Fear: A Yogi’s Vow to Eat Clean, Day 10.

The countdown to half marathon day is finally less then double-digit days away and I realized I have barely wrote about clean eating.

I don’t know if I have been “eating clean” exactly, but I do know I have been nourishing myself with food in a healthy and normal way. No binging, restricting, or shaming. No over-eating or under-eating. I feel weirdly set free.

Today on our last long run, which is now not so long, just eight miles—which, at one time seemed incredibly stupid-long, but somehow, now does not—I got scared.

I felt the familiar clench in my tummy. Well actually my butt and shoulders.

Will I really be able to run 13 miles? What if I can’t? What if I fail?

But then the sun rose up into the sky. I’m not kidding here. It was 6:45am and somewhere around mile six, it showed up. Its glow, amidst the turning trees, reminded me there will always be doubt and suffering just like there will always be warmth and beauty. It is our life’s work to make room for both. My tension flew away in my body and I was able to pick up my pace.

It might only be a ten minute mile, but to me it feels like flying.

One thing you may not know about me is that I have asthma. Normally it’s no big deal and I am barely aware of it, but each time I start out to run, it rears its tiny bald head and says, “Hey, remember me? I exist.” Each step during my first mile feels like a push. A struggle between my lungs, which don’t wanna let go, my legs, which are willing to go anywhere and my mind, which wants to side with my lungs.

But I carry on anyway, because experience has taught me that after the first mile, I will be warmed up and my lungs will no longer fight me. They will let go and I will breathe with ease.

More scary to me then the half marathon is this blog. What was I thinking when I decided to put my chaos out there for all the world to see?

One reader said that all of my talk about acceptance—especially since my body has extra weight-–means I’m not doing the work and I am just spewing off some yoga fluff.

Yes, Dear Reader, you got me. You nailed one of my triggers.

The truth is I worry about this all the time….”Am I doing the work?” Even though I exercise on a regular basis, even though I eat healthy foods, I still struggle with, “Am I good enough?”

Those of us who are in chaotic relationships with our food and bodies always think we are not doing enough work. We think of ourselves in terms of good and bad. Something is broken and of course it must be us. We are flawed, and this is at the root of our problem. We are insignificant and a joke just like yoga fluff.

But you know, Dear Reader, as much as I am feeling that familiar clench of fear in my belly as I write this blog and put my fluff out there, I am also aware that something is happening. It feels really, really small, but I notice there has been a shift in my relationship with food.

I haven’t felt like scarfing down chips or anything else since I started writing this blog just a mere 10 days ago. This is kinda big for me. I can mostly talk myself out of binging but the urge is still there. These past 10 days, the urge is gone. This is so new it feels ancient.

I’m not sure why, but I suspect it has something to do with the honesty and the compassion I am trying to bring to the table. Being raw and real and kind feels like the way out. It also feels like the way in.

Each time I put my truth down on paper and hit the “send” button, my fear flies up in front of me. But then it flies away and I can no longer hear its demanding buzz.

Maybe this is what grace is? Making room for our own truth, being compassionate, and then letting our fears rise up and release into the world. Maybe grace is trusting that we will eventually get enough air to breathe and the sun will come out, as it eventually always does, and serve as a light for the path that was started out in the dark.

This post originally appeared in Elephant Journal.

Running Away: A Yogi Vows To Eat Clean, Day 9.

Some say those of us who use food are running away.

I used to agree.

So I was always looking and asking, “What is it I am so scared to feel?”

Am I uncomfortable with the full range of human feeling and emotion? Is my inner landscape too bright for me?

What is it I refuse to see?

In meditation, yoga, and therapy I would scour my past, present, and future and search for where I was damaged and where I was not owning up to inadequacy. I looked for story and demons. I found plenty.

For a while, I stayed there and breathed through it all.

Even though I was breathing, I still felt like I was underwater. My life continued to happen in spite of my inner conflicts. My business thrived, my marriage remained in tact, and my kids were tucked into bed with a kiss at the end of each day. Despite the normalcy and success of my life, I continued to function in weird ways; restricting, binging, over-exercising and eating standing up. I continued to loathe my body. My mind was uneasy and obsessed. I never felt thin enough, no matter my size.

Each morning as I dressed myself, I told myself I would not run away. Today I would confront myself and catch myself overeating and my private world of shame would begin to change.

It never happened. Instead of running away, I felt like I was running awry. Off of my tracks and into the mouth of a wolf. There were no brakes for me to pull. But I couldn’t find the wolf either.

And then one day a shift happened.

I realized I was not running from anything. That type of reasoning was something somebody else had made up to explain my behavior. I had never been running at all; instead, I was dealing. I was doing all the things I needed to. Taking care of my business, my marriage and my children.

I was coping.

The one thing I wasn’t doing was listening to what I needed. Plus, my continuous inner dialogue of telling myself how much I sucked was too loud for me to hear anything else.

Those of us who use food are coping; it’s a coping mechanism that is not working for us anymore. Instead of shaming ourselves for being cowards or out of touch, we should congratulate ourselves for showing up and dealing.

This change from seeing myself as someone who handles life instead of running from it has changed the way I view my disordered eating. Instead of beating up the messenger, I befriend her—I ask her what she needs.

Usually she doesn’t ask for a cheeseburger with fries. Usually she says, “Hey how about a nap, or a hug, or a cup of tea?”  Mostly she tells me to take a break and stop trying to do it all. Accept tiredness, messiness, and let go of everything needing to be perfect.

“Be kind to me,” she says.

This weekend, on Friday, at the onset of hosting two out-of-state yoga teachers for a restorative yoga workshop at my studio (a workshop I looked forward to taking,) I decided it was okay if my house was not perfect.

This weekend, on Saturday, when one of my teenagers showed up with acute anxiety and my other one’s best childhood friend overdosed on pills, I stopped trying to be a host at all.

This weekend, on Sunday morning, when the kitchen sink broke and water gushed all over our kitchen floor, and my overworked husband had to spend most of his Sunday cleaning it up, I withdrew myself from the workshop completely and spent the day with my family, taking care of what I could. Giving out hugs, reassurance and cooking nurturing meals.

This weekend, I coped.

When I sat down on Sunday evening with my six year old curled up sleeping in her bed and my two teenagers safe at home, quiet for the time being, I asked myself, “Now what is it you need?” And when my inner voice asked for a cheeseburger and a glass of wine, I honored that.

In a local pub, joined by the two workshop presenters (whose workshop had come to an end) and my guy, I savored meaningful conversation and comfort food with the knowledge that I gave myself exactly what I needed.

Tomorrow, everything would still be waiting for me. This is how it is for everybody—this is the way of the world.

Was this clean eating? I don’t know the answer to that. But I gotta believe that whatever it was, in the scheme of things, its bigger than eating clean. Its about trust. For those of us who use food, we have to learn to know ourselves.

Eventually, we have to stop relying on the advice of others about what we need. We must trust that we have our own inner strength and wisdom and be our own best friend. And when life deals us more than we bargained for, we must see that we are not running away, but coping the best way we can.

We are not leaving but arriving. And we must learn to be kind—this is the only way in.