Yo, What's in Your Lunch Box, Yoga Teacher?

“How the hell should I eat to sustain a yoga practice?” Yogis want to know.

They ask what I eat, how it affects my yoga practice and the reverse. I’m your average shaped Wisco woman, a sturdy hourglass. Not sleek. But strong. I was born this way.

Let’s look off the mat, outside the studio (’cause what happens in the studio stays in the studio). At the risk of sounding desensitized, I’ve grown weary of personalities whining about their body shame, first worldly eating disorders and sniffling over their insecurities. You want to feel better? Do some f*cking pushups and eat three squares. You’re not broken. You’re He-Man. You’re She-Ra. Put some bass in your voice and ride into the sunset.

Growing up, my family had little money and limited  access to exotic foods (there’s no Trader Joe’s in Porterfield, WI). However, my mom was an excellent cook. She was preparing organic food before organic was the shizzle. Produce came from our garden. It got washed under the hose outside with cold well water. To this day I’ve never tasted water so good as that hose flavored water.

When my dad brought home groceries though, here’s what he’d pull out of the bag: Lil’ Smokies, Hostess Fruit Pies, blue Kool-Aid, cheapo bacon, pounds of bratwurst, white bread, and his favorite; a block of Velveeta. My brother and I cheered when dad was the one sent to shop.

Behold. The mystery cheese.

That’s a party. But it's not fuel. I couldn't eat that way now. I’d go to yoga and feel like a hooker in church. (If I ever start a band it shall be called Hookers in Church.) For reals, everyone around me is raw, vegan, fasting, caveman dieting, or cleansing. Guess I take a slice from each of those pies to make my own.

What makes my body machine content? The list gets more streamlined with each passing season. A simple vegetarian diet nurtures my nature. Remember Yukon Cornelius from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer?

Can you hear the wonder that is my facial hair?

Upon debating the merits of pea soup versus peanut butter, Yukon said to Rudolph, “You eat what you like and I’ll eat what I like.” Words to live by, Yukester.

Now I’ll awkwardly list what I eat in a single day.

S  U  N  D  A  Y

Brefix of Champions

One big slice of organic sourdough whole wheat toast, halved & slathered with one T almond butter. The almond butter is locally made and I get it from the nut robot contraption at Willy Street Coop.

Smoothie in a stemless wine glass (because I like my breakfast pretty): Splash of almond milk (unsweetened vanilla), 1/3 cup of organic extra pulp orange juice, 6 frozen cantaloupe cubes, 6 fresh blackberries, 6 frozen raspberries. 6-6-6. The devil made me do it.

Purple seedy smoothie is here to make you feel gay and buoyant.

3 cups of black coffee. Sure that’s beaucoup caffeine. Like Rizzo say, there are worse things I could do.

More coffee? That’ll loosen your bowels.

Brunch: (Brunch trumps lunch.) Small bowl of tabouli which is made of: tofu, quinoa, parsley, scallions, carrots, celery, mint leaves, and lemon juice. I ate this before teaching though, and MacGyvered the breath situation by lodging a mini-Altoid in my craw for 75 hot minutes.

Water. Chug-a-lug.

Half a fresh cantaloupe, chunked. The season’s almost over and I’m getting some while it’s good.

Curried Cantaloupe | Image  by Ricardo DeAratanha

If you want to heat up your plain jane melons, try this Curried Cantaloupe Slaw recipe from latimes.com.


Half bag of popcorn (nothing weird or greasy on it, just a lil’ salt). I’d love an air-popper to make my own. Hopefully Mr. Marlino will read this and get my subtle hint.

Three dried figs. They are so chewy and sweet. The seeds explode between your teeth like Pop Rocks on steroids.

Dinner for a Hungry Yogi

A generous portion of all organic homemade baked (by my husband!) salsa polenta strata: Thinly sliced polenta, black beans, black olives, hot salsa, fire roasted crushed tomatoes, sprinkled with just enough shredded sharp local cheddar.


Sparkling lime water (unsweetened)

Dessert (I eat dessert every night because I love it and it loves me.)

Half a toffee almond milk Chocolove bar. I know dark chocolate is all the rage, but I want a sweet to melt on my tongue so it’s gonna be milk chocolate. I get enough antioxidants, merci. Plus, this one has a love poem inside the foil wrapper.

From ‘Astrophil and Stella’

What kind of day is this for me? Typical. It's how I’ve eaten for years. The only things that vary are alcohol and dining out. When I’m practicing a lot of heated yoga (I take class 5 or 6 days a week) I have about two drinks a week and don’t go out to eat. But if it’s date night or a holiday I eat and drink whatever the hell I want wherever the heck I like. I hope you do too. YOLO.

I’m a purty solid vegetarian, but will make an exception if you offer me a meaty bite of something really wholesome and rich. Maybe I eat fish three times a year. I’m not necessarily an animal lover. Animals are groovy and am certain they want to be left alone. I admire their wild majesty from afar.

Here’s my beef with meat: If I don’t know how an animal came to my plate, whether it lived in tidy humane conditions, I won’t chew it. I avoid eggs. The ones available in most stores here smell funny cooked. My nose says, “Don’t put this in yer mouth, woman.”

If my family kept our own chickens and allowed them to live pampered pastured lives, why then I’d whip up eggy soufflé  and chop their heads off for fricassee every week. Or maybe I’d keep putting walnuts and pistachios in my pastas instead of animal proteins. It’s no political statement. For me, it’s about taste.

Can I get a cluck-cluck? I’m a rumpless Aruacana hen. I lay blue eggs. Whatchu got?

Don’t get me wrong. If my mom offered me a helping of her homemade (beefy) lasagna, or an omelette (yes, we had chickens) or a goddamn chicken pot pie, I’d eat it and like it. She’s come a long way from living in the sticks with no cable tv. Mom’s got a master’s degree, is an overworked full-time county social worker but she still makes tiramisu. From scratch. It’s a baked custard cake with espresso-soaked, boozy ladyfingers, dusted with cocoa. Tiramisu in the Italian means ‘pick me up.’ Obviously.

My unsolicited advice to you? Don’t waste time or risk your health on fad diets. Practice yoga most days of the week if you crave it. Ride your bike in good weather if it doesn't hurt your ass. If it does, get a squishy seat. Enjoy robust health and sleep enough so you feel like car-singing on your commute.

Your family, your friends, your fellow yogis may opine on what you eat. Haters gon’ hate and lovers gon’ love. Break bread not hearts. Try weird foods. Anthony Bourdain offers plenty of bizarro gastro inspiration.

Nourish your senses in a way that’s sustainable for a whole life. I plan to eat, drink and live this way for the rest of my time on this planet.

What do you feed your belly?

Does it look like this boss street art?

Image from dipity.com
Image from flickr.com

Tagged under: health, Wellness
Hally marlino

Hally Marlino is a blue collar yoga teacher and writer from Madison, WI. She's a spirituality skeptic with a BA in Theatre Performance from UW-La Crosse. Years ago, she held a low rank in the U.S. Army. When she’s not teaching freestyle vinyasa around the isthmus, you’ll find her bike-riding and beer-appreciating with her family. Hally is exactly half ballerina, half professional wrestler. C...READ MORE