All my life, I struggled with a food addiction.
It all started when I was quite young and rapidly spiralled into full-blown bulimia, binge eating and body image issues. For over 15 years of my life, this was my reality: binging, purging and self-loathing. Again and again.
It can be difficult to imagine for someone who’s never struggled with food addictions, but my days were ruled by illness. Every single day—for over 15 years—I was binging and purging several times a day.
On good days, I was lucky enough to repress my addiction until I finished work. If that were the case, 6 p.m. meant binge shopping for me, which triggered a series of binge and purge episodes until I felt asleep. On bad days, food took over way earlier, which made me make myself sick in places you don’t even want to know about (work and public toilets were just a few options that were part of my daily life).
Of course, I tried to recover many times with many different methods and therapies. I was aware of my issue and didn’t want to live this way. But the addiction always came back stronger.
I was in a very dark place and didn’t see any obvious way out. I was clearly losing hope.
My health quickly became impacted.
I was anaemic, I was losing my hair, my teeth were breaking and my heartbeat was irregular due to malnutrition and a lack of electrolytes. I definitely had a huge, life threatening problem: Total self-destruction, over which I had lost control long ago. My addictive behavior around food was not only holding me back from anything positive and constructive but it was also spoiling my whole life…on all levels.
Breaking this deep-rooted destructive addiction wasn’t easy, that’s for sure! But some basic and inexpensive things helped me a lot.
After a couple of years working on my own recovery, I finally managed to see the light at the end of the tunnel and got a taste of true freedom. This is when I had to understand why and how certain things helped me more than others to overcome my addiction. More importantly, I had to share what I went through so that I could help others stuck in the same destructive behaviors.
Yoga was one of those amazing things that helped me change my life and break free from my addictive patterns.
I read everything I could find on the practice. I also started to interview yoga teachers to help better understand how yoga could help people, especially with food addictions and eating disorders.
Here is what I found, and here is how yoga helped me recover from my own struggle:
Yoga actually releases endorphins (feel-good neurotransmitters) in our brains within 30 minutes of starting a session. We also know that three hours of exercise per week can have the same impact as antidepressants on our brain chemistry, without the side effects. Since yoga classes generally last an hour to an hour and a half, you can easily get the benefits if you practice two to three times per week only.
At the beginning of my recovery I forced myself to go to yoga straight after work, so I could benefit from this “endorphin fix” when I needed it the most. Don’t get me wrong, my addiction didn’t go away overnight because of I started to practice yoga and increased my endorphin levels. But it certainly helped to lessen the binge urges in intensity and frequency over time.
On top of that, yoga is different from other types of exercise in that the focus is on the breath. That means that yoga is a type of moving meditation, which allows us to focus on the present moment and accept our body for what it really is, without any judgment. And boy, this was such a powerful thing for me!
Generally speaking, people struggling with food issues or poor body image, like I was, are often stuck worrying about the past, the future or the discomfort of their own body. Their perception of reality is highly distorted, and yoga has the ability to help them reset it.
It was definitely what happened to me. Today, I can clearly say that yoga has helped me see my body differently and be grateful for it. My body is no longer a piece of material judged by others and myself or a source of discomfort. Instead, it’s the greatest gift I will ever receive, allowing me to live fully each moment. I am more in-tuned with my own body and can understand its messages instead of repressing them.
By practicing yoga poses, I also started to stretch my body in certain ways that allowed energy to flow freely. This gave me a chance to release blocks of energy, emotions, traumas and feelings that have built up over the years.
I can now see how I was trying to release these energy blockages with food. Practicing yoga has helped me releasing these blocks of energy in a healthy way, lowering the need to reach for food to deal with them. Yoga has also cleansed and realigned my chakras, which is very powerful and beneficial to rebalance the body, especially when dealing with such destructive patterns.
Yoga has many other benefits. It allowed me to improve my breathing, relax my mind, de-stress my body, tone my muscles, improve my flexibility and brought me a higher peace of mind.
I would recommend anyone to try yoga, but if you’re struggling with addictions or destructive patterns—especially food addiction—it’s definitely worth a shot.
It has changed my life and I am sure it can help change yours too.
Author: Pauline Hanuise
Editor: Emma Ruffin
Photo: Author’s Own