Dandelion Effect Podcast - Beyond Bulimia with Lauren Lewis

Beyond Bulimia with Lauren Lewis

Lauren Lewis is a CO-based yoga teacher, plant-based chef and culinary educator. She headed west from Pennsylvania in 1999 to attend The University of Colorado, Boulder, and quickly fell in love with the mountains, the community and the lifestyle. After college, Lauren attended the School of Natural Cookery, where she discovered the inherent spirit of food, recipes and skills that she’s used in her own healing journey as well as in her service to others.

This conversation is setting the bar high for the third season of the podcast. Lauren and I get very personal, making space for her to tell her story about her 15-year battle with bulimia, an eating disorder characterized by periods of binging and purging. This is the first time she has shared publicly about bulimia and the role it’s played in her life, as well as the first time I share about my relationship to food, body image and a period of undiagnosed anorexia or food controlling.

We talk about honoring the journey towards loving the bodies we have, the challenges we face in today’s society with comparison to unattainable ideals, the long and winding path we take to cherish the forms we are in, to respect them, to love them, and above all, to recognize that each and every one of us is sacred.

While we are not professionals or experts in this field, we are in fact experts of our own bodies and the stories that these bodies live through. I believe that sharing our experiences helps to de-stigmatize and de-shame topics that are otherwise taboo, and that’s what we’re doing today. None of it is medical advice or recovery advice. We are simply two women swapping stories and imagining into a better world where children and teens are supported on their paths.


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Episode Transcript

Lauren Lewis (00:00):

They sent me to some supposedly world class facility that was telling me all the things that they thought they should be telling me about how to heal myself. None of which had any language about self-worth, self-respect, divinity. It all had to do with like food and calories and your esophagus. And, you know, like this piece, that wasn’t gonna be my path. There was no way those details were gonna get me where I needed to be. What I know now is that I needed someone to, to take me to the mountaintop <laugh>, you know, like the, the yoga mat, the ashram, the temple. And like remember that I am worthy of healing and I don’t need to be any different than who I am to deserve love.

Andy Vantrease (01:12):

Welcome to the Dandelion Effect podcast, a space for organic conversation about the magic of living a connected life. Just like the natural world around us, we are all linked through an intricate web, a never-ending ripple that spans across the globe. Here we explore the ideas that our guests carry through the world, remember who and what inspired them along the way, and uncover the seeds that help them blossom into their unique version of this human experience. This podcast is a production of the Feathered Pipe Foundation, whose mission is to help people find their direction through access to programs and experiences that support healing, education, community, and empowerment.

Andy Vantrease (02:03):

Hola, buenas días, bienvenidos! Welcome back to the Dandelion Effect podcast. I am your host, Andy Vantrease, and I’m recording this from the Pacific coast of Mexico where I’m spending the winter learning to communicate in Spanish, soaking in the warmth and humidity of the beach and meeting new people from all over the world who have decided to congregate here for a number of reasons. The town I’m in seems to attract people who are interested in the healing arts, uh, yoga, meditation, music, tantra, art, therapy, dance. You wouldn’t believe how many events are happening each week. So I’ve been really just settling into a rhythm here and testing out different events and offerings.

I attended a Temezcal for the last Full moon, which is akin to a Native American sweat lodge, but much more water involved and it’s held in a permanent structure built from concrete. Uh, I’ve also had body work sessions with traditional healers here, receiving support for my body as it acclimated to the different climate and diet and way of living.

I always have my fair share of incidents or illnesses whenever I travel to another country. And as I get older, I really have to find ways to more smoothly acclimate as well as also realizing that it’s just part of the process of introducing new information to my microbiome and being patient with myself while this magnificent system reorganizes around that. So I promise to keep you all filled in on the noteworthy happenings here in Latin America as things unfold. And I may find myself speaking a little bit of Spanglish just because that’s what tends to roll off the tongue these days. So bear with me and we’ll have fun with it.

Today, I am so excited to introduce you to our podcast guest who is kicking off an entirely new lineup of conversations for the Dandelion Effect. Lauren Lewis is a Colorado based yoga teacher, plant-based chef, and a culinary educator. She headed west from Pennsylvania in 1999 to attend the University of Colorado Boulder, and quickly fell in love with the mountains, the community, the lifestyle. So after college, she attended the School of Natural Cookery where she discovered the inherent spirit of food, recipes and skills that she used in her own healing journey, as well as in her service to others.

You guys, this conversation is setting the bar high for the third season of the podcast. Lauren and I get very personal making space for her to tell her story about her 15 year battle with bulimia, an eating disorder that’s characterized by periods of eating large amounts of food and then purging. So kind of a binging purging cycle. This is the first time she has shared publicly about bulimia and the role it’s played in her life as well as the first time I share about my relationship to food. Um, how that has changed over the years and a period of what I kind of call an undiagnosed anorexia, or at least a very strict food controlling that I went through and how that still shows up in parts of my life today when I feel stressed or I feel imbalanced.

We talk about honoring the journey towards loving the bodies we have, the challenges we face in today’s society with comparison to these unattainable ideals and the long and winding path to cherishing the forms we are in to respecting them, loving them, and above all, recognizing that each and every one of us is sacred. While we are not professionals or experts in this field and neither one of us claim to be, we are in fact experts of our own bodies and the stories that these bodies live through. And I believe that sharing our experiences helps to destigmatize and de-shame topics that are otherwise taboo. And that’s what we’re doing here today.

None of it is medical advice or recovery advice. We’re simply two women swapping stories and imagining into a better world where children and teens are supported on their paths. Please help me welcome today’s guest and my dear friend Lauren Lewis.

