One year ago, I was getting ready to start my yoga teacher training. Here I am today, running a yoga studio with my husband. To say that my life has changed over the past year is an understatement. My life screeched to a halt and took a dramatic turn off the path I was cruising down.
This past year has been one of deep introspection for me. It’s been difficult, very difficult at times, to sit quietly and have old wounds, fears and insecurities surface. There have been days, weeks, even months that this progression tried the relationships in my life. I re-evaluated everything. To say I pulled my skeletons out of the closet to examine them isn’t quite correct: More accurately, when I began to embrace a yogic lifestyle, those skeletons fell out into the hallway and demanded attention. I had two choices: return to my old ways (which involved a lot of fingers in the ears and la-la-la-la-I-can’t-hear-you’s); or, sweep up the mess and throw it out.
I feel much more peaceful now than I used to. I feel healthier in a way that can’t be credited to physical activity. I feel a glow of energy within my body that I am able to connect with quite easily on most days. I feel… happy. I feel love and laughter bubbling to the surface more than anxiety and worry, and oh, what a glorious relief and joy and blessing that it!
One aspect of my life that received focus this year was the way I ate. Not only what I was consuming, but how and why I was eating. First things first, I was raised in a healthy home, with real food made with love. Yes we ate apple pies and muffins, but my mother spent her afternoons (and often weekends) preparing nurturing, healthy food for us. We had popcorn, but never really chips. We indulged, but always understood the foundation of being healthy: eat your veggies. I am very grateful to my parents for many things, but one of the main ones is their gift of instilling in me a healthy relationship with food.
About six months ago, I reduced my wheat intake at the suggestion of my triathlon coach. I had eliminated wheat before, but eventually the thought of never having another pb&j sandwich made me feel so panicked that I ended up eating three. At once. This time, I told myself it was for training. This time, I told myself that I wasn’t eliminating, I was reducing for the benefit of my health. If I really wanted some pb&j, I would throw some gluten free bread in the toaster. I realized that my internal dialogue determined my success (lightbulb = ON!). Here I am, six months later, and I don’t consume much wheat. I wouldn’t label myself as strictly wheat free, I simply avoid it for most meals. What I’ve realized is that freeing myself from labels has increased my likelihood of success.
At the beginning of this week, I decided to go meatless for one week. It’s been, well, great. At the risk of divulging too much information, it has become fairly obvious to me what was creating my sluggish digestion. I feel energetic and satisfied. So I watched some documentaries. One called Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead and one called Vegucated. The first was the story of a man who lost a ton of weight through juicing. Funny and emotional, it was a great story (and got me to put a juicer on my Christmas wish list). Vegucated was the story of three people who tried a vegan lifestyle for 6 weeks. It was in this film that there was footage of slaughterhouses. Now, I am aware that a lot of people watched Food, Inc when it was released in 2008 but I didn’t. I’ve read extensively about what happens in slaughterhouses. I’ve given a lot of thought to the energy that I’m consuming when I eat meat that lived and was killed in those conditions, but there’s nothing that quite drives something home like the visual, is there.
On the couch with a blanket over my face sobbing, I peeked through my fingers to watch pigs, cows, calves, chickens, lamb be slaughtered. And it turned my stomach.
Now listen, I am not the person who is going to get up in your face if I disagree with you choices. I am not the person who is going to argue my own opinions. As I continue my journey, I feel that it is crucial for me to maintain an open mind and open heart in how I live my life and how I influence others.
I’ve decided to mostly reduce meat. Again, I’m avoiding labels here because ahhhh never another BBQ’d hamburger or chicken wing! Panic!! I’ve decided to focus my diet towards a vegetarian diet (at this moment, I’m going to continue eating diary products and eggs, although am very much considering a 30 day vegan challenge for the month of November) until I’ve finished my half marathon in Feburary. At that time, I’ll assess. If at any point, I really want to indulge in some meat or chicken soup after Christmas, then I’ll approach that situation when I come to it.
This decision isn’t based solely on my bleeding heart, but also on the fact that my family history is rampant with cancer and I have every intention of living a long and prosperous life, surrounded my grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
For me, for my body, for my mind and for my whole health, this is what’s best for me. For today.