We are constantly influenced by messages that tell us what to do, when to do it and how, overriding our body’s desires – especially considering food and pleasure. When it comes to food choices, self love should be void of this restrictive, mind-oriented diet mentality. Rather, focus on connecting to your body’s wisdom – what is it really asking for?
A guest blog by dietetic intern Isabelle Carren-Le Sauter
Working with Anastasia, I have been recently introduced to the Ayurvedic tradition and its personalized recommendations for maintaining health and happiness. As a soon-to-be dietitian, the nutritional recommendations were most interesting to me, and right from the beginning I realized how intuitive they are. Of the three doshas, or personality-types, the kapha dosha tends to be very solidly built, calm, stable and strong. However, when someone who is primarily kapha is out of balance, they tend to oversleep, become congested, and feel unmotivated. I instantly connected: This is me. When I feel this way, I seek comfort food; I crave pastries and Mac and cheese, heavy foods in large portions. Though there is nothing inherently wrong with these foods, the Ayurvedic tradition would argue that eating heavy food will only allow a kapha to sink deeper into their kapha-ness, while eating opposing foods such as lightly sautéed leafy greens over a bed of whole grains, or going for an energizing walk will bring you out of what I think of as the “kapha funk.” Intuitive, right?
In addition to describing personality types, the three doshas also have primary seasons. We have just entered Pitta season, which ranges from mid-June to mid-October. When out of balance, pittas tend to be fiery, prone to sarcasm, irritability and easy overheating: all things which can be exacerbated by the sticky, hot weather at this time of year. Even people without much pitta in their constitution can begin to feel irritable and easily frustrated when the weather turns hot. But an in balance, pitta is focused, energetic, organized and creative, and to return to these wonderful qualities, here are a few simple tips:
- Stay Fresh: Seek out ripe fruit for a light, delicious, and refreshing snack that will quench your hunger and your thirst without weighing you down. Watermelon, mango, grapes and apples are all great choices. Water-laden vegetables such as cucumber, carrots, zucchini, and leafy greens are also recommended. Sautee, blanch, or steam them briefly, and add cooling herbs and spices like mint, fennel, dill and coriander.
- Avoid heavy foods and flavors: A hearty butternut squash curry may sound extremely appealing after a long day out in the snow, but a steaming hot stew on an 85 degree day may just get your blood boiling. Try to avoid heavy, greasy foods, as well as sour, spicy or salty foods such as citrus, unripe fruit, sour cream, cayenne, chiles, and pickles or other condiments.
- Don’t Shock the System: While an ice-cold beverage may seem like just the thing to cool you down, the Ayurvedic tradition cautions against this because instead of calming the digestive fire, it may just snuff it out. Plenty of hydration with room temperature or slightly cool water is a much better way to go.
- Take It Outdoors: Daily exercise strengthens the mind, improves mood, and restores the body’s natural flow, and doing it outside is a way to be in nature and appreciate the beauty of summer. To avoid flaring up that Pitta fire, try cooling exercises like early morning or nighttime walks, yoga in the park or on the beach, and swimming.
- Routine: Ayurveda really promotes the importance of doing certain things daily, like eating breakfast and rubbing your skin as a form of awakening massage each morning. They also promote arising with the sun each morning, which may seem like a struggle, but allowing yourself time in the morning to stop an enjoy that cool summer breeze on your way to work, or to do 15 minutes of yoga before you leave can really create a beautiful start to your day. Give it a try for a few days – once you get used to it, you may never go back.
The most important thing to remember is that the Ayurvedic tradition is meant to help and heal, not cause stress. If you find you are feeling weighed down or especially irritable with the heat, feel free to give these tips a try, but only if it is helpful for you. Everyone is different, and you know yourself better than anyone, so trust yourself.
Krishan, S. (2003). Essential Ayurveda: What It Is & What It Can Do for You. Novato, CA: New World Library.