Really just starting with your personal story. We grew up like 30 minutes from each other, <laugh>, and here we are, like meet in at the Feather Pipe Ranch, and I only met you this summer, but there was something, there’s like a sensibility, I think like East Coast people can kind of find each other in crowds and I don’t know what it is, it’s like a spidey sense, <laugh> of sorts. But you know, come to find out you grew up in Westchester, Pennsylvania. I’m from Newark, Delaware, very close to each other. I know you grew up in an Italian family. Food was a huge piece of connection and love and storytelling. Kind of just walk me through like who you were as a kid and what you remember about how you began to develop.

Lauren Lewis (06:53):

Hmm. Thank you. It almost makes me teary just to think about that part of my life cuz it feels so long ago. And, um, and your accent, even though you have a very subtle accent, it feels like home to me. So it’s sweet to talk with you about this. Um, I have a an incredible family. My parents are very loving and caring. I have a big brother. He and I had a contentious young part of our relationship and now we’re quite close, but we’ve had to go through a lot and do some work around our relationship. But I grew up in Maryland until I was 11 and then, uh, Pennsylvania until I was 17 when I moved to college in Colorado. And food was a huge part of our life. My mom Russian, my dad Italian, but the Italian is like the dominant side.

Andy Vantrease (07:46):


Lauren Lewis (07:47):

As, as I think most people understand it to be. And so we would gather a lot for holidays and other times of the year and there would just be like this huge focus on food. So my grandmother, she would teach me how to cook, we’d spend a lot of time in the kitchen. My mom the same, and I had this intimate relationship with food and I really got like in my bones that food meant love. Hmm. So that was the foundation. And I think it veered off course at some point, which is where we’ll get to a little more. But this idea of gathering around the table in the spirit of community in storytelling is something that feels like a part of my spirit. And, uh, my grandmother, she used to cook my mom jokes that she would cook for like 50 when there were 12 or something.

Andy Vantrease (08:44):

<laugh> Classic Italian grandmother.

Lauren Lewis (08:46):

Yeah. And then there’d be so much leftovers that she’d just invite everyone back for lunch the next day. So like, literally just so much time like that. And that was really powerful for me. And another part of myself that I think ties into this long journey is that I’ve just been, since I was very little, highly sensitive

Andy Vantrease (09:06):


Lauren Lewis (09:07):

I have this attunement to other people’s experiences that makes me care so much about how they’re feeling. Mm-hmm. That at times it was overwhelming.

Andy Vantrease (09:17):


Lauren Lewis (09:18):

But I was young when I decided animals were something that I probably didn’t want to eat, I was 11. Um, and I just knew, and that was probably my first spiritual path, which was totally supported by my mother, who’s an incredible chef. So I kind of came with this like, familial food is love, like deep nourishment with this high sensitivity. And, and so food was meant to be part of my trajectory.

Andy Vantrease (09:48):


Lauren Lewis (09:50):

And yoga came a little later when I was 18 or so, and I was really off course,

Andy Vantrease (09:57):

Which I think can sometimes happen through big events and sometimes happens just through these little moments, these little decisions that we make, the things that we’re absorbing and soaking in at these really, um, you know, formative times of our lives. How would you begin to describe going from this food was love, like deepen your bones to then veering off course and, and just the, the place of separation from that foundation.

Lauren Lewis (10:29):

I don’t know if I really even conceptualized what you just said until now that like food was love and my angst filled and challenging relationship with it probably had a lot to do with am I worthy of love? Hmm. But I recall becoming aware of my body in a terribly judgmental and shameful way around 10 years old. I just remember for the first time deciding that my body was a source of shame and should be hidden. Um, and that’s pretty young. That’s sad, but I know that a lot of children feel that way now. And there wasn’t a language for it in the culture that I was brought up in. And I, I could probably say that that time period didn’t hold much language for the topic of body love or self-care or self-compassion, but it certainly wasn’t in my circle. <laugh>.

Andy Vantrease (11:32):

Yeah. Yeah.

Lauren Lewis (11:33):

And so never did I get the messaging that how I was was beautiful or maybe I did, but it didn’t sink in like the other messaging, which was this is how a woman should look and skinnier is better. And like, I’m 41 now and I think at the time it was like an indoctrination into this era of, um, like Kate Moss, you know? Yeah. That was like the icon <laugh>. Yeah. Just this totally terrible and unachievable body type

Andy Vantrease (12:08):


Lauren Lewis (12:09):

And so I think that the, the continued messaging from the external, from media paired with the lack of emotional support to truly love ourselves left me using food as like a weapon against myself.

Andy Vantrease (12:26):


Lauren Lewis (12:27):

And so when I was 13, I remember it was Thanksgiving. That was the first time I embarked into something that then became an extreme addiction for very long time. Um, bulimia. It, it took over my life. I thought it was a simple fix and it ended up being something I couldn’t break free from without a massive amount of work.

Andy Vantrease (12:53):


Lauren Lewis (12:54):

I also believe I am grateful for it.

Andy Vantrease (12:57):

Yeah. You can see the gifts in that struggle and in that challenge.

Lauren Lewis (13:01):


Andy Vantrease (13:02):

I wanna go back because I have a similar story around, uh, a little bit later my ideas of what I remember seeing as like an ideal girl body or ideal woman body. I think I was looking at that around like maybe 13, 14, 15. Luckily we were before the age of social media. I mean, that’s a whole other ballgame today. And, and a reason why I think this conversation is important for young people today where there’s just a barrage of pictures, Photoshop, filters, all kinds of things.

But like when we were younger, where was that coming from? Was it like family members saying things? Was it other women in your life? Like you’re, cuz I know for me as like hearing other women in my life talk about parts of their bodies that they hated and then I’m going, I guess I do too. Question mark. I don’t know. <laugh>. Um, but also, you know, forms of media. I remember like sports Illustrated magazines were a big thing that like my older brother had. And thinking like that is a perfect body. Right. Um, so I’m curious for you, like where were you picking up on things?

