In many cultures, food is an expression of love. As I grew up with immigrants, food can be the only expression of love.
My parents weren’t very affectionate and didn’t talk much about love. My dad gives the typical awkward dad hug. From about 1.5 meters away, I give you a pat on the back, which is self-conscious. Her mother hit me so often that her body started flinching when her mother got too close.
My childhood was punctuated by my mother’s depression season. A box of ramen and Pizza Hut indicated how long a particular bout of depression lasted. My mother would go weeks without changing her pale pink nightgown and opening the blinds in her bedroom. During these dark days, she moved around her house like a zombie, even when she got out of bed, but there was no sign of life in her eyes.
And something will change in some way. I have always longed for this change.
I knew the tide had turned when the kitchen came to life. The small tabletop stove is back on the kitchen table, hot jjigae and ribs are cooking, and the nostalgic scent of doenjang and kimchi fills the house once again. The click of the rice cooker signals that dinner time is approaching.
We never talked about what it meant when my mother was cooking and when she wasn’t cooking, but we all understood the importance of it.
I clearly remember myself when I was about ten years old. I can see myself sitting at the kitchen table on a summer day. Half an iceberg lettuce sits in front of me.
This was my entire lunch. It will continue to be my go-to lunch for years to come.
Mother tried to entice me to eat more. I didn’t understand this clearly at the time, but now, as a mother, I fully understand that you should never force your child to eat. Food was probably the only thing I could control.
I didn’t know I was doing this at the time, but I was unconsciously demanding that my mother show me that she loved me. I was trying to keep her mental illness away. I was sending a threatening message that if she disappeared from depression for weeks, I would have to survive on half lettuce, and what if?
But the terrible oppression of my mother’s cycle of depression and suicide attempts continued. When the worst happened to me, at least I was able to control my food.
There were many times when I couldn’t eat at all, which is a common reaction when someone is going through shock or grief. When eating, I had an irresistible desire to be very strict and special.
Since becoming a yoga teacher, my diet has become even more important. “You can’t be full during practice,” I say.
To some extent, this was true. Munching on a bowl of pasta and then hanging out upside down in down dog would be physically uncomfortable. But what I didn’t say is that I was very concerned about how I would look in yoga clothes.
I equated every visible flaw in my body with failure, shame, and ugliness.
I had lost so much weight that one time my mother forced me to put myself on the scale when I got home. She was embarrassed that I weighed so little. On the other hand, I found myself secretly ecstatic and even proud.
I often had lightheadedness and low energy. My blood pressure was too low, but I credited it to the yoga and meditation I was doing.
I have gone through different stages of dietary restrictions. I went back to vegetarianism, which changed to vegetarianism, and then to a raw diet where I only eat what I can catch with my bare hands.
I’ve read that when you eat something of animal origin, you take in that animal’s karma, and when an animal is brutally slaughtered, you consume its energy of pain and suffering. I learned about the blood type diet and a diet based on what my ancestors ate. Of course I also learned about the harm of gluten.
The more I read about food, the more I wanted to read more. Instead of consuming food, I consumed information about it.
When the language of food culture shifted to “clean eating,” I didn’t realize it and blindly jumped on the bandwagon. How can I eat in the cleanest way? How can we avoid all toxins?
I used to do juice cleansing all year long. I lead “Detox Flow Yoga” workshops and teach sequences that target the digestive system, as if it couldn’t function without our manipulation.
I was completely confused. With so much information swirling in my head, so much of it untrue and rooted in food culture, I found myself paralyzed. What was safe to eat?
Steak, Atkins would admit, was red meat bad for the heart and karmically cursed. Eating too much raw food seemed to make my stomach hurt. Anything with sugar in it was out.
I opened the refrigerator and stood there, staring in despair.When trying to stay low-carb or carb-free and vegan andLiving and Even gluten-free, very few things are safe to eat. I’ve read stories of great yogis who lived in caves and survived on oxygen and a few twigs and berries.
I followed a list of “clean” foods and ate as little as possible. I was always on a restricted diet, an eating disorder, and I thought I was being “disciplined.”