(2007). A Food Plan to Balance Pitta Dosha. Retrieved from: http://www.holistic-online.com/ayurveda/ayv-Pitta-food-plan.htm
A guest blog by dietetic intern Isabelle Carren-Le Sauter
Research has shown that people diagnosed with eating disorders have significantly higher rates of certain autoimmune disorders than the general population, including Addison's disease, celiac disease, ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease, type II diabetes, and possibly more. 
In spite of this, there does not appear to be any single genetic mechanism that links eating disorder with the wide range of different autoimmune disorders listed above. While a direct link does not seem to be the answer, it is possible that there is a common factor that causes both.
Which came first, the autoimmune disease or the eating disorder?
Autoimmune diseases are illnesses which cause the body to develop “autoantibodies”, small proteins that deviate from their normal function, and instead, fight with other proteins in our bodies. The hygiene hypothesis, suggested in 2012 by Acres et al, suggests that anorexia nervosa itself may be an autoimmune disease.
Acres argues that in some cases, delayed exposure to certain common bacteria can confuse the body, and cause it to attack the proteins and nerve cells that regulate appetite, leading to disordered eating.
When the body is exposed to a wide variety of bacteria early on in life, it develops a healthy microbiome, the collection of bacteria that inhabit the body to protect it and maintain health. However, when the microbiome of the gut is disrupted, known as gut dysbiosis, the body’s health may become compromised. Several theories have been developed about the relationship between this disruption, autoimmune responses and eating disorders.
Psychological stress seems to play a key role: stress can cause gut permeability, allowing the contents of the gut to enter the bloodstream, causing an immune response. This immune response then sends a signal to the brain that something is going wrong in the gut, which can lead to changes in food intake and increased anxiety.
Proteins called pro-inflammatory cytokines may also be culprits.9 They cause the inflammation that leads to autoimmune disorders, and there is a possibility that production of these cytokines may, in some cases, be initiated by eating disorders.
Recent evidence has shown that long-term calorie restriction itself may cause gut dysbiosis.
Moreover, the gut dysbiosis caused by a long-term eating disorder has been shown to perpetuate low body weight and prolong recovery, making it that much more difficult for patients with eating disorders to return to their normal habits.
Is it the biological effect and stress of having an autoimmune condition which may necessitate strict eating habits that leads to disordered eating? Or is it the eating disorder’s negative effect on the body that leads to an autoantibodies, cytokines, and/or general stress and causes an autoimmune disease?
Though research is showing a strong connection exists, science has yet to demonstrate which comes first.
While the research is still developing, we must increase our awareness of the many possibilities that influence biological and psychological disruptions within the body. It is important to consider the reasons behind a restrictive diet, and how it may be affecting health:
Could some autoimmune cases be caused by an eating disorder?
Could gut dysbiosis be due to stress or restrictive eating?
Can intuitively eating a wider variety of foods decrease symptoms?
Over time, through eating disorder treatment, perhaps the gut can heal and lead to symptom relief.
 Wotton CJ, James A, Goldacre MJ. Coexistence of Eating Disorders and Autoimmune Diseases: Record Linkage Cohort Study, UK. Int J Eat Disord. 2016; 49:663-672.
 Raevuori et al. The increased risk for autoimmune diseases in patients with eating disorders. PLoS One. 2014; 9(8): e104845.
 Acres MJ, Heath JJ, Morris JA. Anorexia nervosa, autoimmunity and the hygiene hypothesis. Medical Hypotheses. 2012; 78: 772-775.
 Gorwood et al. New Insights in Anorexia Nervosa. Frontiers in Neuroscience. 2016; 10(256): 1-21.
 Herpertz-Dahlmann B, Seitz J, Baines J. Food matters: how the microbiome and gut–brain interaction might impact the development and course of anorexia nervosa. Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2017; Epub ahead of print.
 Morita C, et al. Gut Dysbiosis in Patients with Anorexia Nervosa. PLOS ONE. 2015; 10(12): e0145274.
If you struggle with your relationship to food, practicing mindful eating can seem like it only adds more rules to mealtime. In truth, mindful eating is about eating with the intention to eat for your health while also paying more attention to eating as a process.