Lauren Lewis (14:19):

Yeah. I mean, I’ve gone down this road and tried to really pinpoint the sources of pain for me through therapy and stuff. I think that there, there was an inherent belief that like exercise to lose weight, diet to lose weight culture that I was brought up in and I think school and my brother and magazines and friends, this idea, I mean, it did come from all directions. Yeah. And it’s fascinating and terrifying to think about how much more impactful that messaging currently is because of social media.

Andy Vantrease (15:00):


Lauren Lewis (15:01):

That’s, that’s really sad and and scary to think about what kids are dealing with right now that are taking that in 24 7. Really. I, I think I got that messaging from everywhere, but also probably because of my high degree of sensitivity. Like internalized it. Yeah. Really strongly.

Andy Vantrease (15:22):

Yeah. Agreed. I mean, I, I remember in middle school I had switched schools. I went from like a, just an elementary school where it’s like, you know, K through fourth grade you’re like little people, you know? Yeah. You’re just like, not thinking about what this body looks like, not thinking about it at all or thinking about like what it can do. Right. But I remember just being like, I can run fast. We had like these Turkey trots that were like Thanksgiving races and we had field day and I remember just being like proud of my body for being able to run fast. That was like a thing that I was, you know, when I was 9, 10, 11. And then getting into middle school, I went to like a junior high that was, um, seventh and eighth grade. And that being an entirely new world of entering these waters of obviously of puberty and of like how other bodies look and how other bodies are developing.

And really, um, starting to compare myself and start to see like who is getting the attention. And it became a social thing, um, that I observed pretty quickly once getting into that new school. Um, and I think it probably would’ve happened at any school just at that age, it was like, okay, these are the people who are getting the attention. Um, and these are the things that I’m hearing people say about those bodies and why they’re, why they look good, why, you know, they’re attractive. Things like that. And then I can remember going home and like looking at myself in the mirror and being like, man, I don’t look like a woman, but I want to. So it’s just a funky hard period of life. And just the ways that I think we try to deal with those emotions, especially if we are very observant, very sensitive people. I think that’s where like some of these behaviors just become a little bit of an escape or a little bit of like, you know, what, if that’s the ideal, like I’m gonna find a way to get there.

Lauren Lewis (17:29):

Mm-hmm. Totally. Thank you for sharing all of that. And I, I completely relate. Like, I remember having some conversation in the fifth grade bathroom about a girl talking about how she like dropped a size in her pants size and me being like, oh my gosh. You know, I think it’s the continuous messaging, but it’s how far we let it like govern us. That’s the distinction between those of us that take it too far and those that are able to kind of like unscathed make it through. But I think everyone passes through that gate of like self-doubt and body shame, and how do we support younger people in that time period to know that different is beautiful and that there’s no one size or one way of looking. You know, I think that’s where what was missing, almost like a right of passage that supports the belief and the understanding of the diversity and how beautiful that is. Yeah. I think that’s an important time for us to get into schools and to work with kids to really speak to that.

Andy Vantrease (18:45):

Well, and you bringing up right of passage, I mean, just in the last five years I’ve been, um, just had the absolute like gift of participating in women’s circles with a, the, a teacher of mine named Therese Jorlin, who’s in Maine now. I happened to meet her at another like really pivotal moment in my life, um, where I was kind of healing from some pretty deep illness with Lyme disease. But I started doing these women’s circles and just got to hear from and be with women of all ages, reminiscing and talking about this point in our lives of like, what did puberty and teen years look like for them? Um, what did it look like for me? What are the ways that our culture is missing these rights of passage? These thresholds. I mean, one of the ones that we talk about in this women awake course with there is very obviously first menstruation, the plethora of messaging around that and how that is just like such a non celebrated event in our society. But it really is this like tangible physical movement into another phase of life that really deserves support for me, in an ideal world, like any girl getting her first period and moving into this phase of, um, their lives, it’s like, what is the support they need? How can they be surrounded by women who have, you know, gone through it? Yeah. Like, we see you, we hear you. We’ve been there. Yeah. We know that these are the things you might be thinking about. We’re available to talk.

Lauren Lewis (20:36):


Andy Vantrease (20:37):

You know, that to me is like, it’s so missing,

Lauren Lewis (20:41):

So missing. I had zero of that. I mean, I, I don’t recall a single conversation about it. I don’t recall a single conversation about sex or my body or its value and deservingness. I don’t think that I got any messaging that there’s like a sacredness to this vessel. And so that was the journey. It’s how can I go from having zero connection to my body to an adversarial one to actually loving and supporting and nourishing it. I mean that’s, that’s quite a, a road to walk and I know so many of us have had to do that kind of by ourselves. I think it’s a majorly missing piece of our culture.

Andy Vantrease (21:34):

Mm-hmm. Knowing that you are in a much better place now, I’m curious if you can share just pieces that would be helpful for people to hear of, like, what did that look like for you over those years? And, you know, I think it’s important sometimes to talk about the darkness that we have to walk through in order to gain perspective.

Lauren Lewis (21:57):

Mm-hmm. Thanks for creating a space for it. And I haven’t really spent that much time in discussion around this publicly. So it’s new terrain for me to even really speak about. But from 13 to 17, it was a complete secret. It was mine, my secret, you know, no one knew I had a million ways to make sure that no one knew what was happening. And there were all kinds of, you know, secretive behaviors, which left me feeling pretty lonely because really no one fully knew me because no one knew that part of me. And then I think around 17 when I really felt like I did not have control. So what that means or what that looks like is where I’d be like, I don’t wanna do this anymore. I don’t wanna binge and purge anymore. It doesn’t feel good for my body. I’m self-conscious about my teeth.

I don’t know if I look depleted. It feels like it’s wearing me down. And at that point, I think very similarly to other addictions where other people might be familiar with, there’s a desire for it to be over. And then that the skill or the strength to end it isn’t there. So there were, there was a period of time where I was fighting every day to not binge and purge, and yet I wasn’t successful. So at that point I told my parents and they were like, well, we’ll get you help, you know, of course. And they sent me to some supposedly world class facility that was telling me all the things that they thought they should be telling me about how to heal myself. None of which had any language about self-worth, self-respect, divinity, it all had to do with like food and calories and your esophagus.

