Class Notes, Week 48: I did it!

The Moksha yoga teacher training program requires me to journal once each week about my experience with the poses and assignments + my practice and progress. This is part of that weekly assignment.

I spent the past two weeks on a sattvic diet.  No sugar.  No caffeine.  No meat.  No processed foods.  No sweet delicacies from Dinkel’s Bakery, Sweet Mandy B’s or Bittersweet Bakery.  Just pure foods of the earth.

I took on this project as one part of a series of final assignments for my yoga teacher training certification.  I purposely chose this option because it would challenge me the most.

I eat whatever I want, when I want, where I want, how I want.  Little thought is given.  I am that girl that other girls are jealous of; and until my metabolism catches up with my age, I revel in being able to eat whatever causes my eyes to go wide and mouth to salivate.  If I’m hungry, supersize me, absolutely.

It’s not that I eat unhealthy.  It’s just that my awareness and mindfulness of food, in general, is lacking.  I revel in its pleasures without much thought to the consequences.  I figured that this “challenge” could shift that … and it certainly did.

A second motivation for this “challenge”: I also wanted to apply tantra yogi Rod Stryker’s “Departure Point” technique as I gave up my favorite foods.  “The Departure Point technique,” he writes in his book The Four Desires, “is based on the principle that by giving something up, you create an opportunity for the universe to fill the resulting gap with something new, and specifically something you desire — your sankulpa.”

Each time that I had an impulse to eat non-sattvic foods — Scooter’s frozen custard, Al’s Italian Beef, Peqods’s pizza — I came back to my sankulpa.  My relationship with food became interwoven with my desire to change the trajectory of my life as a whole.  In other words, those moments of “Darn, I can’t eat that!” became bigger than the food itself, a reminder of the bigger change I seek to make.

A few key observations during these last two weeks:

I paid attention to what I put in my body.  Very close attention.
I did most of my grocery shopping at Whole Foods, mainly because I knew they’d have the best selection of foods suitable for this diet.  While hunting for ingredients to fill my pantry and fridge, I read food labels carefully.  If I didn’t recognize an ingredient or it sounded too “science-lab,” I put it back on the shelf.  Through this process, I was shocked to discover how some of the seemingly “healthy” items actually included ingredients that I couldn’t pronounce.  I’ve learned that is pays off … to pay attention.  Some of the “healthy food” out there is marketed extremely well, to the point of deceit.

My first 100-percent “sattvic” grocery purchase.

I discovered foods I otherwise would never have tried.
Because I morphed into a grocery shopper who paid attention to ingredients, I stuffed my shopping cart with foods that I would have never considered before.  I topped my yogurt with chia seeds — never ate those before.  I found lemon cookies made with raw ingredients that could satiate my sweet tooth — I would have never given this section of the cookie isle a thought before.  It was fun to make discoveries like this.

Some of the “new” food that I discovered.

Organic yogurt with fresh fruit and chia seeds.

I confirmed that eating healthy is expensive.
My first grocery bill was well-over $100, and I didn’t even purchase a lot.  But, what I did purchased was quality.  Organic fruits and vegetables aren’t cheap!  Even my lunches at work, surprisingly, were expensive.  A Subway sandwich might run me $5; a tiny veggie salad (fresh tomatoes, carrots, peas, chick peas) at the local deli cost me $12.

Rather than look at this as a 50 percent increase, however, I learned to look at it as an investment in my body and my health.  This food is the equivalent of clean fuel versus corrupted fuel.  It’ll save me money in doctor’s bills later on.  That makes me feel better about forking over the debit card for a $12 salad … although, I don’t intend to go back to that deli for salad too often.

I could survive without caffeine.
I have actually gone three weeks without a drop of coffee.  Seriously!

I was the girl who stopped at Dunkin’ Donuts every morning, somewhat robotically, for a large French vanilla coffee with sugar and skim milk.  The ladies who work the Dunkin’ Donuts knew my order before I got up to pay.  I bet they’ve been wondering where I’ve been …

How did I do it?  I changed my morning ritual.

Instead of stopping for coffee, I kept organic green tea bags and fresh honey in my drawer at work.  I made green tea with honey each morning before firing up my computer to begin the day.  Although I wasn’t as energetically “wired” during this coffee hiatus, I felt more focused — and that made me more productive in the long run.

I intend to continue this non-coffee kick.  I won’t deny myself coffee when I want it, of course — pumpkin spice latte season is coming up!  But, at least I know coffee needn’t be my knee-jerk reaction when energy levels are down, or a robotic exercise that costs me $3 each workday morning.

I traded this …

… for this.

Sugar, on the other hand, was exceptionally tough to eliminate.
I missed sweets throughout these two weeks.  One day at work, I had to skip an ice cream social — only to walk to the building next door where the Amish were selling fresh bakery goods.  It was like the universe was mocking me that day.

But my willpower triumphed.  Each time I craved a cupcake or cookie or candy bar, I came back to my sankulpa.

I ate when I needed to.
When I was hungry, I took the time to source something that stayed within the culinary sattvic boundaries.  And I filled boredom with things other than food.  I couldn’t just stop at a fast-food joint to kill time, or “treat” myself.  The heavenly aroma of McDonald’s french fries?  Instead of popping in to satisfy the craving, I would keep walking, focusing on the beautiful weather and exercise accomplished with each step.

I became “that girl” when dining out with friends.
I live in Chicago, so restaurant outing with friends is inevitable.  While I tried to avoid it over these past two weeks, I couldn’t unplug completely.  I would ask waiters to confirm ingredients within dishes, hold dressings and request substitutions.  I felt bad for doing this, even when prefacing my barrage of questions and requests with this: “I’m on a special diet, I’m not usually like this.”  But what if this was my normal diet … would I need to feel guilty for asking someone to respect my lifestyle choice?

Honestly, I found sattvic foods … lacking.
I don’t think I’m capable of making this diet a lifestyle thing.  My meals got redundant, mainly because I am no Julia Child in the kitchen and I refuse to carve out “experimenting” time to cook for myself.  There is only so much salad a girl can tolerate!

So, yes: I’d be lying if I didn’t moan about being frustrated with my limited choice of food during these past two weeks.  Through this process, however, gratitude for the choice of food I do have on a “normal” basis grew exponentially.  I was only doing this for two weeks, after all.  Some people have to eat with heavy restrictions on a regular basis because of allergies or sickness.

I was surprised at the support.
The cheerleading from friends and colleagues was pretty amazing, and kept the momentum going.  Once I posted this intention to Facebook, there was no turning back!  A few friends floated me recipes to help inject some fun and variety into this project.  (I attempted a few, unsuccessfully.)

As it turns out, eating healthy is something that most everyone aspires to do, recognizes as beneficial and champions for others.  Perhaps my little journey will inspire a few others to reconsider their food choices — not forever, but in moments where temptation and choice creep up.

I felt focused and alive.
Putting only “of the earth” ingredients in the body did shift my energy level in a positive way.  I felt much more focused at work, much more aware of life in general.  Perhaps it was psychological — given this “experiment” added a new and novel focal point for me.  It’s invigorating, in general, to have goals such as this.

Regardless, I have to give some credit to the food, my fuel.

But now that it’s over … I will be enjoying some dessert.

Dessert from Sweet Mandy B’s, one of my favorite bakeries in Chicago.

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