Put simply, mindful eating is paying attention to your food and your body. How is it making you feel, and what amount of food makes your body feel satisfied?
“Eating as a process,” may seem strange in a fast-paced world that often aims to devote as little time to fueling up with foods as possible, but it’s important to consider what emotions tend to trigger hunger specifically for you; the healthful contributions of the foods you are eating, how each food you eat appeals to your five senses, and how foods make you feel before, during and after eating them.
Here are 3 steps towards cultivating mindfulness:
1. Practice with a raspberry!
When I was first introduced to mindful eating, I performed this same exercise, and at first it seemed like the silliest thing to do, but I began to realize that I’ve tossed many a raspberry into my mouth without a second thought, and I’d never given it this much consideration before. It occurred to me about halfway through the activity that all food deserves our consideration. Mindfulness isn’t about spending a lot of time looking at a piece of fruit before you eat it, but about having a deeper understanding of that foods that you consciously decide to include in your diet.
To start, all you need is a raspberry and a quiet place to sit. Consider the raspberry, and isolate each of your senses in order to observe the fruit on a deeper level.
First, look at it, and consider its texture and color.
Now close your eyes and use your sense of touch. How does it feel in your hand, or when you squeeze it or rub its skin?
What do you notice about its scent?
Take your first bite, and chew very slowly. Observe not only the flavor, but the texture, how it feels to chew, the way it feels in your mouth.
Take about 20 seconds to finish your first bite. Observe how the taste changes as time passes.
An important thing to note is that eating mindfully does NOT necessarily mean taking this long to eat each bite. This exercise is more about learning to eat while paying attention than it is about getting into the habit of starting at foods before biting into them.
2. Make mealtime a peaceful time.
Meals can be difficult to enjoy if you don’t have a place in which to enjoy them. Eating meals on the go is sometimes necessary, but that doesn’t exclude making your home an eating environment that feels special. Focus on eliminating distractions so you can fully be present as you eat. When you’re planning to eat a meal, also think about the place in which you plan to eat: Do you have a cleared table, free of work you have to finish? Can you put away distractions for the course of the meal? Have a space where it’s just you, or you and those experiencing the meal with you. Enjoy the silence, so the only thing to pay attention to is your food.
3. Break out this easy breathing exercise when you’re feeling anxious (adapted from www.mindful.org):
Find a relaxed, comfortable position. You could be seated on a chair or on the floor on a cushion. Keep your back upright, so you can breathe fully. Rest your hands wherever they feel comfortable. Relax your tongue inside your mouth.
Notice and relax your body. Try to notice the shape of your body and its relationship to gravity. Let yourself relax and become curious about your body seated here—the sensations it experiences, the touch, the connection with the floor or the chair. Relax any areas of tightness or tension. Take a few deep breaths.
Tune into your breath. Feel the natural flow of breath—in, out. You don’t need to change your breath. Notice where you feel your breath in your body. It might be in your abdomen. It may be in your chest or throat or in your nostrils. See if you can feel the sensations of breath, one breath at a time. When one breath ends, the next breath begins.
Be kind to your wandering mind. Now as you do this, you might notice that your mind may start to wander. If this happens, it is not a problem. It’s very natural. Just notice that your mind has wandered. You can say “thinking” or “wandering” in your head softly. And then gently redirect your attention right back to the breathing.
Stay here for five to seven minutes. Notice your breath, in silence. From time to time, you’ll get lost in thought, then return to your breath.
Check in before you check out. After a few minutes, once again notice your body, your whole body, seated here. Let yourself relax even more deeply and then offer yourself some appreciation for doing this practice today.
Good morning and Happy Summer Friday!! In my nutrition practice, I am often asked for recipe ideas and in an effort to better serve I have started to compile some of my favorites below. It is my intention to continue to add to this list. Enjoy!
