I am Vāgan

This morning I had a conversation with a private, corporate yoga client. He mentioned an injury and we started talking about inflammation. I get a little fired up whenever someone is suffering from severe inflammation because I know that road all too well in my own body. I have to listen to that sweet but firm little voice inside that says, “meet them where they are.” The nutritionist, yogi, holistic health nut in me wants to be like stop eating this and start taking these and blah blah blah.

And then he says, “So, are you a vegan (pronounced vāgan)?” It’s a reverse stereotype I get a lot. Whenever I start talking nutrition and wellness with people and the response is something like I’m not giving up meat, I cringe. I cringe not because they refuse to give up meat, but because their assumption is that I am here to convert you. I abide by body-led living; a gift I have procured through almost eleven years of yoga practice and a variety of trial and error practices in the realm of extremism. I was a practicing anorexic for about a year. I am always a recovering anorexic. I’ve tried all carbs, no carbs, kidney diets, cleanses, fasts… I have been practicing perfectionist-recovery for almost 36 years. I attempted alcoholism for a few years. Smoking cigarettes. I fell in love with Xanax and other anti-anxiety medications for a while. I could never commit to the sedentary lifestyle of a pothead. I became obsessed with yoga asana before I found Yoga. My body is a, won’t take no for an answer kind of gal. If she doesn’t like something then I know about it pretty quickly. Ok, so back to being a vegan.

My client this morning tells me about his inflammation. I ask, “What do you eat?”

He replies with, “Are you a vegan?”

I am immediately filled with a need to defend my own healthy lifestyle, to prove that while I am what the stereotype might call, ridiculously healthy and maybe even extreme, that is not what I am going to recommend for all of my clients. Just because I am vegan does not mean that I am immediately going to tell people I think they need to be vegan. I do believe as a culture we need to eat more plants and vegetables and decrease (read stop entirely) our consumption of factory-farmed meats. I also know that cold turkey is almost never effective. Unless you are an extremist. The greatest gift I have received from Yoga is the ability to meet myself where I am. And where I am changes moment-to-moment, day by day.

My client doesn’t want to give up cheap meat. He doesn’t want to change his diet. He also doesn’t want to be on pain medication for his inflammation for the rest of his life. We had our asana and pranayama practice, and after svasana we chatted for about ten more minutes. He doesn’t buy in to all the “fads.” He loves carbs. I listened and asked questions about his routine. When he stated that he uses artificial sweetener in his coffee, I saw an option, an easy, first step. We talked about honey and pure, maple syrup and the low glycemic index of both of these natural sweeteners. He agreed that using one of these sweeteners instead of the highly processed, disease causing, artificial kind seemed like a good idea. Then he asked me, “How do you know who to believe? Who to listen to when it comes to this stuff? There’s just so much hearsay out there.”


So, I took the opening to talk about body-led living. I mentioned the dōTERRA supplements I take that aid the natural functions of my body. I also mentioned that I don’t take the full dose of vitamins because my body was clear that ½ dose most days is plenty. When I notice more fatigue or digestive issues I will up the doseage for a week or two. He asked me about some other supplements that a friend sells. I mentioned that they work great for a lot of people, but when I tried them for a month I felt terrible. They weren’t for me. I don’t believe there is a one way fits all when it comes to our health and well-being, but I do believe in self-study and research, talking with your medical health professionals, consulting both allopathic and naturopathic doctors, increasing your self-care and meditation and meeting yourself where you are.