And you know, like this piece, that wasn’t gonna be my path. There was no way those details were gonna get me where I needed to be. What I know now is that I needed someone to, to take me to the mountaintop <laugh>, you know, like the, the yoga mat, the ashram, the temple. And like remember that I am worthy of healing and I don’t need to be any different than who I am to deserve love. I don’t know what the industry of like rehab is doing now, but at the time it was not useful to me at all. I remember actually feeling angry, like, are you kidding me? You know, some of the things they were saying, they were trying, I think to deescalate the moral ranking of some foods versus others. But they would just talk about like calories or calories. And I think I even knew then the power of healing food based on my lineage.

So I went along with it and, and I went to college and it was terrible. I was terrible in college. I mean, I was going to school, I was getting good grades, I was part of social groups and I was doing all those things that are typical. And I was doing this whole other thing, which was knowing where all the private bathrooms are and not telling any of my friends where I was off to and really still being governed by this addiction. And I would white knuckle through long periods of time without doing it. And I went to a clinic here in Boulder through college that had therapy specifically for eating disorders. So I was trying.

Andy Vantrease (25:35):


Lauren Lewis (25:37):

Um, and there were phases where it would be off, but it really, right when I would think I was almost through it, I would just pop back up again. I remember for years and years and years, I never thought I would ever be free from it.

Andy Vantrease (25:53):


Lauren Lewis (25:54):

There didn’t feel like a possibility of freedom from bulimia. And after college I moved to North Carolina and I was pretty bad there. I was alone at home a lot in between work. And I remember days where it would just be all day, like again and again. And I was just like really suffering.

Andy Vantrease (26:17):


Lauren Lewis (26:18):

The real foundation of the beginning of my healing was when I started to talk about it. Hmm. Um, I think that the shame of that secret held so much power that it didn’t give me the ability to be free or even look at it from a different lens. Yeah. I had a therapist tell me, if you didn’t tell me that part about yourself, I wouldn’t feel like I know who you are because it’s been such a huge part of you.

He suggested that I tell people that I’m bulimic and I remember being so terrified. And what I realized was that every time I told someone, they would either say, me too, or I’ve dealt with similar struggles, or That’s okay. I still love you. And I would say that that was one of the most potent moments of healing where I was like, wow, people still love me even though I’m addicted to binging and purging, people still wanna be close to me. Other people relate. You know, my therapist at the time was like, people do all kinds of crazy stuff to manage stress. And he rattled off like 15 bizarre things, <laugh>. And he is like, yeah. He’s like, so you binge and purge like big

Andy Vantrease (27:41):

Deal. So what? <laugh>

Lauren Lewis (27:43):

Yeah. <laugh>

Andy Vantrease (27:43):

Yeah. Yeah. We need those people to, to just like knock us off this idea that we have, that we’re the only people who are suffering from something in this very specific way. You know, it’s like nobody else will understand, you know, the idea of you telling people and and being surprised that they still love me. Oh my gosh. How could that be? Um, because we’ve just gotten so into the, the depths of the shame. I’m curious of like what it felt like for you if people said, yeah, me too. Did that open up other conversations or was it more of just like a okay, we’re in this together and feeling less alone. Like I’m, I’m curious of how that changed any of your relationships or if that furthered opportunities to like really dig into it.

Lauren Lewis (28:38):

It probably stoked a fire in me that vulnerability is the true pathway to connection.

Andy Vantrease (28:47):


Lauren Lewis (28:47):

And I think I could never look back at bullshitting because I witnessed the humanity of all of us of our, our suffering is at the forefront of our lives often. And so to not be speaking at that level with people just felt untrue. Um, I think it made me want to forge ahead with honesty, like radical honesty in a way that allowed other people to feel seen and felt and loved as they are. And it’s definitely the foundation of my teaching now is to just increase self-compassion while being messy humans.

Andy Vantrease (29:37):


Lauren Lewis (29:37):

You know, we don’t have to wait for perfection or no addiction or no, you know, vices to be deserving of being seen. And so I think that, you know, it keeps coming back to this gift, the magic that lies next to the the wound. Um, but yeah, I think that was probably a pivotal time for me when I started to get that we’re all dealing with something. Everybody is dealing with something.

Andy Vantrease (30:04):

Mm-hmm. I’m glad you brought up too, like that you were getting good grades, you had friendships, you were in couple social circles, like everything on the outside looked normal. Totally. And I think we get so good at hiding that it’s this weird dichotomy of like wanting to hide it so that nobody asks you about it. And then deep down begging somebody to notice something so that they ask you about it. Yeah. And I’ll just share, you know, from my experience, I went through a couple years of, I guess I refer to it as like an undiagnosed anorexia when I was in high school. I got on birth control when I was like 15, I think 15 or 16 for acne <laugh>.

Lauren Lewis (30:55):


Andy Vantrease (30:56):

That didn’t exist. <laugh>

Lauren Lewis (30:58):


Andy Vantrease (30:58):

Um, I think I had like one or two pimples hello puberty, like, and I was just like, oh my God, my face isn’t perfect. I need a fix. So that was what the doctor prescribed. And I remember her saying like, I have to give you a higher dose of a hormone because that’s the one that works on the acne, but like you will gain weight. And I grew up, my experience in my body was that like I could eat whatever and it would burn off and I would stay the same weight. And so I remember thinking to this doctor, like, no, like that’s not gonna happen. I’m not gonna gain weight on this medication. And I gained about 20 pounds in a month when I was like 15 or 16. And it changed everything.