Martin's Chicken Basil Sausage- Veggie Stir Fry (this recipe comes from my brother Martin, who sautés onion, garlic, + ginger with veggies like cabbage, brussel sprouts, butternut squash and kale, adds cut up chicken sausage and mixes all the ingredients with some spices and turmeric, plus a fried egg on top. It's simple and delicious!
Shrimp + Mussel Basil Stir-Fry over Turmeric-Curry Quinoa- Another simple recipe that can also be made from fresh or pre-cooked frozen seafood for a quick and satisfying meal. Sauté garlic and ginger in oil, then add any vegetables of your choice including peppers, add the seafood with a dash of white wine or tequila and then cook until tender, add some fresh basil and serve over quinoa (this can be made in the rice cooker with spices like turmeric, ginger powder, curry powder, etc). Enjoy!
Red Snapper with Tomato, Olives and Capers: This is a recipe I made some variation of regularly for many years. It's delicious with a green salad or sautéed veggies and rice.
I recently returned from a family trip to Amsterdam and Vienna, that in addition to wonderful art museums, composer's apartments, and explorations of both cities' dynamic history, included daily 3 to 4 hour-long family feasts with multiple courses and wine, followed by the sweet specialties of the region, usually both before and after meal time (apple strudel, ice cream, hazelnut torte-you name it!).
A few days back in my NYC office, a client brought up her belief that she will always be "in recovery" from her eating disorder; always struggling to manage her eating, her desire to lose weight, and always working to prevent a relapse.
Ten years ago, as I struggled with my own disordered eating, negative body image, and overexercise patterns, I would have believed the same. I didn't have anyone at the time giving me the message that I could actually live my life completely free of any possibility of relapse or have an identity outside of food and body where food was a nourishing yet neutral part of my life.
In fact, at that time this type of family trip would have been a huge nightmare - overshadowed by anxiety about how much food I would "have" to eat in order not to upset my family, trying to figure out any possible way to avoid a meal, or skip family activities to seek out exercise (how boring is going to a hotel gym instead of exploring a new city!?).
Looking back on my journey to being fully recovered, I still have moments full of gratitude and awe. I am amazed at how easy and sweet meal time with my family is now, and how I can look forward to and enjoy ALL types of food without allowing food to become the center of attention. I am grateful to share precious time with loved ones with full presence, and breathe through conflict without turning to food (or lack thereof).
And perhaps most importantly, I now know how to honor my own body's needs, despite my Russian-Jewish grandma's lifelong mission for me to always eat more :)
When food comments are made at that table, I can lean on my spiritual practice to help remind me to feel compassion towards that person who is likely struggling with him or herself. Over time and through trail and error, I have learned how to say both yes and no to food by connecting to the wisdom of my body.
As I shared this with my client and hope to share with you, full recovery is absolutely possible for anyone committed to the path of healing.
And to stay on our path, yoga reminds us to seek the company of souls who help to elevate our consciousness and remind us to come back home to our heart.
In what ways can we view our mental and emotional reactions on the mat as lessons that reflect a need for further growth?
I have witnessed how many patients who come to me for nutrition therapy, for instance, become attached to taking yoga classes without actually making progress in healing from their eating disorder. They often bring their disorder onto the yoga mat, approaching the practice as another way to burn calories or to push their body beyond limits, reinforcing a disconnected relationship to the body’s wisdom.
Read more from my latest article on Sonima here
Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending an incredible lecture by Dr. Claudia Welch, a Doctor of Oriental Medicine, an Ayurvedic practitioner and author of the renown book Balance Your Hormones, Balance Your Life: Achieving Optimal Health and Wellness Through Ayurveda.
Dr. Welch spoke to the ways in which most Western women constantly feel that what we do is "never enough" and that we have to constantly push ourselves to our edge. This constant pushing beyond what we actually want to be doing creates a context in which hormones go out of balance. Because nature always prioritizes survival over reproduction, our body reacts to this "never enough-ness" by producing a physiological stress response and pumping out high levels of cortisol and adrenaline.
