Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com
This morning, I had my breakfast al fresco on a picnic table in the backyard that has a view of the ocean. It was beautiful.
But, let me back up.
This morning, when I prepared my breakfast (which consisted of juicing several vegetables and making an egg white omelet), I did so with loving intentions. I consciously made a decision to love my body, to use every action as an opportunity to care for myself in a way that is still challenging for me to do, because, after a 13-year battle with an eating disorder, I still have anxiety around food.
That's an old paradigm in my head. It's an outdated way of thinking and being that's been patterned in my brain and cells, so now it's up to the healthier, more mature version of me to strengthen other neural pathways that'll lead to greater, long-term happiness. In a society that features instant gratification, choosing to invest in a slower growth form of better living is challenging.
Is it easy to pick the healthier option? No. Is it simple to know what'll serve me and what won't? Most of the time. Is it awkward at first to do something different that you know will be better for me in the end? Yes.
I began to think about how I would prepare food for my daughter — if I had one. I imagined a little toddler, happily stumbling around me, and what I'd want her to see growing up, so that she would develop a more relaxed approach to eating, body image, and food.
So, I began to sing. I created a little impromptu ditty, because it helped me to regulate my breath, which in turn alleviated that former pattern of anxiety in being around food, and it got me out of my head and into the moment, which is where, in yoga, we increasingly learn to be.
By the time I finished preparing my breakfast, I stepped outside into the backyard. Doing so gives me an opportunity to be in nature and under the sun, where there's a sense of calm that always inspires a subtle shift within me, no matter what's happening around me, even if I'm the one who's creating the drama or the obstacle to overcome.
Sure, I could eat at the table or what I actually do more frequently, eat standing up by the sink, running from one thing to the next, and just grabbing haphazard foods that never truly satisfy my taste buds nor feed my soul.
One of the other ways that I've begun to practice self-care is by taking the time to warm up the food I'm about to eat. It may seem trivial, but it actually relays a whole lot more about where I am in my healing process.
"Why don't you heat that up before you eat it?" I'd often hear friends and family say, when they'd catch me in the midst of a snack attack or an "improper" meal. "It'll taste a lot better."
"Naw," I'd respond, shrugging, "I like my food cold."
Which, in the end, was an outright lie. Most food tastes so much better when warmed, but the real issue at hand was that I didn't feel like I was worthy of actually caring for myself in that way. I'd often watch my younger sister take time to elaborately prepare her meals and plate her food. Yet, I would settle for almost-good-enough-but-not-quite-second-hand-kind-of's rather than putting myself first and actually heating up my food, then sitting down to eat it.
"You could just microwave it," people would suggest. "It wouldn't take that long."
But the pause between putting food in my mouth now versus a couple of minutes from now seemed like an eternity before, so I'd respond with, "I don't like using the microwave." Which, incidentally, is true.
Now, when I can, I remind myself that it's not the end of the world if I delay eating for a few moments more, and that the pay-off of heating food (over the stove if I can) is truly worth the wait.
Because really, I am worth the wait.
These days, before every meal, whether I'm eating sitting or standing — hey, I'm still a work in progress — I'll place my hands over my food or around the bowl or circle the mug and infuse it with Reiki, healing energy to bless everything and everyone who brought this nourishment before me.
Not only does this give me a few more moments to practice pausing, but it also offers me an opportunity to express gratitude that I even have food to eat, which unfortunately, is better than what a lot of the world has available to them.
As I always teach in yoga class, "This is a practice. What we do here on the mat is a practice, and we'll never reach a point of perfection and that’s okay. It's the same off-the-mat, everything we're doing is a practice and that’s okay."
Sometimes, we get it right. Sometimes, we need a bit more refinement. Sometimes, it doesn't even matter how it looks, it just matters how it feels to be in our bodies, our minds, and our spirits.
And, when we can be there fully with all of oneself in the lightness and the dark, I believe that is self-love at its boldest.