“Those who eat must not despise those who abstain, and those who abstain must not pass judgment on those who eat; for God has welcomed them.” ~ Romans – 14:3- NSRV
Ok. Let’s talk about food.
I struggle with this. Maybe you do too. Eat this, don’t eat that. Butter is bad. Butter is good. Sugar is bad. Sugar in moderation is ok. And on and on and on. The sheer number of food experts and their recommended diets is staggering. Makes me dizzy.
So does Ayurveda.
To be clear, I love Ayurveda. I love its wisdom, its healing, its embrace of the sensuality of the body – the use of the five senses and six tastes* as a guide for eating and wellbeing. The subtle body and the physical are not seen as separate. They are symbiotic. Care of one affects care for the other.
And yet, in some circles, and in parts of the yoga community, there’s a pretension, a subtle yogier-than-thou element of shame when one strays from the parameters of Ayurvedic, seasonal, healthy eating and self-care. Since I seem to have an inborn proclivity to perfectionism (a pitta, or fire dosha**, trait), I am easily susceptible to this. I berate myself because “I know better.” I know Veggie Straws are processed, empty food – but they sure do satisfy the need for a salty crunch. A better option would be homemade or minimally processed flax seed crackers dipped in a tart, green tahini dip. Yum.
My body just rejoiced thinking about it.
My body also rejoices, salivates, at the gorgeous creations from The Great British Bake Off.
Most of which I can’t eat. Because they are made with wheat flour. I can’t eat wheat flour. The gluten gives me terrible pain that lasts for days until it’s cleared from my system. I don’t like being gluten free. I know I’m missing the nutrients found in good wheat. I’m using an Ayurvedic protocol and acupuncture to try and heal this extreme sensitivity. It’s taking time. More time than I’d like. Still, I’m hopeful.
In the meantime, I’ve learned to make gluten free croissant and, oh . . . my . . . God. Buttered up pastry, how I’ve missed you!
In 1996 Dr. Steven Bratman coined the term “orthorexia” to describe an “unhealthy obsession with otherwise healthy eating” he was seeing in himself and his patients. It’s not an official diagnosis in the DSM-V but is a term growing in recognition. About his experience he says,
“I pursued wellness through healthy eating for years, but gradually I began to sense that something was going wrong. The poetry of my life was disappearing. My ability to carry on normal conversations was hindered by intrusive thoughts of food. The need to obtain meals free of meat, fat, and artificial chemicals had put nearly all social forms of eating beyond my reach. I was lonely and obsessed . . . I found it terribly difficult to free myself. I had been seduced by righteous eating. The problem of my life’s meaning had been transferred inexorably to food, and I could not reclaim it.” (Source: www.orthorexia.com)
“The poetry of my life was disappearing.” For me poetry is all about flow and beauty and messiness and a soul description of the eternal and the ephemeral. Far from a source of shame, food should be, is, a part of the poetry of life.
In Paul’s letter to the Romans, he writes “Those who eat must not despise those who abstain, and those who abstain must not pass judgment on those who eat; for God has welcomed them . . . and they give thanks to God.” He’s talking about more than just food here. The context is helping the fledgling community stop bickering and find common ground, but I think this is a wonderful guide.
So is Ayurveda. A quick peak at LifeSpa.com or Everyday Ayurveda will offer some free guidelines on eating well for your body type in each season of the year. Use this wisdom as a starting point for listening to how the blood, lymph, prana, digestive actions, skin, mind respond to what you put into your body. Listen for what serves you well. Listen for what creates dis-ease. Avoid shame. As my brother says, “Eating seasonally is a nice idea but my family would fall apart without bananas.” He has 3-year-old twins.
Do what you can.
Enjoy your food. Enjoy your croissant. Enjoy your kale. Enjoy the poetry of your life.
And give thanks to God. Let’s do this together, shall we?
*The Six Tastes – Sweet, Salty, Sour, Pungent, Bitter, Astringent. A classic Ayurvedic meal will include all of these in some proportion. Each taste has traits that balance the doshas.
**Dosha – a collection of traits commonly seen with one another. Vata, Pitta, Kapha.
***If you think you have an eating disorder, any eating disorder, seek professional help. In no way is this post intended to diagnose or treat illness.
More resources for Ayurveda. Ignore pretension, open to guidelines.