Lauren Lewis (31:48):


Andy Vantrease (31:48):

It changed my entire perception of who I am in a weird way. Like going from like, this was the identity to now this is the identity. It changed the way I just moved in the world and my confidence. And so my immediate reaction was, I have to do something about this. And so I started, I think I started doing Weight Watchers. Remember you could like count, like every food had a point. Yes. And it was like Oprah was doing Weight Watchers and she had lost all this weight and it was like this point system where like, depending on how much weight you wanted to lose, you decided how many points were your goal for probably two years in high school. I used this system and at first it was just like, okay, to lose this extra weight that I had had from this medication. And then it just became totally obsessive where I was eating like a half of an apple as a meal or going for like the higher point like lattes and you know, frappuccinos and stuff.

But like that was what I would consider a meal. And I lost a lot of weight and I remember like friends and family being, you know, worried. Like I could see the worry on their faces, but nobody was saying much. And I actually recently had a conversation with my mom about this somehow it just randomly came up when I was visiting home. And I said, you know, that was a really tough time. And she said, yeah, I was really scared. And I was kind of like, you know, did you wanna say something? And she said, well, like I know what that time is like in girls’ lives and I didn’t wanna make it worse. Like I didn’t know what to say.

Lauren Lewis (33:36):


Andy Vantrease (33:37):

And I think that’s a really honest answer from a mother is like, I, I don’t know what to do. And, and the fear is you don’t wanna make it worse. Right. Um, or you don’t wanna set it off or you don’t want the person you love to go, now I’m going to avoid this person because they’re kind of catching on.

Lauren Lewis (33:55):

Right. Yes, that’s true.

Andy Vantrease (33:57):

Um, you know, in hindsight looking back, is there something that you can pinpoint of? Like what would have felt helpful?

Lauren Lewis (34:05):

Yeah, that’s a tough question. I, I had a similar experience as you when I was young and I started, I lost a lot of weight fast and what happened there, which is what not to do, <laugh>, is that everyone was complimenting my body. I mean, so much so that it was so validating that I think it just drove the pattern deeper. Like, you look so good, you’ve lost some weight. I could snap you like a chicken bone. Like…

Andy Vantrease (34:37):

Why would I want to be smacked like a chicken bone?

Lauren Lewis (34:40):

Yeah. Like why? Oh so crazy to me that we put our and and yo I’m currently leading a yoga teacher training and talking about yoga bodies and like, what does that mean? And, and, and we’re just talking about how we shouldn’t be putting our words on people’s bodies period at all. Yeah. Good or bad. Gained weight, lost weight, clear skin acne. Like we don’t need to talk about people’s bodies. And so I think that that’s, you know, so often when someone loses weight in our culture, people comment on it as a positive, like a compliment. We really have no idea what they’re dealing with.

Andy Vantrease (35:18):


Lauren Lewis (35:19):

And we don’t need to be validating weight loss or talking about weight gain. It’s just like not part of the conversation. And I think there should be more discipline around that culturally because it’s damaging. Um, and it, that was really impactful to me at the time.

I was so young and it was the first time that anyone was commenting on my looks. And so I would say not to do that is really important. Not to compliment, be really mindful talk about, and, and there’s conversation about this now cause I’m a parent and I can hear, um, you know, how we can tell children that they look strong or they’re healthy or they’re focused or they’re smart or they’re compassionate, but we don’t have to talk about their bodies. And then also I agree, I had a similar situation where I don’t think that my family had the skills to talk to me about it, but I, I do think that ignoring when there’s a clear indication that there’s an issue is not helpful. I think even if it’s a really hard conversation and there’s a risk of a breakdown from it, there still needs to be a conversation.

Seeking consult in an expert is a fine action step. They don’t have to go directly to the person without research. But there are many people that are experts in this field. And so reaching out to a therapist and saying, I think that my child, or I think that my friend is dealing with this, what’s the best next step is really important. I think also just really an open dialogue about the diversity of bodies, like showing, literally like showing images of these are all the different ways that women’s bodies look and they’re all beautiful.

Andy Vantrease (37:07):


Lauren Lewis (37:07):

Um, that’s missing I think. And so those things help. And then the last thing that I’m thinking of is just the de shaming of it. Like yeah. I guarantee you that people that were close to me at that time had in their own ways had similar struggles at some point. And so to name it, like, oh my gosh, I had this problem too. Or I thought that was a good idea, but it turned out to be really problematic or whatever. But going into the fire and not turning our backs from it and almost just assuming that young people today are dealing with this rather than assuming the opposite because Yeah.

Andy Vantrease (37:51):


Lauren Lewis (37:52):

It’s coming from everywhere.

Andy Vantrease (37:53):

That’s a good point. And just, and kind of like getting ahead, being aware enough as, as a parent or just, you know, if you’re working with this age group of people, like being aware that this is nothing new, but the ways that the messaging are coming through are, and more, I would say more pervasive. You know, even conversations like this where it’s like, I don’t have children, you know, I have a, a nephew and a niece that I’m already thinking about. Like what are those conversations gonna look like and how to get ahead of them bringing it up and positioning myself as an ally, as somebody that they can come to with whatever it is that they’re going through. And I think sometimes that is hard to do with parents and why, you know, going back to kind of that ideal setup of having other adults in your life, having other aunties and family friends and things like that where it’s a li it can be a little bit removed, whether it’s a teacher or a therapist or any, anything like that where it’s like somebody that they can lean on and talk to.

Lauren Lewis (38:59):

Yeah. That’s beautiful.

Andy Vantrease (39:00):

And like them, I, you know, for me, I feel like one of the big things, even just now as an adult, like one of the things that’s hard for me to do is to be the one to bring up something scary. Yeah. I’ve had some conversations like this recently, even just with friends, how important it is for people to say like, how are you doing?

Lauren Lewis (39:20):


Andy Vantrease (39:21):

Because then I feel like it’s the open door to say, well actually <laugh>, can I talk to you about something? Or actually, can I share something with you with younger people, you know, something similar. I, I’m not an expert in any of this, but I’m just thinking some, something similar could be helpful being that proactive participant in their lives.