After giving birth to my first child, I began to follow a strict diet to lose weight. I tormented myself with the clothes I wore when I was 18, trying on old jeans as a barometer of my size. When I returned to teaching, I was embarrassed and hung my head. I’m still working on dropping the last 10 pounds. ”
For some reason I didn’t understand that skipping a meal would affect my milk production, but a low calorie intake would naturally do that. Not eating was also a big trigger for my anxiety and panic attacks.
I was diagnosed with an eating disorder.
When I was pregnant with my second child during the pandemic, I decided to stay healthy. When pregnant, most women already feel like they can actually eat. Being in lockdown, not seeing anyone I know, and going from night sweats to day sweats gave me even broader permission to eat, and actually eat what I enjoy.
It felt like everyone was embracing a freer lifestyle. We started making bread from scratch.
I made a conscious choice to move forward with this food freedom. I knew it would carry the weight of the baby on my back for a while. I made up my mind not to get caught up in this.
I wanted to retrain my brain from thinking that being as skinny as possible equates to being good, lovely, and worthy.
In my case, I found a link between my eating disorder and my anxiety. That 4 p.m. feeling of just hypoglycemia was also the first feeling of anxiety. Anxiety can trigger symptoms and lead to panic attacks.
I started paying more attention to my diet. One of the most surprising things I have noticed is that after hours of not eating, when I finally take a bite of something, I often start crying, as if my body was crying with relief. That was it.
I decided to let go of the rules and strictness of my diet. Stopped waiting as long as possible not to eat. I asked a friend how often and how much he eats and learned that one boiled egg doesn’t count as a complete meal.
I noticed my messy habits like spitting up food and forgetting to eat. I set myself a goal to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner. This seems like a no-brainer, but it has been surprisingly difficult for me to adhere to consistently.
I realized that continuing my diet only worsened both my physical and mental health. As the daughter of a mentally ill mother, I have accepted that I was battling a deep-seated disorder in my childhood.
Food was more than just nutrition. Food also indicated the mother’s state of mind, whether things were safe or scary. Food was the way I tried to control the uncontrollable.
Like any healing journey, my path is neither direct nor linear. Each step forward takes at least the same number of steps back. I think the key is to pay attention to the steps you take and keep refining your goals and priorities.
I want to be mentally and physically healthy so that I can be there for my family and enjoy this precious and fleeting human experience. I want to be a healthy role model for my children, helping them imbibe the essential truth of loving, accepting and caring for themselves.I want to be able to supply nutrition and nutrition to everyone and again in joy.
I wish I could go back and sit with little me eating half a lettuce and give her a hug. I ask her if she’s okay. I know if she has anything to say, that I was there, that her life can be very scary at times, that I love her, and that I will help her. I told him I was going to.
This is how we break the toxic cycle. We face what has been done to us and consciously choose what we will not inherit. Remember how you felt as a child, think about what you needed and didn’t have, and do your best to make it happen for yourself and others.
My therapist explained to me that the part of the brain that holds deep emotional imprints is unaware of the calendar. It does not recognize that the thing has already happened at another time and another place. So when you remember something painful, your emotional self feels as if it is happening right now.
We come up with thoughts like, ‘Emotions overflow’, ‘It’s like I’m back in that moment’.
I think this is why instincts repress, deny and pretend. Who wants to go back to a time of fear, helplessness, and despair? No wonder people turn to all kinds of distractions and busyness and rely on different coping strategies.
And sometimes you just have to do what it takes to survive. I think there is nothing to be ashamed of. Because it means that we wanted to survive, we wanted to live.
Our bodies, minds and hearts are limited. There is no infinite escape from fear and trauma. When the time comes, they will insist on being seen, heard, and felt, and with determination and effort, will eventually be processed and healed.
I hope you have support when you reach your breaking point. Professionals, partners, family, friends… sometimes support shows up in the most unexpected places. We need to reach out to others, make them listen to us, help us, and support us.
It may feel like no one is there to catch you, but I’d bet that’s never true. there is always someone At least I am.