively, we are aesthetically malnourished, left craving more flavors and more food. 

We overeat not because we enjoy food too much, but because we do not enjoy it enough!

 

I'll leave you with that food for thought. I feel very much in transition right now and this book is helping me think about my decisions, my behaviors and my place in the world. As always, I love keeping an open mind when it comes to health and life.

See you next time.

x

G

Gillian YoungComment
A LESSON IN BALANCE FROM FRANCE AND LONDON

Earlier this month I flew home to the South of France to see my mom and dad and to London to visit my brother.

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I met my mother in Paris, where we worked the Pret a Porter (she is a buyer for a boutique in Vancouver), drank our fair share of Champagne, then flew home to our little village in the South, where I spent a week sleeping, reading, walking and taking in the familiar sights and sounds, before spending my last three days in the hustle and bustle of London with my bro, his bride to be and her beautiful bump (I have another nephew on the way!) 

As usual when I travel, I gave myself no rules for diet and fitness, and simply embraced the local way of life.

I feasted on incredible gluten-free baguette smothered in butter for breakfast in Paris, traded the gym for long walks down country roads down South, and walked for hours in London, feasting on life changing gluten-free fried chicken, a Michelin star lunch at an affordable price, the best Indian food of my life, and of course, several gin and tonics and cocktails.

I realized in every place we visited that people seemed genuinely happy, healthy, social and balanced in all regards.

One thing I noticed was that everything was smaller.

For starters the coffee: in France one generally sits and savors a small espresso, and in London, even the takeaway cups were tiny and didn't leave me with the usual jitters I get from my usual Starbucks order in California (don't judge, we have a great location right across from the gym, and early shifts call for coffee!) 

Secondly: the meal portions. Most meals I ate were far richer than what I would indulge in at home, but the portions were small and delicate. In London most meals had share plates with meat and vegetable dishes separate. My brother and I would order a little of everything, and always left the table feeling totally satisfied but never stuffed. It made me realize how often I overeat without noticing it, and leave the table feeling physically uncomfortable. 

Lastly: the wine and cocktails. Wine glasses in France tend to be 1/4 of the size we have here in California, and the cocktails in London were all equally as delicate. While I'm the first to usually announce I'm tipsy after one glass, I was able to enjoy a little more with these appropriate portion sizes. 

Another thing I noticed was people had more fun.

Ok, part of this might be personal, since before this trip I was balancing four jobs and could hardly see straight. But I genuinely felt like people in France and London just seemed to be having a great time.

There is such a love for theatre, music, food, art, literature... culture to feast on at every turn! Bars were full of big groups of friends every night of the week. Even my very serious yoga teacher in London warned everyone not to go to her class the next day as she'd be out celebrating her birthday all night.

People just seemed more relaxed.

I had a moment of self realization when I felt l had little to contribute in group conversations. I realized I have been so engrossed in work and the little world of my computer and phone that I am lacking in anything beyond. I made a pact with myself to spend less time on my phone and more time engrossed in novels, writing, and going out to see local plays, musicians, art, and new restaurants.

It was a great reminder of what I need to work on. I have been thinking a lot about what makes happy and making necessary changes. 

With all that being said, one of the best parts of leaving was coming home. I have never felt as at peace anywhere as I do in California. A lot of that has to do with Derek, along with the incredible community here, the lifestyle, and that sweet sunshine.

I will be sharing more and more of my life here, how I find balance, and what makes my heart beat. Life is good.

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Gillian YoungComment