I love food.
This hasn’t always been the case. There was a time when food was both my enemy and my obsession. When I used it as reward and punishment.
In the confusion of my early teens, overwhelmed by friend drama and a quickly changing body, I took control of the only thing it seemed I could, my weight.
At the time, I was playing basketball and naturally began to shed pounds. It felt great, as a young woman that up until that point was always referred to as “big-boned” and “athletically built” the comments about how great I looked, how thin and pretty I suddenly was were flattering and I didn’t want them to stop… so I stepped up my efforts.
I basically stopped eating.
It got to the point where I was existing on not much more than a bowl of cereal, half of a banana and a microwaved soft pretzel… and the soft pretzel was contingent on whether or not I had made it to the gym that day.
Soon, of course, people’s praise turned into concern and I quickly devised a plan to get everyone off my back.
I became a liar.
I lied to my parents and would tell them that I ate with my friends and then I would turn around and lie to my friends telling them I had eaten at home. I would lie to my coach, and teammates and, of course, I lied to myself.
The lying worked for a while but eventually there was no disguising the fact that 90 pounds on my 5’5” frame was a not just unattractive but a serious problem.
Right around this time a well-meaning friend (though I didn’t see her like that at the time) went to the school nurse and shared her fear about my unhealthy weight loss. That spurred a meeting with my parents, counseling sessions, weekly weigh-ins and a lot of resentment on my part. I remember feeling caged and at odds with my captors.
Slowly though– something began to soften. Maybe it was the fear I experienced when I almost fainted on the basketball court or maybe I was tired of fighting with everyone and everything in my life and feeling so alone or maybe it was the simple fact that I was just so damn hungry… but I finally accepted the help that was all around me. Over the next year or so, with a relentless support system behind me, I rebuilt my body and my life.
In the years since, I have come to see this experience, and the fact that it happened so early in my life, as a kind of veiled blessing. Through it, I have been able to help support friends (and even a few of my yoga students) in similar situations.
So why do I bring all of this up now– two decades later– as part of a 40 Days post? Because to pretend that this episode in my early teens doesn’t influence my relationship with food today, everyday, would be another flat out lie.
The fact is, that once I got better, I was terrified to slide back into the darkness. I spent my early adult years avoiding anything hinting at the word diet. Instead, I tried to maintain my health based on how I felt rather than the number the scale displayed or what size jeans I was wearing. My yoga practice became an integral part of this new and honest discourse with my body.
But still, I was leery to undertake the 40 Day program for the first time. I actually bought a copy of the book, read it once and let it sit on a shelf for over a year because I was afraid of how the “diet” portion of the program would land for me.
After a couple more years of developing a steady power yoga practice and learning how to really trust myself, I decided I could do the program, even the food part, in a healthy, mindful way and I was right.
This approach to eating isn’t about restriction but rather listening to your body and responding. It is the exact skill I lacked twenty some years ago when I starved myself. It is through the listening that I’ve been able to not just live with the food I eat, but actually enjoy it, celebrate it.
In celebration of my hard-won healthy relationship with food… I offer you this– my go-to 40-Day recipe. I hope it nourishes you and gives you yet another tool to create and/or maintain your own balanced relationship with food.
Wok or Skillet
Olive Oil (2 tbs for every 1/2 pound of veggies)
Chopped Vegetables (pick your favorites and cut into 1/2 inch pieces)
Optional Protein (already cooked shrimp, diced tofu and/or grilled chicken)
Salt & Pepper
Less Sodium Soy Sauce (1 tb for every 1/2 pound of veggies)
Brown Rice (fully cooked)
Heat wok or skillet on medium-high for 1-2 minutes. Add olive oil and warm until the oil shimmers and begins to ripple like a terracotta roof. Add veggies (and protein, if using).
You should hear a sizzle. Cook 4-5 minutes, using the spatula to periodically flip the food until the vegetables become bright and colorful and all pieces are heated through.
Turn off the heat but leave the pan on the burner. Add soy sauce and quickly toss to coat and caramelize. Salt & pepper to taste.
Serve immediately over brown rice.
Enjoy the stir-fry. If you have a great go-to 40 Day recipe, post it as a comment below. The food lover in me would love to try it and celebrate it.