I’ve always been a lover of food, though it took some time for me to figure out my relationship with meals and snacks I was eating. I never really thought about what I was putting into my body because I was focused on tastes, particularly the sweet ones. From childhood on, I’ve struggled with sugar, since I love chocolate and homemade baked goods. As I got older, I began to notice a cycle of feeling exhausted, which led to a handful of dark chocolate morsels for a quick pick-me-up, which would inevitably lead to another handful, and then another. ┬áThe next day, in order to compensate, I would go for a long run and beat myself up. What I never addressed was my emotional relationship with food.

A lot of people never do look at that relationship, so I wasn’t alone. The problem for me is that I was a yoga and pilates teacher and a mother. I was helping people make positive changes, and I was a role model for my children when it came to fitness, but inside, I felt like a hypocrite. Here I was encouraging others to tune in and to take care of themselves from the inside out, all while feeding my soul with unsweetened chocolate, sugar, cocoa butter, milk fat, soy lecithin, and vanilla. Yes, I would consume almost an entire 11.5 ounce bag of Ghirardelli 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Chips in one guilty evening.

As much as my body was trapped in a cycle, it also proved to be my way out. The longer I taught, the more my own yoga practice deepened, and my teaching thrived. As I became a better teacher, I also found I could become a better listener to my body and spirit. Louise Hay’s words lived inside of me: “I love myself; therefore, I take loving care of my body… and my body lovingly responds to me with vibrant health and energy.” Listening more intuitively than ever, I found I could tap into my core essence and approach my life with real energy and power.

So what does that look like or what does tapping into a core essence require? Taste is important, but there’s been a big change. Thanks to my work at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, I’ve learned how to see food differently, to see it as not just yummy, sweet or rich, but as nourishing fuel. Chocolate morsels were replaced with hot water and lemon, kale and quinoa, a walk outside in nature with my kids, green smoothies, yoga. Now I know that when I feed myself with whole food goodness, I create a circular flow of energy that fuels and enhances my physical body, my spirituality, my relationships and my career. And I’m excited to see the way this filters down to my children. As I take the opportunity to make carrot-apple-ginger juice with my son, I know I am not only enriching him physically, I am giving him a healthier way of being in the world on so many levels.

Annie Wagoner