Lauren Lewis (39:42):

Yeah. That’s beautiful. I think mentorship and, and having that one step removed confidant is, is really a beautiful pathway to getting that kind of support. I think that’s a really good idea. And those of us that are connected to children like you with your, you said niece and nephew.

Andy Vantrease (40:00):


Lauren Lewis (40:01):

Um, and me with my son, but also kids that are his friends to take our role seriously. You know, and, and, and I think when I think about that, I think about how busy we all are, <laugh> and um, you know, I have nieces and nephews and I could do a better job of being there for them. And I think maybe just culturally, you know, prioritizing these children that are growing up in this really challenging time and holding space for them is something that any of us that have the bandwidth to do could do more.

Andy Vantrease (40:35):


Lauren Lewis (40:35):

My son, um, so he’s eight and he’s pre-indoctrination <laugh>. The other day he was upstairs with me and he said, mom, when I grow up am I gonna have a soft body like you or a hard body like my dad? And I was like, well, I don’t know, it depends on a lot of things. And he was like, I sure hope I have a soft body like you. And I thought, gosh, like the truth of it is there’s no good or bad, you know, it’s just that, that that’s how he sees me as like perfect. And I mean there’s a lot of healing in that, but also just like the, the pureness of the innocence of there’s no better or worse. There’s, you know, I mean soft feels good to him. So it’s so fascinating to see from the eyes of a child before the system takes over before the ideas that are completely fabricated by culture get into their brains. I mean the innocence is so beautiful.

Andy Vantrease (41:39):

Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. And like you said, so healing for you to receive that it, those are such words of love from him. Totally. You know, and like yeah, this is okay. This is not only, okay, this is like, this is our nature.

Lauren Lewis (41:55):


Andy Vantrease (41:57):

I, I was talking to a friend just on Facebook yesterday about just being excited for this conversation and he’s actually somebody I had on the podcast, his name is Gary Lemons. Um, I think he was in season one and he’s like, yeah, that is such an important conversation to have. He said, “As the body grows in importance, the spirit shrinks the walk, I think is to hold them both together since they already are in love.”

Lauren Lewis (42:22):

Wow. That’s beautiful.

Andy Vantrease (42:24):

He’s a poet. <laugh>

Lauren Lewis (42:25):

I can see that

Andy Vantrease (42:26):

Literally by profession. Um, and I just, I love this idea that he brings up because you know, I think certainly when some of us turn towards yoga and start to really, um, deepen and strengthen the, the spirit and the soul, you know, that’s inside of these bodies, I think it can help with holding, you know, those two things in balance or starting to have the understanding that yes, this body is the vessel with which I experience life, but this is nowhere near all there is.

Lauren Lewis (43:05):


Andy Vantrease (43:06):

And the idea that the spirit and the body are love and can be in love together, that just makes me smile. That just makes me like, wow, that’s possible. It really is possible, you know, as far as I know, you consider yourself to be like, have overcome bulimia and have really worked on having this deep relationship to, to spirit and to soul and to yourself.

Lauren Lewis (43:37):


Andy Vantrease (43:37):

Um, I’d love to hear about how yoga has played a part on that journey and if you wanna bring in the, the side of you as a chef, um, cuz I think that’s played a pivotal role as well.

Lauren Lewis (43:48):


Andy Vantrease (43:49):

Um, just curious what you wanna share about that piece of it and those tools that you’ve learned and that you use currently.

Lauren Lewis (43:58):

Yoga and cooking were the two tools that allowed me to fully heal and they are so similar. Um, from my perspective, there’s this, uh, ability to tap into intuition in the kitchen and on the map that allows us to move in a way that’s in unison or in our best interest of wellness. They kind of started at the same time for me, like the reclaiming of my body and my relationship to food. But after college I went to culinary school and the school I went to had a lot to do with how food became a healing thing for me after school. I, after college graduated with sociology degree was like, what am I gonna do? I still loved cooking and I had a pretty intimate relationship with the food cuz I did a lot of <laugh> experimenting with eating things and not, and then, uh, purging.

And it was just this thing in my life that was so frequent. Like all of us eat three meals a day. And so it felt like a good starting place for me. Um, and I was good at cooking. It was something that I was raised with. And so I went to a culinary school called the School of Natural Cookery. And the School of Natural Cookery was founded on macrobiotic belief systems and macrobiotic means great life. So it’s an energetic principle driven way of looking at food. It’s not just about like French cuisine or…

Andy Vantrease (45:38):


Lauren Lewis (45:39):

Cooking methods, but how something grows, how it grows with the environment, how it impacts your body. I mean, I remember learning about wanting to use the entirety of a vegetable from like the root, like the celery root holds fire energy cuz you cook it for longer, so that’s better to eat in the winter.

And then the celery that grows at the top holds that young sun energy, so you don’t need to cook it that much. And so it was really driven by traditional Chinese medicine and principles of macrobiotics. And so there was this spirit access to food or vantage point. I remember one of my mentors saying, food has spirit and it has the ability to open and us up to the world, which includes the earth, our lineage, the seasons, our bodies, our community, the farmers, or it can close us off. And I know that food had been closing me down for a long time, but what if I could access my spiritual self through falling in love with what’s growing seasonally, with cooking, with care, with using a pressure cooker. Like if you cook with, for someone that’s Vata and Ayurveda or like ungrounded, he would like pressure cook or roast or slowly simmer where if you’re cooking for someone that’s like earth and um, Kapha and like needs some energy would boil or boil their quinoa and do like raw vegetables mixed in.

And so there was this, these principles that were so fascinating to me that that path of cooking became a new way of looking at food that was healing. And then it completely tied into my yoga education. And a few years before I had found my way into a yoga class at a gym and just stumbled in. And I remember doing a heart opener and crying and being like, what the hell just happened? Like why would I cry when I do a heart opener? I literally didn’t know that my body held energy.