Furthermore, in order to produce this stress response, our body has to reduce the energy that goes towards production of essential sex hormones like estrogen and progesterone that nourish, build, and ground our body. Over time, this imbalance between yin and yang hormones drains our adrenal glands and puts our body into a state of depletion, leading leading to conditions such as menstrual irregularities, insomnia, anxiety. infertility, bone density loss, thyroid problems, etc. Sound familiar?
High cortisol levels also rob our body of vital nutrients and wreak havoc with digestion, which is why even the healthiest foods cannot be absorbed by a body that is in a state of stress.
It's powerful to imagine that the root cause of dis-ease in our body is actually mostly coming from our mind!!!, which plays out a narrative of "never enough-ness".
In other words, it is IMPOSSIBLE to have both a high stress lifestyle AND attain hormonal balance. So what can we do to start to bring more balance into our body, mind and spirit?
Dr. Welch supports the practice of reducing our level of busy-ness in order to actually live the life we want, which includes restful and nourishing activities such as spending time with girlfriends, practicing yoga, meditation, abhyanga (Ayurvedic warm oil massage), alternate-nostril breathing and the important practice of saying NO.
We also need to confront any shame/fear around slowing down and not being "productive".
"The most important practice is spending time listening. There's a reason we're here and we keep not doing it. It's so bizarre that it takes courage to live the life we want to live"
I hope these words from Dr. Welch help to inspire more room for slowing down, self-reflection and listening to the wisdom of your body and heart without judgment. Here's to living authentically and courageously.
If you are interested in learning more on the topic of Ayurveda and Eating Disorders, I have posted an interview below with Dr. Claudia Welch and Chelsea Roff of Eat Breathe Thrive, a non-profit organization that prevents and helps individuals fully recover from disordered eating and negative body image through evidence-based programs that integrate yoga, community and service.
Click HERE to listen.
Here's a yummy recipe for a delicious morning smoothie or try this for an afternoon snack!
Ingredients (makes 2 smoothies):
- 7 dates (soften dates by soaking in water for about one hour)
- 2 tablespoons almond butter
- 2 medium bananas
- 2 cups almond or coconut milk
- 2 pinches cinnamon powder
- 1 vanilla bean scraped
Blend ingredients and enjoy!
I feel very honored to have been interviewed for a Recovery Warriors podcast on yoga and eating disorder recovery. Please listen by clicking the link below.
"For Anastasia Nevin MS RD RYT yoga became a profound spiritual practice that helped her overcome an eating disorder and realize that we are not just a body, but we are spirits and we have souls. This appreciation and awareness awakened the calling to becoming a healer and a teacher.
Full circle, Anastasia now helps others heal from their eating disorder by integrating nutrition therapy and yoga, the two things that helped her overcome her personal battle. In this show, we talk all about yoga and the many deep lessons it can teach if you are willing to show up on the mat to learn"
I made this recipe a few weeks ago and wanted to share it with you because it is simple, delicious, and Vata-Soothing. In Ayurveda, the sister science to yoga, Vata dosha is the constitution associated with the Fall and a dry, light, airy, etherial, and irregular qualities. Grounding, warm, cooked and sweet foods like root veggies are balancing for Vata. If you are interested in learning more about Ayurveda, contact me for a consultation.
To make the recipe, I bought a bag of sweet potatoes, rinses, boiled them and peeled the skin off. (you can also roast the sweet potato with coconut oil for a more toasty flavor). I then added 1 can of light coconut milk and minced fresh ginger into the sweet potatoes and blended with my immersion blender. Add salt to taste. I cut up some cilantro and crushed walnuts on top for garnish. Enjoy!
A while back, when I was feeling a bit dark, a dear friend of mine suggested making a list of the "little things" that bring me joy, and to somehow connect to one thing from this list per day. Here are some of the items that landed on mine:
sunflowers, marigolds, chai tea, mini pumpkins, huge earrings, bright red lipstick, pastel-colored vespa, Savasana massage, dancing to Latin/Gypsy music 'til sunrise, Moroccan lanterns, Goddess candles, incense, warm turquoise ocean, sushi, backbending
Since then, I carry this list with me everywhere I go. It's a perfect and readily accessible reminder of the beauty and light we can tap into when we need a boost of inspiration. I invite you to make your own "little things" list without any filtering or judgment. You can use your creativity to make it your own through images, collage, music, etc. This can be a great tool during recovery or simply during any challenging moments that arise. Enjoy the process.
