Shame, Food, & Yoga of Eating
I was in the doctor’s cabin for seasonal flu. The doctor asked me to step on the weighing scale as part of the routine checkup.
A knot tightened in my stomach when I saw the scale jump to 78.
My dad looked at me with serious concern and almost “I told you to keep a watch on your weight” look.
I felt sick, more than what had led me to the doctor in the first place.
This was about 14 years ago. I was probably 15-16 years old.
Till today, I have not forgotten the look on my dad’s face. Of course, he might be just worried but the mind of a teenager works in mysterious ways.
That incident is my first conscious memory of my rocky relationship with bodyweight, self-image, and food.
It eventually led me to internalize the belief that I have always been overweight as a kid and it is all my fault for not taking care of myself the way I should.
It did once lead to an extreme 2-year phase of 5 am workout drills, extra attention on the diet, and almost obsessive focus on how I looked.
I won’t lie. Those routines worked. I loved how they made me look at that time.
However, the change was never everlasting.
In retrospect, I realize that the foundation of that relationship was shaky from the beginning.
Because that relationship was rooted in shame.
Brené Brown, in Daring Greatly, defines shame as,“Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.”
The look on my father’s face, however unintentional it might be, somewhere led to intense shame in me.
The shame manifests in different ways.
Sometimes it is the secret bingeing on food to suppress emotions. Sometimes it is a compulsive need to eat healthy. Sometimes it is the cycle of intense workout discipline followed by extended months of laziness with little physical movement.
I never realized what was the antidote to shame or what has been missing so far until very recently.
The realization happened recently when I came across an article on the Yoga of Eating.
“Shame is the glue that holds unhealthy habits in place. And the opposite of shame is gratitude. Which means that, paradoxically, the moment you can view your body with total gratitude, you are in the best possible place from which to begin making a change.”- Tiago Forte, The Yoga of Eating
I never thought to consider how this body has served me so well over the past few years.
It has taken the brunt of endless hours of sitting, working out, eating junk, bearing the taunts and comments on how it looked, and what not!
Instead of being grateful, I always viewed it from the lens of shame, judgement, and self-hatred.
When I first read the following lines from the article, I sensed an immediate shift and relief in my innermost being.
“Even the rolls of fat and the high cholesterol can be viewed as resources your body has stored up for the crises it thought it would face. How can we blame ourselves or anyone else for seeking to dull the sensations of a very painful world? How can we feel guilty for doing anything we can to address the feeling of wrongness in our experience of life?”
What if I can shift the sense of shame with this feeling of gratefulness?
What if the change arises as a token of gratitude towards the body and not as a way to punish it with extremes?
What if the change arises out of mindful attention to the food itself rather than using it to cope with emotions or counting calories while eating?
Maybe this change out of gratitude will eventually lead to the rocky relationship to heal.
Only time will tell. I will keep you posted. 🙂
Hope you enjoy reading the rest of the article, The Yoga of Eating by Tiago Forte here.
That was all from me this week!
Until next time,
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