A guest blog by dietetic intern Darrien Harris MS

 Intuitive eating is a practice, usually accessible farther along in eating disorder recovery, that can help to heal body-mind disconnect by using instinct, emotion, and rational thought to increase awareness of physical and emotional needs. 1

One of the 10 principles of intuitive eating is interoceptive awareness, the process of recognizing and processing internal, physical sensations that can exist as hunger, satiety, rapid heartbeat, or the rush of heat felt during panic. Interoception promotes conscious awareness of these sensations through attunement or being “in tune” with oneself and one’s body 1,2. In recovery this means asking questions like “where in my body do I feel hunger, fullness, or stress?”.

The practice of interoceptive awareness ultimately helps cultivate a deeper trust in one’s body, which is essential to be able to recover from a dysfunctional relationship to food.

 People who practice interoceptive awareness have been shown to display increased well-being and self-confidence, less disordered eating habits, a more positive self-image, and a better relationship with food. 1,2

One simple way to practice interoceptive awareness and increase body attunement is by trying to detect your heartbeat without touch or by following your breath in your body.

Yoga is also powerful way to practice interoceptive awareness.3,5 When practiced with full presence and internal connection, yoga offers the opportunity to increase body connection through mind-body awareness. Each breath, pose, and meditation promotes the body’s innate wisdom allowing one to recognize, process, and trust internal sensations.3,4,5 In this way, yoga facilitates interoception, by promoting awareness of the whole self: body, mind, and soul self .

 Resources:

1.    Tribole, E. Intuitive Eating Workbook: Ten Principles for Nourishing a Healthy

Relationship with Food. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications, Inc.; 2017.

2.    Herbert BM, Blechert J, Hautzinger M, Matthias E, Herbert C. Intuitive eating is

associated with interoceptive sensitivity. Effects on body mass index. Appetite. 2013;70:22-30. doi:10.1016/j.appet.2013.06.082. 

3.     Dittmann KA, Freedman MR. Body Awareness, Eating Attitudes, and Spiritual Beliefs of

Women Practicing Yoga. Eating Disorders. 2009;17(4):273-292. doi:10.1080/10640260902991111.

4.     Khalsa SS, Rudrauf D, Damasio AR, Davidson RJ, Lutz A, Tranel D. Interoceptive

awareness in experienced meditators. Psychophysiology. 2008;45(4):671-677. doi:10.1111/j.1469-8986.2008.00666.x.

5.     Costin C & Schubert G. 8 Keys to Recovery from an Eating Disorder. New York, NY:

W.W. Norton; 2017.

 

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A guest blog by dietetic intern Tanya Mezher

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Part of what intrigued me most about interning with Anastasia Health is her holistic approach to disordered eating, which includes offering yoga therapy as a course of healing and treatment. My first experiences with yoga began about five or six years ago when I sought out ways to diversify my exercise routine. The gym I visited regularly happened to offer classes to its members and I often watched curiously through the glass windows at the synchronizing yogis, as I reluctantly clung to my habit on the treadmill. Eventually, I would join my first class, forever transformed. I quickly became enamored with the uplifting, holistic effect of each experience. Yoga is much more than a physical movement - it has become a form of grounding, anxiety and stress relief, creativity, playfulness, spiritual meditation - a way to care for myself, my body, my mind, my soul. It has helped me increase awareness of my internal dialogue and thoughts - creating space for loving gentleness, kindness, patience and peace toward myself and others.

The practice of yoga is innately therapeutic, and for many, has been incorporated into their days as a way of life. Yoga has significant benefits on stress marker levels, flexibility, respiratory and cardiovascular function, anxiety, depression, pain, sleep and overall quality of life.[1] By addressing an individual as a whole being where the function and wellness of the body, mind, and soul are intricately intertwined and cannot be healed apart from the other - it is no wonder yoga therapy is considered a complementary and alternative approach to medicine.[2]

Yoga therapy is particularly influential as a complementary approach to treatment for eating disorders. Eating disorders are often categorized as anxiety disorders, in which individuals cope with emotional and psychological issues through objective manipulation of their physical bodies and behavior. Individuals who struggle with disordered eating also generally experience disconnection from and discomfort with their physical bodies - often ignoring or completely out of tune with hunger and fullness cues. The practice of yoga can be considered an embodiment or external expression of what is happening internally within the individual. By intently focusing on each breath and movement - one is brought to an awareness of the physical and emotional feelings that are present. With pauses in the stillness, an individual can be gently guided to confront anxieties, which in our typically fast moving pace we tend to bury or flee from, often resulting in harmful behavior as a means to cope. This increased sense of self-awareness facilitates a unique process of healing and attunement to our needs and respect for our bodies.

Regular yoga therapy has been shown to significantly improve body satisfaction in individuals who participate in as little as 30 minutes of yoga per week.[3] Ultimately, yoga therapy is a self-healing practice, the frequency, and duration of which are based on individual needs. Yoga can be complex and approached from various styles, however, it can also be as simple as breathing into the depths of the belly or taking a few minutes to sit in a squat to start to feel a shift in energy and mood. 

 

References:

[1.]     Woodyard, C. (2011). Exploring the therapeutic effects of yoga and its ability to increase quality of life. International Journal of Yoga, 4(2), p.49.

[2.]     (2017). Yoga: In Depth. Retrieved from: https://nccih.nih.gov/health/yoga/introduction.htm

[3.]     Neumark-Sztainer,D et al. (2018). Yoga and body image: Findings from a large population-based study of young adults. Body Image, 24:69-75.

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