Light and love,
Late Spring to Summer through an Ayurvedic lens is also known as Pitta season. The qualities of Pitta are hot, sharp, spreading, oily, pungent, astringent, fast, and bright. Someone who has a lot of Pitta is usually charming, charismatic, ambitious, organized, competitive and courageous. In balance, they will have a strong appetite for food and life, good digestion, an athletic build, and warm body temperature.
Follow the link to Recovery Warriors below to read the full article!
“Yoga is about creating harmony within oneself and to create that harmony while pregnant meant my practices had to honor as well as include the process my body was going through to make a newborn child.” -Sharmila Desai
Many avid yogis have practices that consist of headstands, arm balances, and leaving the mat happily drenched in sweat. For some, envisioning a time when the body cannot sustain this level of activity, such as during pregnancy, is daunting. When pregnant, a woman experiences a bevy of physical changes that require a different approach to practice. Knowing how to properly approach yoga during this time is essential for the health of both mother and child, but continued practice can also deliver deep physical and emotional benefits during a woman’s journey to motherhood.
Please continue reading the full article here
Sometimes we don’t understand how much tension we carry inside until the moment we take the leap and surrender. I remember this moment for me, now almost a decade ago, soaked in sweat, lying in Savasana in a San Francisco room of 100 bright-eyed yogis, warm tears dripping off my face.
Please read the full article here
Here's my latest post for Recovery Warriors!
You can link directly to the website here
As an eating disorder nutritionist, yoga therapist, and someone who is recovered, I believe that so much of recovery is about shifting out of our over-active mind and back into inhabiting and connecting to the wisdom of our body. Yoga is a spiritual practice that allows for this movement from Ego to Soul and Self. Even the simple practice of breathing into a mudra, a shape of our hands that calls upon a certain energy, can completely change how we feel. The sequence below is designed to help you practice making peace with yourself and your body by cultivating compassion and self-acceptance.
This morning I attended a fascinating lecture for eating disorder professionals in New York City. (Yes, as well as being immersed in yoga and spiritual practice, I am also a neuroscience nerd). Leah Graves RD and Scott Moseman MD each presented on research that suggests brain differences in anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder, and non-eating disorder population. I hope to share with you some interesting findings that stood out to me today:
- Dr. Moseman spoke to his belief that anorexia is an anxiety disorder where restricting food and focusing on weight becomes the mechanism of managing already high levels of anxiety and genetically predisposed character traits such as perfectionism, obsessive compulsive tendencies, altered interceptive awareness such as overactive bladder function (I was surprised to learn people with anorexia actually have an unusually high rate of bed-wetting), harm avoidance and possibly altered gastro-intestinal function.
- Many of these traits exist prior to the development of an eating disorder. New brain studies show that people who struggle with anorexia do not have the same reactions to reward as people without anorexia, and that there are disturbances in dopamine systems, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and reward. Brain differences in this area explain why a "normal" eater feels agitated by hunger, while someone with anorexia may feel calmed by hunger. In fact, the area of the brain associated with delay of gratification is overly active in anorexia. Some of these brain differences may explain, for instance, why those who struggle with anorexia also have a difficult time receiving positive feedback and latch onto any sign of criticism.
- Research studies on brain function in bulimia and binge eating disorder (the most common eating disorder), also show neurobiological and regulatory differences that account for traits such as impulsivity, commonly associated with this population. One of these differences is the down-regulation of dopamine in the brain. Specifically, something that would satisfy a non-eating disordered person may under-satisfy someone with this type of eating disorder due to the way dopamine functions in the brain. However, because there is a high comorbidity in bulimia with substance abuse, trauma and other psychiatric disorders, most brain research studies focus on anorexia. Hopefully more studies will allow for a better understanding in this area.
