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 to always make me eat more :) 

When food comments are made at the 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 trial 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. 

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 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!

 

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!

     Namaste,

           Anastasia