As I prepared to write a counter-post to an extremely triggering article by Yoga Medicine Founder Tiffany Cruikshank, I found myself feeling confused and misguided by someone that many people trust. My relationship with meditation and restorative yoga is stronger than it’s ever been, and crucial to my mental health care and eating disorder recovery, and the notion that someone would market meditation as a way to get skinny is disgusting.
What I expected reading the article was anger – anger that a wellness professional would put fans and students in danger of relapse or developing a completely new eating disorder. What I didn’t expect was the sadness I felt as I examined the article more closely. So many of the ideas were ones that I use in my daily life to maintain my recovery, but they were twisted in a way that made me think I was reading my own thoughts as an 18-year-old on the brink of death 13 years ago. I found myself tearful as I remembered what it was like to be in that place of desperation, losing focus and relationships and all of my life goals.
I was given hope by this powerful counter-post written by Nikki Cook of the Yoga and Body Image Coalition (Body Boop is a Community Partner). The conversation I had with women from the coalition brought down my desire to scream and yell and shame Cruikshank, and instead make this a learning moment for all wellness professionals. This struggle with anger over triggers is something I think everyone in recovery deals with, regardless of the specific trigger, because everyone has different ones.
So, in the spirit of positive self talk, my favorite friend that follows me through my every day and all of my ups and downs, I’m going to tell you what I think you should remember from Cruikshank’s post, and counter ALL of the garbage.
My thoughts on “Yes, You Can Think Yourself Thin”:
Why are we talking about dropping pounds and dieting in the same breath as meditation? My “slenderness goals” were bullshit and based on the media’s representation of how I should look, and those goals landed me in the hospital with life threatening heart rate and blood pressure lows. I reject these biscuit and wine ideologies and am telling you truthfully that I eat chocolate and drink wine whenever the f*$k I want. And it took me the entirety of my 20s to make it here. And guess what, I don’t fit in any of my clothes from 10 years ago and I have tons of belly fat! And I’m cool with it most days because I’m living and loving my life!
As a master yoga teacher and specialist in sports and Chinese medicine, Cruikshank’s responsibility is to her clients’ health, not their weights. In fact, I have no dieting goals or weight goals and I don’t own a scale anymore BECAUSE of the work I have done with wellness coaches and therapists. Meditation helps me forget about the stress and pressure I feel to be skinny and my desire to track everything I eat. I don’t meditate to reduce cravings – I have a therapist and Prozac for that. I spent 4-month-long stretches in treatment centers for that. Meditation, for me, is to quiet the demons in my head, NOT to focus on what I’m craving or how I’m dieting even more.
Cruikshank is right – meditation does reduce stress! But I guarantee you, I’m not thinking about belly fat when I meditate. I’m letting go, if only for a moment, the pressure I feel as a partner, a business owner, a daughter, a sister, an activist and a recovered person.
Weight loss goals are appropriate for some people, but incorporated into long lasting health and lifestyle changes that yes, can be positively impacted by meditation. I’m just going to add “queen of all good weight-loss habits” to the pile of crap phrases, alongside “slenderness goals.” I’m in marketing, I see what this for what it is: good intentions falling into a trap for the sake of sales goals.
Five minutes of meditation every day is a great idea! These are the components from this article that I found truly valuable:
1. Set time aside to meditate frequently – even if it’s only for a few minutes every day. Short but often is far more effective than long periods you only schedule in occasionally.
2. Aim to meditate at the same time every day.
3. Find a spot away from possible distractions (radio, TV, computers, phones and other people) and sit on a cushion on the floor or perch on the end of the chair and allow your neck, back and shoulders to be relaxed. Don’t let yourself slouch back or get too comfortable, as you might zone out or even fall asleep, which defeats the objective. A state of ‘conscious alertness’ gives the best results.
4. Set a timer for five minutes.
5. Close your eyes, or keep them slightly open and softly focused toward the floor in front of you, and take a few moments to concentrate on your breathing and settle your mind.
Halfway through #5 to #8 can just be thrown out, quite frankly. The rest was good, and would make a great routine for anyone. I’ll go ahead and entertain one of the absurd requests: I pictured myself thinner and I’m in a hospital bed. That’s where that has always landed me. None of my clothes fit because I’ve gained the weight I desperately needed to survive. When I journal and visualize with meditation, I imagine myself in a stress-free zone, released from the grips of food anxiety and surrounded by people I love.
9. Repeat this meditation every day for a month, and increase your meditation time to ten minutes if you can. Yes!
Some of the boredom and eating Cruikshank mentions is actually quite applicable for people with binge eating disorder or bulimia, but I’m still gonna reject the whole thing because of its triggering nature for men and women with other eating disorders.
When Cruikshank writes about reseting one’s attitude toward food, that was when I really engaged and nodded my head in agreement. But it took swimming through a see of triggering nonsense to get there.
Food is fuel, food is nourishment. Thank you for those reminders.
But why is there a need for a list of specific foods? In the same post about meditation? I spent my whole life worrying about specific foods and loathing feeling full. Now that I’m recovered, I can PROMISE you that I eat to 100% full, happy, satisfied and energized. In fact, I ate a bowl of pasta while writing this and sitting at my computer, and I joyfully chewed as I passed the sacred 75% mark. It. Was. Delicious.
Let’s keep these “rules”:
1. Eat slowly and thoroughly chew every mouthful.
3. Don’t go more than three to four hours between meals.
7. Stop weighing yourself: measure your success by how you feel.
#7 is HILARIOUS because the whole freaking post is about weight loss, but I agree with this line item. I threw out my scale in 2007 and haven’t looked back.
An exercise sweet spot is also SO important – finding an activity you love that fits into your life well. But “thinking yourself sexy”? I CAN’T.
I’m alive and I’m breathing and I’m taking excellent care of myself. I have the healthiest relationship of my life to date, and the success of that partnership grows as I forget about my desired weight loss and live my life to my healthiest ability. I tried thinking myself thin for 10 years, and it almost killed me.
I honestly don’t care if I’m sexy or thin, as long as I’m recovered and happy. So, if wellness professionals could please stop putting this crap out on the Internet, I’d be grateful, along with many other yogis who are trying to put disordered eating far behind them.
Here are some thoughts from YBIC community followers:
“The context of this article is saddening, and it seems to be a misappropriation of what yoga and meditation should be about – my interpretation is that through my practice I can be at one with myself, internally and externally. Having battled ED for a number of years, which has left me with an autoimmune disorder which interferes with weight loss, and a deep rooted unhappiness with my body, I have found that yoga and mindfulness have helped me to be more accepting of myself as I am, and more able to focus on what I’d still like to change while understanding that I’m not a failure if I don’t make those changes.”
– Kathryn Marples
” Why is there such a need to be thin? Yoga and thinness do not go hand in hand. I’m so bored of seeing body fat framed negatively. And more so tips on how to avoid your cravings – why are we avoiding our cravings? There are reasons our bodies want something – as long as everything is done mindfully and in moderation why is a piece of chocolate over an apple such a bad decision?”
– Laura Laurita
“This article makes me feel so sad–not just for myself but for anyone reading it. To co-opt the practices of yoga and meditation against their true aims. Yoga should be about *liberation* and the idea that we must be shackled to one “perfect” weight is entrapment and delusion. The idea that we should cultivate and even practice a fantasy of how we want our physical form to be is like signing up for more delusion, attachment, confusion, and forgetting of our true nature.”
– Suzannah Neufeld