How yoga helped me overcome an eating disorder
Updated: Jul 8, 2020
The one thing I love about the Like You Care section of the blog is that it gives me the opportunity to speak to some really inspiring people who are brave enough to open up about their own mental health journeys to help others, Christine being one of them.
I'm so grateful Christine and I have reconnected over the last twelve months. Not only have her yoga classes brought me a moment of tranquility that lasts hours after due to her natural teaching ability, but she is just a genuinely kind and lovely human being. Some people possess an effortless caring and approachable aura and this is what I think Christine has in abundance. One of the easiest people to talk to, so much so we were on the phone for nearly two hours the other day!
Christine has kindly agreed to share her experience of using yoga to overcome an eating disorder and explains how it has also helped her to love her body again.
So, to start off, it probably makes sense to ask you to explain what sparked your initial interest in yoga?
8 years ago, my mum introduced me to yoga. We went to a class together and to be honest, I found it incredibly hard- not at all relaxing and felt like a failure as I could barely touch my toes however I did feel I’d stretched out, nonetheless.
It actually wasn’t until a year or so later that I started to really get into fitness that I went back to a class. It was the rise of the ‘fitfam’ and ‘nodaysoff’ hashtag. At the time, I worked in beauty and make up and being young, seeking identity, I soon fell straight into that trap of comparison and judgement of my body. Being surrounded by beauty all day long, my subconscious was filled with media claims of the ideal body types and the new craze of instagram models etc.
Before I knew it I was in the thick of this ‘fitness' realm, with my biggest motivation being to be as thin as I could. Punishing myself for any ‘fat’ I thought I could see and scrutinising every part of my body.
I ran, I jumped, skipped and crunched. My body wasn’t used to it, having not really been into fitness before, so I was achey and stiff. At this point this, yoga came back into my life, purely because I knew I needed to stretch or create some mobility to help through this journey to the 'ideal body’ (eye roll).
I joined a hot yoga studio and religiously (like I did everything else back then) went twice a week. It was hard at first, but with time the flows, twists and bends became easier and more accessible. With this ease, the more I began to switch off in class and the feeling I got when I left was unlike anything else I’d felt before. I had began to find that relaxation that everyone raved about!
A feeling where my usual anxious head and OCD like eating and exercising was forgotten and I was given an hour to be in flow state, with a teacher encouraging me to breathe and just let go. Describing how yoga was about working with the body, not against it. To stop resisting and let go.
But as soon as I left the doors of the studio, it was back into my hectic world of self inflicted business and noise, distracting me away from the fact I was causing my mind and body huge amounts of stress. The message I received for the few hours in yoga a week was soon forgotten and in it’s place was the ever present message on social media, magazines and films of models, actresses, fitness experts- all looking so perfect. The message we still see to this day which causes so much damage to not only women, but men too.
A few years on, I decided to move to London, I trained in TV, Film + Fashion make up. It exuded the same damaging message yet even louder and without my family and little friends, I dedicated my time to this obsession of losing weight even more. I would wake up at 5.30am every morning to go to the gym and eat the bare minimum just to get my through my day without collapsing.
But still I remained drawn to doing yoga so I found a small class near by my flat where went twice a week. I knew I had to go, it was the one thing that helped me remain calm, it ultimately became essential… not that I truly understood that at the time.
In hindsight, I can now see that my body craved it because it was the two hours of the week where my body went into rest state and could try to recuperate from the tiresome life I led.
You must be thinking, 'how could she keep this up?' and also 'it sounds terrible, boring and lonely'. Trust me, it was. And you’re right, I couldn’t keep it up.
After just over a year my mind and body was giving up. I lived in fear of crippling anxiety and my under nourished, over exercised body began to slow. At this point my mum insisted I returned home from London and this is where I began the process of understanding my mind more, with regular therapy to talk through past trauma and having the love and support from my family.
I slowly began to rebuild my mental health. The support, the therapy and my continuous yoga practices aided me through this process.
But I still couldn’t resist pushing myself in other area’s, the control I still needed, weaved into other area’s of my life. So I started my own business, I moved out, became financially secure, but really all this ‘success’ was still covering a multitude of pain I was inflicting on myself. I was still pushing my body in this need for control, the need I had over looking a certain way, a certain ideal.
With trying to maintain this self image of ‘success’, I pressured myself so much to have, I had landed in a place of complete disconnection to what was happening to my body. I was suffering in silence with anxiety and depression and masking my eating disorder with the ‘clean eating’ approach. I knew I needed help at this point, I knew I couldn’t carry on being in denial.
My hair was thinning, my nails were brittle and my skin was awful. My body was screaming out to me to just stop and listen.
I started to research and take action, seeking professional help. Specialists explained to me I was in burn out. Systems in my body were struggling to function- This idea of ab’s and having a tiny body had dramatically effected my health and devastatingly my fertility health.
I remember the turning point being when a doctor said to me, 'if you don’t change your lifestyle, gain some healthy weight and start to treat your body kindly, it will stop you from having a child one day, Christine.’
I was crushed, shocked and felt hopeless. I was in a brand new relationship, with someone I had fallen head over heels for (that 'he’s the one', kind of love), so this broke my heart more than ever.
The realisation that I had mistreated my body SO badly to the point of serious damage, all for what? To maintain my self image of being what society tells you you should be?! To feed my ego through looks rather than health and authentic happiness?
That day changed my life. From that day, I have dedicated to give my body the love, connection and nourishment it needed and most importantly deserves. To listen with kindness rather than punish or mistreat.
If you’re a women reading this, please ask yourself: if you didn’t have instagram, if no one could see you, who would you want to be? Would it be different to who you are now?
Would you punish yourself with diets and gruelling workouts or would you listen to what your body needs?
How did yoga help get you through recovering from your eating disorder and poor mental health?
The more time I spent at my yoga studio, the sooner yoga became so much more than a way to move my body. It became a practice of awareness and mindfulness, which subtly guided me on the path to treating myself with love. The people I met shared so much love, compassion and generosity of heart. There authenticity allowed me to truly be myself rather than someone I thought they wanted me to be.
Being around this allowed me to see what it truly means to find happiness and peace, with an ethos of letting go of what we can’t control and remaining present.
It not only helped me on the path to recovering my physical and mental health, it’s helped me nourish an incredibly loving relationship, to find meaningful friendships and better connections with my family.
Yes, yoga will relax you, it will help you with flexibility, it will make you stronger. It WILL do the things you hear so often, but what you don’t hear is how yoga will help you find what is truly important to you. Its philosophy on gratitude and acceptance will guide you through the constant wave of change that life is and always will be.
Fast forward a few years, I’m currently training to teach yoga and meditation professionally. I live with my fiancé (I told you he was the one) and my health is the best it’s ever been with a very good chance of getting pregnant one day, I’m told by my doctor. Woohoo!
Of course I’m still on this ever present learning of remaining in kindness to myself. I think understanding that everything is a journey, with inevitable fall backs and the great stuff in-between has been the biggest learning of all, knowing that there are no quick fixes in life, but with great intentions and patience, you will ultimately get where you need to be.
I hope to one day guide women on this same journey, to find the love and trust in themselves which can be so easily forgotten but is always in reach, if you look for it.
For the women reading this right now, you are so worthy. The way you treat your body is your quality of life and kindness will always be the answer.
Please feel free to follow or contact me on @kyndofmind if you have any thoughts or would like to share anything at all.