To my right was a scientist, to my left an artist, and across from me a writer (no, this is not the beginning of a joke or a puzzle). I was at a dinner party, and in fact, scientists, artists, and writers made up the entire population at this particular event. Conversations about scientific discoveries, heated discussions over the value of contemporary art, and personal anecdotes bounced around the table like a soccer ball being passed back and forth from one teammate to another. I wasn’t involved in any of the discourse, but rather was trying to take it all in, to glean as much as possible from this dynamic group. And then, without warning, the woman next to me turned her head to look me in the eye. She asked the simple and what I consider the prerequisite “getting to know you” question: “And what do you do?”
As you may remember, that question almost always flusters me. And, in my fluster, I almost always respond with the simple, “I teach yoga.” In most encounters, yoga proves to be a connector. It seems almost everyone has tried yoga or is interested in learning more. But to my surprise, this woman had no interest in yoga. In fact, she said in a matter-of-fact tone, “I hate yoga.” And she didn’t stop there. She went on to say, “I haaaattttteeee yoga” in a very exaggerated tone and particularly loud voice. I laughed at her candor (it was actually refreshing) and pivoted the conversation by blurting out the next thing that popped into my head, “I just started culinary school.” And with that, her expression eased and she shifted to turn her body toward me and said, “That’s interesting. Tell me what to eat.”
And so I told her what to eat—everything I learned in the last seven weeks of school, peppered with my own knowledge from past studies. Not knowing this woman, I was free of the boundaries and sensitivities I have to take into consideration when giving advice to clients. I was able to say whatever I believe and understand to be true. It felt liberating. And if I’m going to tell a stranger at a party what to eat, I figure maybe other people want to know too.
Okay, the catch is that I didn’t tell her what to eat as much as I explained her best options in the various food groups. Much to my delight, culinary school isn’t just understanding food science, recipe creations, knife skills, and cooking techniques. We spend a significant amount of time focused on how to choose the best ingredients for health, community, animal welfare, and environment. Initially it sounded complicated, as there is so much to consider. When I studied nutrition years ago, it was complicated. But new studies in nutritional and environment science have armed us with new information that makes our decisions much easier. I’m happy to say that the advice I used to give based on my gut feelings toward local, organic, free-range, grass-fed, wild-caught foods are now backed by science. And you know how much I love science.
Now, I realize there are people who want to understand why to make the decision to eat this over that. And, I’m willing to bet there are just as many people who don’t need or want the explanation and simply want to be given the answer. So, I decided to create something for everyone—my bottom-line best decision and a little explanation. Keep in mind, an entire PhD thesis could be written on each topic. But here is my uncensored cheat sheet on some animal-based products.
So, back to the party. After expounding on my beliefs regarding the food system, I couldn’t resist the urge to tie the conversation back to yoga. I explained how yoga is more than just poses, and it actually affects the choices you make regarding every aspect of life, including what you eat. I am not sure she fully bought the concept, but she did agree to come to my meditation class!
To learn more about how to practice yoga beyond the mat, check out Soul Expert Courtney’s article, The Essence of Yoga–Mat Optional. And let me know your thoughts on my summary of what to eat. I, too, am always open to learning more!
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