Food Documentaries, Conscious Eating, and Yogic Lessons, Oh My!
Name a food-related health documentary on Netflix, and chances are I’ve watched it. Likely, more than once. Educating myself about food and health has been an important part of my body acceptance journey, so when I saw a new doc called What the Health in the “Recommended For You” lineup, you know I was on it.
Just to be clear, this is not a review of the movie. I’m not going to delve into the strengths and weaknesses of the film or even into the whole corporate industrial health complex or the benefits of a plant-based diet, both of which are explored in the film. What I am going to talk about is the effect these types of health documentaries can have on people who are still struggling with figuring out how best to care for their body and a lesson I was reminded of while watching.
So here’s the truth: watching food/health documentaries can be crazy inspiring and informative, but they can also make you feel like shit. Because of where I was at in my personal life when I viewed the movie, when I got to the end, I basically felt like “Well, now I know everything in my cupboard is poison, but I want to eat all the things.”
Luckily, I only zombie-walked through this hyper-health guilt haze for a little while before I remembered what one of my teachers taught me while I was doing Yoga Teacher Training years ago. Since vegetarianism is often a hot topic in the yoga world, a student asked the teacher what she thought of it. I will never forget her response.
She explained that tacking a label on yourself based on what you think you should eat is doing yourself a disservice because it takes you away from your body. She told us that if she had to choose a label, she’d call herself a “Conscious Eater,” meaning she is aware of what she eats and how it feels in her body.
For example, she had learned through years of observing how different foods affected her body that eating mostly vegetarian meals makes her feel healthy and vibrant. BUT, she also learned that when she is on her cycle (hello, hormones!), eating beef helps her feel less tired and lethargic (which she was feeling with when she had restricted her meat intake). If she had only listened to other people’s opinions, she may have denied her body what it needed (whether that be veggies-only, red meat, whatever) just because a person not in her body told her to. The same goes for sugar, caffeine, dairy, gluten, etc. We are ultimate experts when it comes to our bodies.
This lesson feels empowering to me, and hopefully for you as well. You are the only person in your body, therefore you are the only person qualified to make decisions about what you feed yourself. If eating a plant-based diet makes you feel like a sexy green goddess, then do that. If eating meat makes you feel healthy and energetic, do that. If you’re still figuring it out, keep going. If you’re confused and never really thought about how you FEEL after you eat, I highly suggest paying attention.
The bottom line is this: Food is in our lives. Many of us struggle with it. Sometimes you might feel like everything around you is poison, but you want to eat all the things. All of this is okay.
You are human. You are beautiful. You have a body. Pay attention and take care of her (whatever that means for YOU).