I was surprised at the reactions from people after I published my piece. Everyone seemed to have an opinion. My friends and family were incredible; my students seemed to feel empowered.
Overwhelmingly, the Internet response was positive – but there were some seething comments. People were attaching to whatever part of the process they either resonated with or were offended by. The bottom line is the reactions belong to the people, and I tried not to argue with the readers. I allowed myself the space to observe my feelings about their reactions but remain distant enough that I didn't take it on myself. If I don't want to absorb the negativity, I can't become attached to the positivity either. I tried to remain neutral as an observer of my personal experience.
Yes, it feels less then empowering when someone attacks your character when you really want them to look at and own their own thoughts and reactions to the piece. Ultimately, I had to release control of the outcome. It was an art piece and I am speaking from my place of truth. I allow others to do the same. I believe in Freedom of Speech.
The experiment ended in July, and you're back to eating healthfully – though you haven't weighed yourself since then. Has yoga been helpful in taking off the weight?
It's been very helpful, and so has taking nature walks. But I have not given up Mexican food!
What other lessons did you learn?
I thought my identity was about how I treated people and the actions I took to make the world a better place. But those things were only a piece of my identity. I learned that I was – and still am – very judgmental about physical appearance. I was afraid of dying alone – I noticed that was a thought coming into my mind. I'm single, and the thought kept coming in, "You're going to die alone. You're going to die alone." And so I started to see that I had that thought process, that fear of not being loved, even when I weighed much less.
Do you think there's a stigma against overweight people within the yoga community?
I do think that exists because there is a society-wide idealized version of a human being. We've got all those magazine covers – and yoga magazine covers in particular represent an image of a fit and trim yoga teacher or yoga practitioner in general. And yoga aims to get people past that.
What do you hope others take away from this?
I would love for people to see their reactions to what I did – and know that those reactions are more about them than they are about me. I'd also like them to know that it's very helpful to become more self-aware.
[Read: People Changing the Face of Yoga.]