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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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. 

 

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. 

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. 

https://www.recoverywarriors.com/anastasia-nevin/

"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"

 

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.

 

 

You know that moment when it feels like you are involved in some kind of Divine joke and the characters in the story of your life keep reappearing, guised in new forms?

I have certainly noticed myself, at times, showing up to face circumstances that very creatively and sometimes humorously repeat themselves: a specific crossroads in a relationship, a difficult colleague who challenges my sense of self-worth, an impulse to act out in a way my wiser self knows does not align with my actual needs. 

“Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know”

Pema Chodron writes, in her book When Things Fall Apart. 

Wow. These words sometimes feel like a painful stab of truth, asking us to see difficulties as teachers.  In my own practice, I have worked hard to get to know myself and the way I tend to escape from pain and difficulty. This awareness has allowed me to slowly and over time practice making better choices.  

I have learned that the more I show up on my mat with an open heart to meet myself with kindness, the less I feel crushed by those darker layers of myself in other parts of my life. I have practiced, to the best of my ability and with a lot of guidance, taking a deep breath, stepping back and seeing whatever I need to see from more of a bird’s eye view perspective.

“Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know”

I recently took a restorative class on a night when I was feeling unsettled and overwhelmed by some unpleasant events that had happened earlier. I had a difficult time staying present, my entire body was aching, and I noticed a long decision making dialogue happening inside my head. As the class was about to end, the teacher acknowledged how much courage it takes to choose to practice restorative yoga and to choose sitting quietly with ourselves. 

Even as a regular teacher and student of restorative yoga, these words nailed me.

Choosing to be kind and loving to ourselves, even the not-so-pretty parts of how we sometimes show up, takes endless courage. Allowing ourselves to feel what we are feeling also is no easy task. As we move through the chaos of the holidays and the end of another year, we enter a time where reflection, slowing down, and self-care are vital and needed healing rituals. 

Let’s enter this new year soaked in kindness, gentleness and a whole lot of love. 

Posted
AuthorAnastasia Nevin

 

We often hear the expression "injuries are great teachers", and yet in the moment we want the pain and discomfort to go away as fast as possible so we can go back to our daily routine. This weekend, I was confronted with an old injury in my neck. As I felt my neck seize up and go out of alignment, I thought about how hard I had already worked on this part of myself. (Hadn't I spoken enough difficult truths and caused enough chaos already?!) And yet again, there was a part of my expression that in some way  was being stifled. 

I've had quite a few ailments in my life, and each one in its own way has reminded me to go underneath the physical into the more subtle aspects of what was happening. For me, the Chakra system has been a great way to understand and heal myself. 

The Fifth Chakra, also called Vissudha or "pure", is located in the physical region of the throat. This energy center governs communication, creativity, expression and listening. The fifth chakra is about our basic right to speak and to hear the truth.  The demon of this chakra is lying. Someone who is balanced in this area has a strong voice, good timing,  is a good listener and communicates clearly. Deficiency in this area may manifest as fear of speaking or having difficulty putting feelings into words, while an excess can translate into talking too much as a defense mechanism or gossiping. Physical manifestations of fifth chakra imbalances include disorders related to thyroid, mouth, ears, neck, throat and TMJ. 

If you relate, here are some healing practices you can do to find more balance:

1. Neck rolls:  Try this when you first wake up. Find a comfortable seat, close your eyes and move your head gently in big circles in both directions, breathing into any stiff or tight spots.. You can find your own pacing and bring  love to this area.

2. Singing! : Singing is a beautiful way to tap into the power of our own voice.  I love to play my favorite songs to accompany me,  or I find time to chant and play my harmonium at home. 

3. Affirmations: I love "I hear and speak my truth" as a mantra for the Fifth Chakra. You can practice this out loud or write an affirmation in your  journal as a daily sadhana (spiritual practice). 

4. Asana/Physical Postures: Camel Pose, Shoulderstand (you can do a variation with a block under your sacrum if the pose bothers your neck), and Fish Pose. 

Posted
AuthorAnastasia Nevin

     

  In Ayurveda, the time of year associated with fall (autumn-early winter) is known as Vata season. Vata is one of the Ayurvedic doshas or constitutions that not only is found in Nature but also exists inside our body. The qualities of Vata are fast, light, cold, dry, clear and contracted, irregular and rough. Vata governs change and when in balance facilitates spirituality, creativity, imagination and wisdom connected to the higher chakras. Vata people are quirky, sensitive, enjoy spending time alone (but hopefully not too much!), and tend to both learn and forget information quickly. They can struggle with physical issues such as joint problems, thyroid issues, scoliosis and neuropathy. Depending on your individual make up, you may discover you have been born with more Vata, or perhaps you have a loved one that possesses these traits.

    One of the main principles of Ayurveda is "like increases like". In other words, we may tend to have an affinity towards foods, activities or habits that actually push us more OUT of balance. As someone who has discovered I have quite a bit of Vata myself, I want to share some tips that have helped me stay grounded and balanced during the Fall, a time of year that can lead to Vata ailments such as anxiety, constipation, dry skin or insomnia. 

  • Foods

Cook with Sesame Oil! (you can also rub sesame oil on your hands and feet before bed for help with insomnia).Roast some root vegetables such as squashes, beets, sweet potato, carrots and add some extra fats such as avocado, nuts and ghee (clarified butter) to your food. Vata is drying so adding more oil will help lubricate the joints, one of the areas of Vata imbalance. Sweet, salty, and sour are the best tastes for Vata. 

  • Yoga:

Stay low to the earth. Squats, warrior poses, and balancing poses are best. Think of digging your feet into the mud. Practice headstand and stay a little longer than usual.

  • Mantra:

Fear is a BIG one for Vata. When I'm feeling out of balance, I do a fear protection mantra. Other mantras to balance Vata include chanting to Ganesh (The Remover of Obstacles) or to Lakshmi (who symbolizes abundance and sensuality). 

  • Essential Oils:

The best oils for Vata (and some of my favorites) are Vanilla, Clove, Sandalwood, Jasmine and Sweet Orange. 

  • Music:

Vata needs a steady beat to calm an often overactive mind. Percussion or Classical Music with a repetitive melody is best or you can try practicing in silence.

I hope you enjoy the glory of Fall. If you are interested in learning more about Ayurveda and how to stay healthy, I am doing an Introduction to Ayurveda Workshop on December 7th. See the events page for details and to sign up.. 

Posted
AuthorAnastasia Nevin