“There is no possibility of one’s becoming a yogi, O Arjuna, if one eats too much or eats too little…”
– The Bhagavad Gita
I’ve been on a bit of a journey with the way I eat over the past few years. My body has become much clearer about what it does and doesn’t like being put into it. And this seems to have occurred in tandem with developing a regular yoga practice. Sometimes I rebel (for instance, my meals for the duration of the Royal Wedding weekend featured way too much of my beloved cake) but I usually end up suffering for it because my body tells me afterwards loud and clear that it is not happy.
As a child of immigrant parents I am an NBC (Natural Born Carnivore) or so I have always believed. When I was growing up, meat was the most important (and expensive) bit of the meal and, consequently, we were expected to eat ALL of it. So why do I increasingly feel less inclined to eat meat?
This isn’t a sudden development at all – it’s actually been roughly a couple of years in the making – a ‘leaning-in’ process that I can’t claim was conscious in the beginning.
So, the ‘meat thing’ is all part of this trying to tune into what my body seems to want. Or rather, not want. Though I’ve not had meat on my grocery list for the last couple of years I’m not vegetarian – I’ve eaten fish a handful of times this year and there are times when I have eaten meat too. I’ve recently realised that the only (three) times this has occurred in the past several months have been:
a) To placate my mother, who can’t get her head around the not eating meat idea. Her response when I went to visit her and she tried (as usual) to give me some food:
Mum: “Oh. Well have some of this chicken-stir fry instead.”
Me: “But chicken is meat, Mum.”
Mum: “It’s not really though, is it…?”
Me: “Hmm. A bit like Simon Cowell isn’t really a millionaire.”
I’ve struggled with this one as I don’t want her to feel rejected. Like most mothers she is constantly concerned about whether her children are eating (no matter how many years they have been ably feeding themselves). Food is Love after all…
b) To not feel like a nuisance if I’m round at other people’s homes and they have gone to the trouble of kindly cooking for me. I haven’t even worked this thing out in my head yet, so how do I explain it to someone else?
With the lack of my former protein staples of meat and fish in my diet I feel like I still haven’t got a proper handle on how to balance my nutrition. It’s been a lot of trial and error along the way. I was surprised to learn a while ago that I wasn’t eating enough (though my body has changed a lot over the past couple of years I am not exactly sylphlike…) and then I had a recent issue with iron deficiency so I really want to make sure I am being healthy. So, when I saw that my yoga home was hosting a workshop on nutrition with a focus on vegetarianism and veganism I knew I wanted to go.
What followed was a fun, informative two and a half hours mixing asana practice with Sally and discussion on how best to approach a vegetarian or vegan diet with nutritionist / heath and fitness coach, Mark Hughes.
For our asana practice there was an emphasis on twists and other postures to help stimulate the digestive system such as apanasana (wind-relieving pose), dhanurasana (bow pose) and paschimotanasana (seated forward bend). Then came the time to talk about one of my favourite subjects: Food.
We all had questions ranging from what to do about getting enough protein? What about vitamin B12 and vitamin D? What about getting enough iron…? As I listened to Mark I realised that I had been implementing a fair amount of the tips he was giving us over the past couple of years. Things like cooking with coconut oil, incorporating good fats and taking spirulina, for instance. I found that reassuring. I now see it’s probably not a coincidence that my stopping taking spirulina was followed by a significant dip in energy levels and a diagnosis of iron deficiency.
At the end of the two and a half hours (including a relaxation at the end where I was so chilled that I almost fell asleep!) we went off armed with our little nutrition packs from Mark and yoga for digestion handouts from Sally. And Mark kindly said he would email us all with details of some of the supplements he talked about.
I’m really glad I went along. It was great to have certain things reinforced as well as learning a few new things along the way. And it helped me feel a bit more confident about going down the path of nourishing my body without eating animals… no bad thing. Plus, it seems that even my mother might be coming round. When I went to see her the other week she offered me some lamb and I politely declined. Then she uttered the words:
“Oh. Well have some of this Quorn stir-fry instead.”