Acceptance, Awareness, Feldenkrais, Food, Identity, Possibility, Resistance, Ritual

Feldenkrais, Food and Self-Image

Once upon a time, my self-image did not include drinking vegetables. That has changed.

Once upon a time, my self-image did not include drinking vegetables. That has changed.

“I can’t imagine giving up gluten” – Facebook comment

It’s more than a week into my trial separation from gluten. Rather than immediately stocking up on gluten-free substitutes, I doubled if not tripled my consumption of fruit and vegetables. My head is clearer, I feel lighter, I sleep better and, unexpectedly, my waistline is trimmer. While I’m marveling at the nearly immediate results of this dietary shift, I’m also left with a lingering and somewhat sobering question.

Why didn’t I give up gluten sooner? Or, what stood between me and better health?

In Feldenkrais terms, the “self-image” that dominated if not dictated my experience for years was more heavily invested in its own survival than in my well-being. That self-image or identity, which in this case I’d also call ego (although the two are not always equivalent), believed that giving up gluten was a kind of punishment or simply one more way in which I wouldn’t fit into a culture that is practically constructed of gluten molecules. Furthermore, I was so averse to both bidding adieu to croissants and to participating in what I considered (celiacs aside) a food fad, that I wasn’t open to considering eliminating gluten even on a trial, non-committal basis. Not so long ago, I also would have said, “I can’t imagine giving up gluten,” like the commenter on Facebook. Forgoing gluten would have seemed impossible.

But, I have given it up.

Since I feel so much better, I have no desire to restore it to my diet. Clearly the “I” of today is not the same as the “I” of just a few years ago, even though, aside from a few extra gray hairs, and that slightly trimmer midriff, I look essentially the same.  The former “I”, looking to food for comfort and also a bit of a traditionalist, didn’t want to sever ties to repasts of the past and felt threatened by that possibility, as if it were a kind of death. And that former “I” was unwilling to consider that her diet, though quite healthy by most standards, could still be more nourishing.

When I first moved to Boulder, that traditional “I” still dominated, making it difficult for me to finally wean myself from sugar and the myriad products containing it, even though it was in my best interest. That same “I” also rejected smoothies; it didn’t like the idea of pulverizing otherwise gorgeous fruits and vegetables into an indistinguishable, liquefied mass of dubious texture. Weren’t pears, apples, carrots, melons, kale and beets meant to be admired, carefully prepared to bring out their flavors, or savored individually? That “I” dismissed smoothies as just another regrettable American trend that prioritized speed and efficiency over aesthetics and appreciation. In clinging to particular ideas of how food “should” be prepared and consumed, along with other related beliefs, that previous “I” likely contributed to subtle tensions in my body. Unraveling some of those holding patterns through Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement lessons is helping to create a more supple self-image, one that can more easily respond to, if not embrace, change.

For the last fortnight, the current “I” has added “morning mixology” to the routine, making a smoothie as part of breakfast. Faced with the challenge of doubling my vegetable and fruit consumption, I’m now aware of how smoothies make it possible to consume several servings of produce early in the day without much fuss. For other meals, I can prepare vegetables more traditionally and enjoy the subtler sensations that arise when cooking and chewing.

In the Feldenkrais Method, we talk about bringing our whole self to our movements, not just isolated parts. In bringing my whole self to mixology, I’m experimenting with ingredients that produce different colors and textures, like an artist mixing paint. For me, this playful process is more fun and fulfilling than either following a foolproof recipe (the outcome of another person’s play), approaching it from a purely nutritional angle and carefully measuring this and that, or trying to achieve a certain taste and feeling disappointed if I can’t.

On Facebook, I created an album called “50(?) Shades of Smoothie”, to inspire me to choose varied ingredients to arrive at as many colors as possible. So far, I’ve posted four photographs with distinct hues. A friend asked if my concoctions taste good. I responded that I would not pay money at a cafe for my creations. Yet, some combinations are better than others, and all would benefit from a more powerful blender that left fewer chunks and lumps. I expect that, over time, as I bring more awareness to what I’m doing, including choice of ingredients, I’ll gradually learn how to improve the outcome while still enjoying the process of discovery. Meanwhile, the greater sense of well-being I’m experiencing makes up for the occasional “meh” smoothie. Drinking them, I can’t help but chuckle that Feldenkrais really does make the impossible possible.


About ilona fried

Writer, Feldenkrais champion, Aikidoka and explorer of internal and external landscapes.


11 thoughts on “Feldenkrais, Food and Self-Image

  1. I have a powerful blender that I’m not using because Randy’s got one, too. Want to borrow it?

    Posted by ziskin | October 16, 2014, 12:26 am
  2. I really love how you’ve incorporated self-image into this process! I think we often don’t make changes we might otherwise make simply because the change does not fit in with who we think we are. It’s also interesting to see how our journeys are coinciding– although thousands of miles apart. I’m in a similar discovery process, and have met people who’ve told me Feldenkrais changed their lives, as well as gluten-free folks who are happier and healthier.
    Fascinating that you’ve experienced better sleep and a clearer head! I’m deeply curious about how gluten interferes with those things. So glad you’re feeling great! I look forward to learning more…

    Posted by Denise Kodi | October 16, 2014, 4:43 pm
    • Thanks, Denise! Yes, who we think we are determines so much, ditto for who we think others might believe us to be if we engage in certain habits or behaviors. For the self-conscious, it can become a house of mirrors! Gluten is an inflammatory, which for me meant that it was mucking up some pathway, somewhere….perhaps one day I will look into it more closely. Glad to know you’re on a journey of discovery, too!

      Posted by ilona fried | October 16, 2014, 7:33 pm


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