It’s Sunday morning, 7:00am. I’ve just gone and made a cup of coffee in preparation to sit down and write. As I’m waiting for my coffee to brew I found myself moving through the following sequence of events.
Realise I’m hungry.
Open fridge door.
Spot seriously good dark chocolate.
Tell myself that’s not breakfast food.
Remind myself that no one can see me.
Break off two silky smooth heavenly (and quite large) squares and devour.
An instant wave of guilt the minute I move away from the fridge.
So let’s address the elephant in the room (and no, it’s not me for eating chocolate at 7:00am). I am a yoga teacher and I like a healthy green juice, avo on toast and kale salad as much as the next person, but I also love chocolate, cheese, wine, cake and fried food. I love spending hours on my mat in often quite intense asana practice, I love running and generally being active, but I also love hanging out in my yoga pants whilst watching box sets of Orange is the New Black on Netflix. The truth about us yoga teachers is… we are very normal people.
Having what may appear to be a somewhat bi-polar relationship with food and exercise is part of who I am. The yoga teacher in my will joke with you and tell you that’s because life is about balance and in all honesty, although I genuinely love a plate of beautiful bright vegetables, I would be M-I-S-E-R-A-B-L-E if this is all I allowed myself to eat and exhausted is all I did was yoga and run.
The real elephant in the room that we should be talking about is the last statement… an instant wave of guilt! (not that yoga teachers like junk food)
So, let’s break down what happened.
Point 1: I was hungry.
We’re not talking about eating for comfort or an emotional trigger (that’s a whole other blog right there for another time). It was the morning and breakfast time. If you’re genuinely hungry and this is how the body tells you that it needs more energy, so you should allow yourself to eat, right? I didn’t devour the entire bar so was listening to my bodies need for energy without overdoing it and moving into greed.
Point 2: I ate chocolate for breakfast.
Ok, not your conventional breakfast, but who decided what we should and shouldn’t be allowed to eat at certain times of the day. If I had eaten two squares of chocolate as an afternoon snack, or after my evening meal, most of us would think that was completely normal and acceptable. Yet at breakfast time this choice is absolutely ridiculous and quite frankly unhealthy. But is it?
If it’s acceptable at 7:00pm, then it should be acceptable at 7:000am. What would be unhealthy is if I was eating an excessive quantity as my body does not need that much for energy. Or, if I decided to eat only chocolate for every meal because I wouldn’t be getting the balance of nutrients that my body needs.
This is where balance comes in. There is no such thing as good or bad food. Our body needs food for energy and all the yummy vitamins and nutrients it gives us to stay healthy, so we just need to balance what we put in with regards to variety and quantity. Making sure we do this with food we like adds the important element of happiness and enjoyment especially when sharing the amazing experience of mealtime with friends and family.
Point 3: Guilt
This is the real issue. I am fit and healthy and eat a very balanced and nutritious diet, so why the hell am I feeling guilty?
It goes back to that point of seeing food as only good or bad. This also means that I adopt a system of punishment and reward.
I ate chocolate, so I have to work out harder. I skipped exercise, so I have to skip a meal. Suddenly food and exercise, the things we’re supposed to love, that are designed this way to release happy hormones to make us feel all great and happy end up making us feel stressed, anxious and unhappy.
For me, seeing things as good or bad means I become very judgemental with myself and being programed to see things in this very polarised way often inhibits so many other parts of me. I view so many of my actions as simply black and white, good and bad. If I do something bad, then I feel guilt and punish myself, if do something good I reward myself (usually with food and buying myself something) and then I feel guilty for doing that and end up feeling bad again.
In short, feelings of guilt are not helpful if the reaction is punishment as that punishment is often to berate ourselves and not allow ourselves any compassion.
So here is the real work, the real balance. To not be so quick to judge ourselves and find more balance in how feel and react. So the next time you find yourself criticizing your choices, or scolding yourself for your actions think about why you made them. If you made those choices for the right reasons then accept that and if you didn’t then still accept it and then allow yourself some compassion.
The real balance is not the variety in our choices and actions it is in how we view them. It is eating your greens or chocolate, being active or relaxing without judging one or the other as better or worse. Embrace them all equally, with balance and love for whatever choices you make, because balance is not what you do. Real balance is allowing yourself to accept every part of you.