Andy Vantrease (47:48):


Lauren Lewis (47:49):

I mean that’s how disconnected I was at that time. Maybe 18, 19 years old. And I was like, whoa, this is holding a lot and maybe there needs to be some liberation. And so those two modalities at the same time really as the center focus of my whole existence, I started to professionally cook.

Um, I cooked for many people that were healing from cancer or new moms or different health conditions and I literally could see that the food was healing them. And also you could go into someone’s cabinet and I learn this through my mentors and see that they have all the right food, literally all organic, perfectly locally grown. And then you look at that they’re in a terrible relationship or a job that’s sucking them dry. And so this matrix of wellness really comes from joy and willingness to receive pleasure and ability to take time to nourish ourselves in an equal amount of good effort and rest. And there was just so much overlap in the yogic practice and the practice of cooking, healing, and therapeutic food that those two things became so passionate to me and I applied them to myself. I was like case number one.

And I just started making it to the mat. And I would say that when I first started getting on my yoga mat, I found a teacher that completely shifted my language and belief systems around the word God. I had grown up in a Catholic, eh, not really, but like I would say if anything Catholic household, my grandmother, the Italian one who sparked my love of food in a way along with my mom. She would take me to church and I was just like, what is this? I remember loving being there because I was next to her holding her hand and hating being there cause it was scary to me.

Andy Vantrease (49:49):


Lauren Lewis (49:49):

And so as I got older, I started to think that God was, that that was what God meant. And, and so I couldn’t even let the word in my vocabulary without resistance. And then my teacher started to speak of the word God as like the God of your understanding.

Like is that for me, maybe nature at that time I was in Colorado and spending a lot of time outdoors or community, like the spirit of community could be God. But for me to open back up to that idea of divinity allowed me to believe that that resided within me as well.

Andy Vantrease (50:28):


Lauren Lewis (50:29):

So I could internalize the sentiment of the practice knowing that if that’s God, if you are God, if you hold that like spark as do I, there’s no way I want to put that flame out. You know, it’s, it’s worth staying lit. So it’s a slow process, but I think getting to the mat and just observing the patterns the way I spoke to myself so frequently that were so depleting and so cruel and just over time using that muscle of almost like strengthening my ability to quell that language in exchange for just breath. It didn’t even have to be like the opposite then that. Yeah. It was just more like in the moment breath. So those were kind of the pathways that led me, you know, now 20 plus years later to making food and yoga my entire life. <laugh>

Andy Vantrease (51:30):


Lauren Lewis (51:31):

Because I believe so fully in their healing power.

Andy Vantrease (51:34):

Yeah. And it’s just such this age old sentiment of like somebody cooking for you or somebody you know, when you’re sick or I even think of just like the seed of your own self-worth.

Lauren Lewis (51:47):


Andy Vantrease (51:48):

Like you saying, like, if you are God and I’m God and I can feed this other person to help them and I can feed myself to help me.

Lauren Lewis (51:55):


Andy Vantrease (51:56):

I’m worth that.

Lauren Lewis (51:58):


Andy Vantrease (51:59):

Like was that a pretty big piece to kind of get you over the, not o I don’t wanna, I don’t like the language of like you getting over something, but just really integrating.

Lauren Lewis (52:08):

Definitely. I mean, I still believe that service is one of the most healing things we can do for ourselves as well as the world by feeding others. It fed me

Andy Vantrease (52:20):


Lauren Lewis (52:20):

But I also think that just relating to food so simply is a form of nourishment. Just like movement as a form of nourishment. Were completely 180 from how I used to look at it, which is food you’re at war with and you move your body to change your body, you know, so this idea of just being in union with breath and chewing your food and tasting it and thinking about who grew it and what parts of my body is it gonna really supply energy for and, and therefore my life, those were all ways to integrate toward healing. And it’s an ongoing journey. I think becoming a parent was a really big, big part of the kind of new perspective on life that has become this way of putting someone else so fully in front of me that I have to be, be as strong as I can. <laugh>

Andy Vantrease (53:26):


Lauren Lewis (53:27):

I have to.

Andy Vantrease (53:28):

Mm-hmm. Um, and wasn’t your pregnancy a big turning point for you as well? Of just the feeling of growing this human inside of you? Like, I have to treat my body differently. This, this person needs me to do something different?

Lauren Lewis (53:44):

It totally was for me, it changed everything. I mean, that was, in those days I was still, you know, struggling. I would say I’ll forever have a smidge of that piece of myself. I don’t know that it’ll ever be clear where I just look at my body with more critique than is healthy. But those days I was still doing it more than I do now. And I would say when I became pregnant with my son, it just, it was a real wake up call that my body was no longer mine and I have a pretty easy time of taking care of other people. And so it was almost like a two for one <laugh>.

Andy Vantrease (54:28):

Yeah. You know, one of the things that I definitely wanna make sure that we can slip in here is that idea, like, I’m so glad you just said, there’s always going to be these pieces, these thoughts. I don’t even wanna call them negative. I think seeing things outside of the duality is really helpful, at least for me to understand myself. So I’m, I’m not trying to project that on you, but just in my own mind, like I think there’s really interesting conversations and research these days surrounding what is addiction, why the addictive behaviors and what’s at the root of it? And if we change the relationship of what’s at the root of it, then how do the behaviors change.

Lauren Lewis (55:14):


Andy Vantrease (55:15):

If we change the environment, how does that change? Like, there’s all of these different factors and it’s so beautiful that you’ve, you know, you kind of have this holistic approach of the spirit of food, the physicality of food, the movement piece, the awareness of like how healthy are your relationships, the awareness of who are you as a mother and as a parent. There’s just like all of these pieces in this whole view of what is wellness, what is health.