- Genetic predisposition is now thought to contribute to 50-80% of those who develop an eating disorder. These estimates are similar to those found in schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
- 40-50% of people with anorexia are vegetarians, whereas only 3% of the general population is vegetarian. Vegetarianism can be a major risk factor for developing an eating disorder. Avoiding sources of nutrients, such as in animal protein, can make recovery and weight-restoration even more difficult for someone with dietary limitations. While this is not necessarily a neuroscience fact, there are brain changes in anorexia (areas of the brain can actually shrink) that depend on proper nutrition and weight stabilization to be restored to normal function. The good news is that by cultivating healthy eating and exercise habits, our brains can function at their maximum capacity.
My hope is for understanding more about neurobiology and food behaviors to allow for a holistic approach to treatment and recovery. I believe that when we practice self-awareness and acceptance of the more difficult parts of our personality (and even brain chemistry), we can work to channel these parts in a healthier way that serves our well-being and health. Happy Friday!
I just returned to NY after attending three full days of the Academy for Eating Disorders' annual ICED (International Conference on Eating Disorders) in Boston. I had the opportunity to hear ground-breaking new research from experts in the field of eating disorders, neuroscience, psychology, and medicine. My intention in sitting down to write on this Sunday morning is to be able to share a bit of what stood out to me with you, and that some of this information you can apply to your own recovery or in caring for a loved one.
1. Brain Change: Diet change that is associated with a reward (i.e. compliments on losing weight, coping with emotions etc) creates a new habit. Habit shifts activity into an area of the brain called the dorsal striatum. Over time, this behavior (ex/food restriction) becomes outcome independent, which means that it is no longer dependent on external cues or the 'because' to be reinforced. This finding supports, from a physiological perspective, why it is so difficult for someone struggling with an eating disorder to stop engaging in food-related habits or use future consequences as motivation.
2. Brain Plasticity: The prefrontal cortex is an area of the brain that myelinates the latest, is most modifiable, and is implicated in mental illness. Myelin is made of fatty acids and aids in the efficiency of a signal from one neuron to another. Did you know the brain is the organ that contains the most fat??? In recovery, weight gain leads to brain changes and the potential to recover white matter lost in severe restriction. (Yes, the brain actually shrinks and does not function properly during an active eating disorder!). In recovery, there is an improvement in cognitive tasks.
3. Exercise + Recovery: In one experiment, low body weight and increased running, even before any food restriction, was a predictor for anorexia. Compulsive exercise is associated with longer hospitalization, earlier time to relapse form an ED, and poor long term outcome. Exercising a lot when anorexic is also a predictor of suicide. On another note, learning to have a healthy relationship to exercise can also be vital in recovery, and has shown to decrease stress, depression, and anxiety. Ask me more about yoga and recovery!
While listening again to my recent Food Psych interview (which you can find below!), I was inspired to write more about finding spiritual purpose in order to be able to heal from addiction and dis-ease. In my own experience, discovering and tapping into my Soul's essence helped to put my attachment to a physical appearance, size and weight into perspective and to be able to see the larger picture: my physical body is a earthly vehicle for my Spirit to do its work.
At the time many years ago, this was a deeply healing and relieving realization that supported my recovery and allowed me to realize how important it is to take care of and to feed our physical selves in order to connect, communicate, serve and share our inner light from a grounded place.
In yoga and spiritual practices, the word "dharma" implies that every soul is born into this lifetime with a specific and individual purpose, and it is our responsibility to fulfill that purpose in our lifetime. This concept may seem overwhelming and it is also beautifully profound. It is at the root of healing.
My invitation to you is to spend some time exploring your purpose, what truly makes you feel like yourSELF, what inspires you and makes you feel ALIVE! Give yourself permission to play and be curious. What better time than spring to birth new parts of ourself and dive deep!
Light and love,