Throughout my childhood, I LOVED pancakes. Spoiler alert—I still do.
My step mom dubbed me Pancake when I was about four because that’s all I wanted for breakfast. I made Mickie Mouse pancakes with my grandmothers every chance I got. We didn’t have any fancy pancake molds back then. We just made a big circle and added two small circles for the ears. They were magical in my wide, five-year-old eyes.
I also remember (and now regret) feeding pancakes to the chipmunks at Yosemite National Park. I thought they would love my fluffy, syrup-laden clouds of heaven just like I did—poor little Chip N Dale. I can’t imagine their gluten-loaded tummies weren’t bloated and achy after that.
Then along came my second-grade teacher, Mrs. Jenkins. She was the kind of healthy person who always wore running shoes and had a perpetual tan from running outside (I’m pretty sure there were no tanning beds in my tiny little town back then). I’m forever grateful to her because she sparked my interest in nutrition. We learned about the food groups and how to write out a recipe. We even cooked in class and had healthy eating challenges.
Between Mrs. Jenkins and my mom’s interest in nutrition and mindful eating, my love for exploring healthy foods and lifestyles, much like my curiosity of yoga, started at an early age.
My body is my laboratory, and I’ve experimented with a lot of different eating plans. Here’s what I’ve learned.
What and how you eat is an integral part of deepening your yoga practice. As you practice yoga postures regularly and with mindfulness, you begin to develop a keener awareness of your body. It’s a natural by-product of the practice, especially if your teacher is guiding you to observe yourself, which is a key principle in yoga known as self-study or Svadhyaya.
As you examine how your body reacts to the poses, you will start to notice how it responds to other things in your life, such as the food you put into it and the thoughts you think. You might even find yourself naturally wanting to clean up your diet, your environment, your thoughts or even your relationships, which is another yogic practice known as cleanliness or Saucha.
Now, I’m not saying everyone has to stop eating meat and start drinking kombucha (though there’s nothing wrong with doing so).
Sidebar: Am I the only one who just doesn’t get the fuss about kombucha? I tried it, was unimpressed with the flavor, and ended up with a serious belly ache. No offense, kombucha (or kombucha lovers). It’s me, not you.
There is no one size fits all when it comes to diets, nutrition, and healthy eating.
Just think about how individual our bodies are from what we can see of each other. Then consider how at the level of genes, each of us is truly unique. On top of that, genes work in the context of the environment (exercise, medication, stress, etc.). With so many variables, it’s hard to imagine that one way would work for everyone.
Sure, there are guidelines about healthy eating that we can follow based on scientific studies. They change about as often as a traffic light though as new tests emerge. According to a recent study by the American Heart Association and the International Food Information Council Foundation (IFICF), only about a quarter of the people who look for healthy options find it easy. Another survey by the IFICF from last year indicated that consumer confusion remains a prevalent issue, with 80% of survey participants coming across conflicting information about food and nutrition and 59% saying that they doubt their choices as a result.
Listen to your body and find what foods help you feel good from an energetic perspective, not just a taste bud experience.
I’ve experimented with many healthy eating options out of curiosity and out of necessity to try to determine the source of some digestive problems I’ve had. I’ve tried all kinds of supplements, prescribed by providers and on my own. Some things have worked for me and some really have not.
For example, I’ve gone sugar-free several times for 2-4 weeks at a time. Most people experience about a week of misery while their bodies go through a cleansing process: cravings, fatigue, weakness, brain fog, shakiness, headaches, crankiness, etc. For me, those symptoms never went away. Moreover, my body started to cannibalize itself. I lost weight I didn’t want to, including muscle mass, and felt like someone poured cement into my gut. As much as I want it to work for me as well as it does for others, it’s not for me.
Another example is ginger. I can’t tell you how many people have suggested it to me to help with my digestion. I love it and find the Asian foods that often contain it scrumdiliumptious. When I eat it though, my stomach bloats up like a balloon and hurts. When I eat too much of it, I can even get curl-up-in-a-ball stomach cramps, a woozy dizziness, and all over body aches as if I had the flu. I eventually got tested and found that I have an allergy to it.
I’ve tried eating only raw fruit in the morning, and wound up with shakiness, headaches, weakness, and fatigue. When I start my day with grains, even heart-healthy oatmeal, and no protein, it doesn’t matter how good for you they are, I’m going to crash and crave carbs all day.
I could go on and on with examples of my experiments. Many of the nutrition methods out there make a lot of intellectual sense to me—low carb, no carb, healthy grains, vegetarian, pescatarian, carnivore, low fat, high brain-healthy fats, no sugar, healthy sugars, raw, juicing. In practice, the results vary for me.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m NOT recommending that you forget about the studies or don’t bother trying to eat healthy. I’m simply saying that many solutions exist and yoga teaches you to observe your reactions to discern what’s best for you. Disease is the body’s way of saying something isn’t working so seek appropriate medical help when you need it, and keep checking in with yourself. Continue your self-study practice. What works for you now might change. Eating healthy is a journey, not a destination.
For now my breakfast most often is a smoothie with pea protein, coconut milk, flax seed, and fruit (I’m loving pear and raspberries, separate or mixed lately!) Do I still eat pancakes? Absolutely! Just not as often, and I make sure to have some eggs along with them. That’s what works for me for now.
Speak Your Truth
What was your favorite childhood food? How has your relationship to food changed with your yoga practice? What kind of eating experiments have you tried? How do you discern what your body wants and doesn’t want? What healthy eating method works for your body? What have you tried that didn’t work at all? Let me know in the comments!
In wellness, joy, and inspiration,
P.S. NO information on this site should be used to diagnose, treat, prevent or cure any disease or condition. Check with your health care practitioner before making any changes, especially any changes related to a specific diagnosis or condition.
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