You may have your food dogma back
By Danielle Stimpson
Over the past few years, I’ve made an Olympic sport of excusing myself from local yoga community happenings that I know will involve mandatory chit-chat about what I eat.
Apparently, that’s just about all of them. It would seem that current events and roughly 5,000 years of yoga history fail to provide adequate conversation fodder, leaving our exchange to be nothing more than a “whose diet is more restricted” contest. Has no one even read a decent book lately?
The truth is that my diet is plenty restrictive without further ill-informed analysis. I have 16 different food allergies, including soy, peanuts, tree nuts and a host of fruits and vegetables, plus a severe gluten intolerance. But no one ever bothers to ask about it before spewing their two cents. Even if they did, I would have to think twice about sharing, since historically it’s been welcomed with a chorus of “You should use this treatment/eat this plant/do these affirmations/do this cleanse/only eat organic things… then you’ll be cured! I totally know a guy who knows somebody who used to have food allergies!!!” Or my favorite: “You should just stop eating. That’s what they do in [insert name of Country here].” Just STOP eating? What lovely advice. Can you even hear your lunacy, or has your infinite wisdom clogged your ears?
And Shiva forbid I confess the shameful truth of the food that dare not speak its name.
For you see, I am (gasp) an occasional meat eater OHMYGODDESSNO. At any point I’ve been honest about this, I’ve been barraged with corrections. Surely I must have meant tofu turkey, seitan chicken, lentil burger or portobello pork. Because if I did mean what I said the first time, my lecherous carnivore karma would be unleashed to drain the last drops of sweet soy-flavored nectar from the enlightened bones of all those in the immediate vicinity. There would be swarms of locusts, and the souls of dead yogis would cry tears of bacon grease.
Can the hippie histrionics. It’s a damn cheeseburger. And what’s more, I am not asking YOU to eat it.
If you interpret ahimsa as a vegetarian lifestyle, more power to you… but I don’t. Should you be vegan because you have personal or spiritual reservations about eating animal products, or just because you feel they are not healthy, mazel tov. I happen to respectfully disagree. I am just fine with your food dogmas as long as they remain yours. I’m not shoving tenderloin on your plate, and I’d expect you to keep your edamame off of mine.
So what’s a girl to do in these situations? Perhaps I could just lie and tell the food zealots I live on whatever things are “OMG so healthy” this week. Alas, I suck at lying. Plus, I really feel for the girl with the yoga mat looking over her shoulder at the deli counter. That is not what yoga — or any practice of “self betterment” — is supposed to be about.
It’s been suggested that I channel my inner Jersey girl and tell everyone to STFU.
As tempting as that may sound, even ten years into my recovery from anorexia I still find it difficult to be put on the spot about food. I hold on to a nugget of wisdom, given to me by Maggie Juliano, the Director of Sprout Yoga, which seeks to bring yoga to those healing from eating disorders. She once said to me: “That which we put before our recovery we lose from it.” I’ve made peace with my body, and feed it only what it wants. I will not put your two cents before my recovery.
Finally, the few hours of Ayurvedic nutrition that were rolled into your yoga teacher training and all the articles you have read do not give you license to tell people what they “should” and “should not” eat, especially when your opinion has not been solicited and you have no idea what the person’s general health is like. We all know what happens when we assume. Ahimsa is something you can have for me rather than scold me about. Eyes on your own mat, and your own plate. Keep your “shoulds” to yourself.
You may have your food dogma back.
About Danielle Stimpson
Danielle is a Shamanism & Reiki Instructor based in both Philadelphia and State College, PA. She is a New Jersey native who holds no degrees, has never gone to school, and has no plans to do so. A recovering anorexic and domestic abuse survivor, she often finds spiritual cliches trite and dismissive. While she celebrates your connection to your yoga practice, she enjoys her asana-free lifestyle and feels no need to justify it to anyone else. Danielle is a proud nerd, tattoo and piercing enthusiast, avid book reader, and animal lover. She can be found at www.daniellestimpson.com.