Yoga Journal

The Qi of Food

It wasn’t until I stood looking at my reflection in the bathroom mirror, angling my phone out in front of me, that I realized I was crossing a threshold: Of all the post-workout poses and pre-date outfit options sent to friends, the cutesy hellos and—ahem—unmentionables texted to love interests, this would be my most vulnerable selfie since smartphones rendered them commonplace.

But, I reminded myself, this was my idea. And so, after taking a deep breath and finding the best light, I stuck out my tongue, snapped a close-up of it, and hit send.

The day before, Nathalie Basile—the classical Chinese medicine practitioner on the receiving end of my awkward tongue selfie—told me that this particular body part is more revealing than people might realize. It acts as the body’s table of contents, outlining potential health issues to trained eyes like Basile’s. Surveying its color and topography is part of the traditional intake, or initial assessment, that patients undergo in order to have concerns identified and addressed by Basile. Our plans to meet in person for such an intake—which also typically includes measuring the pulse in three places and discussing past and present life circumstances—were interrupted by the rapid spread of COVID-19, and so Basile and I connected remotely. But the selfie, and the unexpected vulnerability hangover it caused, was all for naught: Without the other pieces that Basile uses to put together a puzzle that illustrates a person’s overall health, my tongue photo is as useless as a blender without blades.

the American palate has gone awry. The influx more than a decade ago: Food is out; nutrients—like saturated fat, cholesterol, and carbs—are in. What started as a marketing takeover of supermarket packaging in the 1980s has morphed into a fixation on minerals and chemical compounds, numbers and science, elements of food rather than the food itself. That in turn has bred a slew of cure-alls in the form of restrictive diets meant to optimize our output by limiting our input to anything but carbs or only plants or whatever walked the earth thousands of years ago.

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