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You are what you eat

Cliche, I know, but I remember the days of carb-loading before a race or bingeing on 64 ounces of Mountain Dew before the big game.

Now, athletes are paying greater attention to nutrition and considering food as fuel rather than just something you eat. eat-real-food

Today, I’m on day 10 of a 21-day cleanse, where I’m refusing soy, gluten, wheat, processed grains, sugar, eggs and dairy. It’s a huge departure for me and my regular diet. Where I thought I ate well was subsumed by the heavy dose of crap I ate every day.

Most of my diet, all my conscious life, revolved around the idea that I could eat whatever and just work out extra hard later. A big piece of chocolate cake? Yes, please! I’ll just run an extra 3 miles in the morning.

But that only goes so far. As I’ve aged, dealt with weight gain and injuries, I know deep down that my diet must change if I’m to stay active and healthy.

What, you may be asking, does this have to do with yoga? The way I see it, eating well has to do with truthfulness (Satya), purity (Saucha), and non-violence (Ahimsa).

I’ll break it down:

Truthfulness/Satya

With my personal practice, and what I preach when I’m teaching, is to find your truth, my truth, the clear, honest truth that our psyches really have fun hiding from us.

We get glimpses of our truth from time to time. Sometimes it feels like a sucker punch in the gut. Other times it’s like having a reunion with a long-lost friend. It’s when things finally click. When they make sense. And that can be a fleeting moment, but the more you pay attention to what’s going on inside, what’s driving you, why are you doing what you’re doing, you’ll find that kernel of truth. It’s like that line from one of my favorite childhood classics (don’t judge) Mel Brooks’ “History of the World, Part I,”: “Keep searching, keep searching, you’ll find it.” Yeah, you know what I’m talking about, Mel Brooks nerds. 

When we are honest about our connection to the food we eat, what we put in our bodies, what we decide to feed ourselves, to nourish ourselves, we have to be also conscious about those decisions.

So, when I reach for that third piece of pizza, even though I’m already satisfied and I could benefit more from a second helping of steamed broccoli, I should be honest about that. Do I really need it? What am I trying to do when I eat this and not that?

Like when I choose to eat something like roasted beets because I know it’s good for me (and because I love them), and I know it will make me feel good inside and give won’t make me momentarily hate myself, my distended belly and my poor choices, as I would after I ate that third piece of pizza. Instant gratification over intuition? Perhaps. Maybe I’m still stuck in the belief that poor choices don’t really matter. But, indeed they do.

Be honest about your choices, and choose with consciousness and not impulse or habit.

Purity/Saucha

In these 10 days of cleansing, I have discovered a lot about my regular diet that isn’t quite so pure and simple. I eat a lot of processed sugar. I grab what’s easy and fast, like throwing a tortilla and a slice of cheese in the microwave for 30 seconds for an easy lunch. I eat granola bars and protein bars after workouts or on long rides. I have always thought of the food I eat in relation to the activity that I have done or what is coming up: Calorie intake and expenditure, rather than calorie quality and wholesomeness to optimize health.

My biggest discovery as of day 10, has been that I can still complete a strenuous workout without feeling completely spent while eating good, whole, clean food. A banana and some almond butter or a brown rice cake and bean dip give me enough oomph to finish the workout, and I feel good afterwards.

From now on, I will be rethinking the foods I use to fuel my activity, knowing that all those bars are not nearly as satisfying or nutritious as real, balanced food.

Plus, what’s all that processed crap and sugar doing to my body in the long term? I’m positive I don’t want to find out.

Non-violence/Ahimsa

This is the first tenet of yoga. Everything stems from non-violence. This applies to the outside world, but it also applies to oneself. While it may be easy to treat others with respect and compassion, it doesn’t always manifest in the way we talk or give to ourselves.

Yoga is a form of self care. A dedicated practice can seem inconvenient at times, but if you look at is as a necessity to enable productivity, kindness and compassion in the rest of your day, it can become indispensable.

Being kind to yourself can be as simple as pausing to breathe or to eat a healthy, nourishing meal. Your body, mind and spirit will thank you.