Lauren Lewis (55:45):

I will probably forever have to tend to cultivating a sense of self-love and disciplined practices that keep me steady. I have had therapists, I think I mentioned you this to you call it like the, the potential for whack-a-mole <laugh>, like that visual of like the arcade game where you’re like, wow. And then the other one pops up and you’re like, oh. So like, I just kind of keep watching because I’ve seen it pop up in other ways with my relationship with alcohol, my relationship with exercise, I, I can see that I have this ability within need to go too far with things. And so self-awareness, saada, yada, this like idea that we continue to show up and look at where we might be out of balance and then use the discipline of our practices to just stay on track. And some people have an easier time with staying on track than others.

Andy Vantrease (56:42):


Lauren Lewis (56:44):

I, I do not think that I will ever, as far as I’ve come regress to where I started, but I don’t think that the path is linear by any means. And I think allowing ourselves to regress from time to time in small and big ways without holding shame there.

Andy Vantrease (57:00):


Lauren Lewis (57:01):

You know, knowing that we’re all doing the best that we can in the moment. And, um, I think that the more that we can find forgiveness for our moments of indiscretion, whatever that looks like, the healing comes faster. It’s, it’s decreasing the shame that’s the source of the upward growth.

Andy Vantrease (57:23):


Lauren Lewis (57:24):

And so I think just, just really shifting our expectation to know that never, ever is, are things gonna be completely perfect for anyone, you know? And yeah. And also realizing that like, I’ve built skills and practices for so long that are my anchors and if I don’t have them for a few days I’m fine. But that they’re there for a reason because they support my wellness. And so not feeling guilty about taking what you need in terms of making it to the mat or getting on a hike or pausing or taking some personal space or a bath or whatever those things are that like call you back. I think in this busy, busy world, sometimes we feel guilty for those simple self-care rituals that are really the things that allow us to go back into the world and do the work that is meaningful to us.

Andy Vantrease (58:16):

Yeah, that’s beautiful. You know, you have talked about, you know, these experiences and these challenges as a gift and as a teacher and in no way do I wanna participate in like glorifying certain experiences, but I do believe that our path is the teacher and it’s unfolding in specific ways to bring us where, you know, where we are today. So what are the ways that you feel like your path has prepared you for the teacher that you are today, the person that you are today? Like what are those gifts that you’ve been given?

Lauren Lewis (58:56):

Thank you for asking that. And I would say that one of the things that feels so supportive to me gives me the ability to hold space for others is my family. I have a, like a sense of foundation that’s feels really supported still. My parents are going to pick my son up while we talk. Right now there’s just this held-ness that I have through it all, but I think that the pain of my personal struggles have helped me really feel deep compassion for others that are going through pain. I think that my sensitivity, which has been a blessing and in a curse, it allows me to, to care so much about the people that I’m working with or the yoga students that I’m sharing this practice with, that I show up and serve like from my heart center. I think my gift is compassion. I have a well of it inside of me.

I cry when others cry. I feel their pain. It’s my strength. And so every part of my journey has given me the wherewithal to hold a steady seat and a container. I feel really blessed and lucky to have found this path kind of organically. I would say yoga saved me and it’s almost like my responsibility to share it with others. It’s not something I’m choosing as much as it chose me in a way to pass along. And I’m just this young teacher really in so many ways, but this ancient wisdom has served so many and so I just feel like a total privilege and honor around getting to share it. The food piece is very similar. I learned from mentors who learned from mentors and it’s come from so far down, but the sentiment around the nourishment that we can bring to each other through wholesome good local food that’s meant for our bodies to do our work in the world. I think I just kind of stumbled down this road one step at a time, but I know for sure that I love what I do so much that it can’t be wrong.

Andy Vantrease (01:01:18):

Mm-hmm. You’re 41, you know, you’ve been through a lot of life. What messages do you have for teenagers, for people who might be, you know, struggling with something similar, um, or going through something similar to what you shared today?

Lauren Lewis (01:01:34):


Andy Vantrease (01:01:35):

Um, what do you, you know, want them to know from somebody who has been there?

Lauren Lewis (01:01:40):

You’re not alone, that you’re worthy of love. You exactly as you are, are deserving and that the world doesn’t need more of the same <laugh>. We need each person to shine their own unique light and walk their own unique path. And so to celebrate, to try to find those things about ourselves that are worthy of celebration and to seek help. There’s so much life to live, you know, and, and to de shame, to deescalate provides access to freedom. And then allowing that like deep connection to self be the foundation of connection to others, to this planet, to all the beings that live on this planet. It continuously comes back to what’s happening in the privacy of our own hearts. That is the foundation for being of service in the world.

Andy Vantrease (01:02:53):

Lauren Lewis, A brave example that people can overcome, even some of the deepest patterns and habitual behaviors. Her personal growth and transformation is so inspiring to me because it proves that we can change our lives, we can dig ourselves out of the unwanted holes we sometimes find ourselves in, and we can also be loved and worthy every step of the way.

This conversation showed me that I too have been through a lot when it comes to loving my body and while I feel angry that so many of us have these similar challenges, as it clearly represents an unfulfilled need in our society. I also feel grateful to make spaces for these discussions and sharing opportunities where we can get some of our experiences out in the open to begin the process of unpacking and processing.

To learn more about Lauren’s work, visit laurenlewisyoga.com where you can find information about upcoming retreats, including her week-long workshop at the Feathered Pipe Ranch. Her Boulder-based yoga classes, as well as all of her online offerings.

A special thank you to Matthew Marsolek and the Drum Brothers, whose music you hear at the beginning and end of this podcast, as well as Dr. Jean Shinoda Bolen, who first turned us on to the phenomenon of the Dandelion Effect and how ideas move through the world.

This podcast is a production of the Feathered Pipe Foundation, a 501c3 dedicated to healing, education, community and empowerment. If you’d like to help support this project, please visit FeatheredPipe.com/gratitude or leave a review on Apple podcasts and share with your friends. Be sure to tune in to our next episode in two weeks. We cannot wait to share another amazing conversation with you. Until then, have a beautiful day!

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