This morning I installed MyFitnessPal. I connected it to my Fitbit to track my movement. I weighed my oats, half a banana and a tablespoon of flax seeds to track the calories. This is the moment that you can’t deny anymore that you’ve gained weight and have to start the weight-loss journey AGAIN.
Samskaras of weight loss
There’s a recurring pattern (which the yogis call ‘samskaras’) in my life regarding my weight. Through calorie restriction and exercise I get really lean, then I start eating more because I think: ‘I’m exercising so much, I can eat bigger portions, more sugar and stay lean.’
That snowballs into me eventually sitting around most of the day, eating more and being lazy.
What I’d always do to get back on track is: cut my portions in half, eat more salads, move more and eliminate sugar for my diet. I’m confident I’ll lose the weight in a couple of months, but I’m tired of this cycle. I want to achieve a stable weight where I feel light and confident, which is around 60kg. This time I’m almost 70kg, which is the heaviest I’ve ever been.
Why is it that I keep losing and gaining weight?
Diet for spiritual growth
In Women, Food and God, Geneen Roth presents the idea that your relationship with food reflects how you see yourself and how you relate to the universe (creator or God, whatever you want to call it). After years of dieting, gaining and losing weight herself, she finally realised that the reason why she had eating problems was because there were underlying emotions that she didn’t want to feel. We use food as a cover up for loneliness, discomfort and sadness.
“We’re not going to fix our relationship with food, we’re going to walk through the door of your eating problem and see what’s behind it,” explains Roth in her book.
Using your eating habits as a tool for spiritual growth, is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.
There are so many things going through your head: eat that, don’t eat that, treat yourself, why did you eat that, discipline yourself, I’m full, I’m still hungry or am I? I feel like this is the final frontier of spiritual growth: not letting food control your life.
Eat like a yogi
In Light on Yoga, Iyengar writes: “Character is moulded by the type of food we take and by how we eat it. Men are the only creatures that eat when not hungry and generally live to eat rather than eat to live.”
I’ve come so far on my spiritual path and I’m ready to overcome my dependance on food for feeling ‘ok’. I’m just sick of gaining and losing weight. What I eat is pretty on point: sattvic vegan food meaning no processed foods, light food, no garlic, onion, gluten or sugar. I want to work on the ‘how I eat it.’
What I’ve done so far (more or less):
- Restricting my eating window and increasing the time I’m fasting every day. (16 hours fasting / 8 hours eating)
- Waiting at least 4–5 hours between meals, to make sure the stomach is empty before taking in new food.
- Take my biggest meal at lunch time
- Sitting a couple of minutes in silence before each meal, being grateful
- After the meal, remain seated for at least 5 more minutes
What I want to do as well:
- Waiting 20 minutes before taking more food, to really see if I’m hungry.
Cultivating these new habits will require a lot of self-discipline to stay present and conscious. In yoga this is called tapas: literally a burning effort to achieve a goal. By purification, self-discipline and austerity you burn away the desires and build character.
It sounds pretty intense but we’ve wandered so far of the path of being present that we’re constantly distracting ourselves with entertainment, information and food. We’re afraid to feel what’s really going on inside of us. We think we’re unable to tolerate the emotions of fear, loneliness and sadness. So we do what we do best: eat, shop, pull out our phones and repeat.
Learning to sit with discomfort at the dinner table
It’s evening. I’m home alone. I’m not really hungry but I think I should eat. When I tune into my body I feel no hunger. What am I avoiding by wanting to eat? I feel lonely and the process of preparing food, eating and zoning out on the couch, looks more attractive than sitting with my feelings of loneliness.
I choose to not eat and sit with myself. I grab my notebook and start pouring words on the papers. I start the contemplation process : ‘Why am I feeling lonely’ ‘Why can’t I just be home by myself?’ ‘Why do I think that I should always be doing something?’ ‘Why do I have to prove myself?’ ‘Why don’t I feel good enough the way I am?’. I feel what needs to be felt.
This is what Roth advises to do: learn to sit with your discomfort instead of eating.
The feeling never stays
When I allow the loneliness to be there, it doesn’t feel nice, but it’s tolerable. What I’ve noticed is that the emotion never lasts. It always dissolves.
Before that I would surpress the emotions and experience an underlying stress and tension that would always vibrate on the background of my live. This anxious energy seeped through in my relationships, work and interactions. Now I allow the energy to pass through me and afterwards I feel lighter.
This will become my practice for the next months. Coming home to myself, allowing, feeling and being ok with it. And believe it or not, this is also yoga.
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