Releasing my Emotional Connection to Food

I knew that ashram living wasn’t going to be easy for me. Out of everything I expected to experience during the course of my trip – the meditation, curriculum, 4-5 hour yoga classes, traveling through a foreign country alone, it was the two meal a day schedule that shook me up the most.

Being limited to eating twice a day meant that I’d be faced with having to work through remnants from my disordered eating past. I knew I was ready to deal with these straggling bits, but it scared me nonetheless.

One of the emotional hooks I’ve had to work on throughout my pursuit to healthy living, has been addressing my anxiety around situations where I have little control over what I eat and the timing of my meals. While I’ve healed much of my disordered eating patterns with the education I received in holistic nutrition, fantastic therapists, self inquiry and hard work, teaching myself to remove this emotional attachment to food hasn’t been an easy task.

When you eat, it feels good. When I eat… it feels good. But how do we eat and just… feel nothing?

In yoga, food is seen as fuel, nothing more, nothing less. Food gives us what we need to survive. It doesn’t need to be fancy, complicated, or pretty looking. It just has to be nourishing and useful.

This isn’t to say that one can’t take pretty pictures of food, create recipes, enjoy meals with friends and family, or plan plating arrangements for hours on end. It just means that when we do choose to eat, that we do so in a way that detaches our current mental state with the food we’re ingesting.

I interpret releasing my emotional connection to food as finding a space within myself where I can nourish myself without becoming attached to the food I’m putting in my body. Where I can eat out of love for myself instead of an act used to overcome frustration, sadness, loneliness or guilt. And where I’m confident that I’m giving myself exactly what I need instead of what I want.

To me, it’s about connecting with myself, eating what’s right and caring about little else. It’s a hard pill to swallow, but so amazingly freeing once you’ve grasped the concept.

Granted, it sounds all good in theory, but how does one go about it?

Engrossing myself in the study of yoga in the country that started it all seemed like a pretty good plan to me!

I’m an all or nothing girl, as you will learn.

The first couple of days at the ashram were hard for me. I tried eating only two meals a day but I was hungry all the time, so I started making breakfast for myself and eating fresh fruit in the afternoon.

I learned how to live in the moment and focus on other things that didn’t involve food. I didn’t plan my meals, I didn’t think about future meals and I tried to remind myself that there was always going to be food available, that I didn’t have to worry.

I learned to build patience. I sat in silence in front of my plate for 5 minutes before I began eating.

I learned how to listen to my body. I ate what was on my plate, took 5 minutes to meditate, then assessed whether or not I was still hungry.

… and I took a picture of every meal so that I could remind myself that it’s possible to attain happiness, contentment and fulfillment from so many places in my life than just with the food that’s on my plate.

Here’s a rundown of the soul food I enjoyed during my stay at Sivananda ashram, Neyyar Dam, starting with the meals served in the dining hall,

the snacks from the health hut (the fruit shop located at the ashram),

the snacks I took with me on my adventures,

and the breakfasts I prepared…

Once I let go of the fear of being unable to locate gluten-free foods, or worrying that I’d go hungry, I was surprised by how happy I was, healthy I felt, how free my choices had become, and how well I became at dealing with my emotions instead of relying on food to do it for me.

Have you struggled with an unhealthy relationship or emotional connection to food?

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