One day it just clicked. I felt a shift.
February 2017. I was in the very early stages of my pregnancy and I remember walking to Belsize Park station from South End Green in Hampstead London where we used to live. I don’t remember quite what it was but I started feeling a little anxious and uncomfortable and then my mind went straight to food, as it always did.
With eating disorders, it isn’t about the food at all. Food is meant to be savoured. Food is there to nourish and energise our bodies and minds. In the case of binge eating however, food is simply used as a drug. Just like alcohol, cocaine, heroin, or even our smartphones, food causes a rush of dopamine, "the feel-good chemical", in the brain. Cue addiction...
Somewhere along the way, my mind lost its ability to deal with or handle discomfort and unease, and the only way it knew how to seek pleasure, to fix the problem or numb it, was to shift its attention to food. This time though, on that cold winter morning, it was different. It was different because I actually noticed it all happening. I noticed it almost as if it was in slow motion. And then boom, I suddenly and somehow shifted my mind away from food and I started to breathe deeply and feel into my body. I almost want to use the word “magically” in that sentence, but the truth is there was nothing magical about it. This shift, this breakthrough was as a result of lots of work, lots of hard frickin work, lots of yoga, lots of sweat, lots of tears, some therapy and lots of honest conversations with myself. That moment is engrained in my memory because it marked the beginning of a new relationship, a new loving relationship with myself, my body and food. Two and a half years later, a baby, sleep deprivation and 2 house moves later, and I have not binged since. I have not turned to food and rummaged the kitchen cupboards to numb myself. I have not turned to food when I have felt dissatisfied or unfulfilled or worried or lost. I have not turned to food. I have not turned to food.
We can shift the way our brains work, I am living proof of that. In my classes, we work slowly, strongly and deeply for this exact reason. I practice and teach long holds so that our minds can learn new and powerful ways of working through discomfort and unease, with deep breathing at the core of it. Discomfort and unease are manifested in a number of ways in our yoga practice and here are just a few that I have noticed in my students' practice and in my own. Some of us fidget, some of us find it is the perfect time to fix our hair or check our manicure, or some of us might even choose to come out of the pose altogether. When I realised all of this, I started noticing what it is I did to escape the moments of discomfort in a pose. I then would make the conscious choice to be still and take even deeper, bigger breaths. One tool I have found especially helpful in those moments is the lion's breath. Often when we feel unease, it can be coupled with a feeling of stuckness and blockage, so by releasing the breath in that way, we help to release and shift the stuck energy. Lion's breath can also give us a sense of empowerment which is frickin awesome. For those not familiar with this breathing exercise, here's how it goes: Inhale through your nose. Exhale strongly through the mouth, making a roaring "haaah" sound. As you exhale, open your mouth as wide as you can and stick your tongue as far out as possible towards your chin. Try it out, it feels damn good.
I never thought this could ever be possible. I never thought I would ever be capable of creating such a beautiful relationship with food. Or maybe I did? Maybe I knew I was capable and that’s how I got to here, now. I could picture what it looked like. A life where I felt free, free from the crutches of my mind, free from worrying about what I looked like ALL THE TIME. I learned to love myself enough to know that I deserved it. If we want something badly enough, and are ready to not be afraid, we are capable of anything we put our minds to. Here’s the thing, if we want to achieve something, I strongly believe that we must first and foremost truly believe that we deserve it, that we are worthy of it. That is the vital piece of the puzzle. Well, from my perspective at least...