If you think yoga is just about those calming stretches or finding your inner Zen during meditation, well, think again…

The Yogic diet and Eating Disorders (ED) – how Yoga takes a holistic approach for various disorders, from physical to mental, and including ED. There’s a whole world of connection.

Yogic Diet for Eating Disorders

What we eat is more than just a meal—it’s a gateway to our well-being.

And… there’s a ton of research highlighting how our food choices affect our health, from reducing the risk of chronic diseases to boosting our overall vitality.

But it’s not just about what’s on our plate; it’s also about the factors influencing our food choices. Things like taste, cost, availability, cultural norms, and, let’s not forget, convenience all play a part.

The Yogic Diet and Eating Disorders

Now, here’s where things get really interesting.

Ever heard of the three types of foods according to yoga philosophy?

  1. Sattvic which is all about that balance and purity
  2. Rajasic which might stir up feelings like jealousy or anger
  3. Tamasic might make you feel sluggish and lazy

1. Sattvic Diet:

This diet is believed to increase energy, promote happiness, calmness, and mental clarity. It is associated with longevity, health, and spirituality. It is designed to make you feel energized, happy, and clear-headed.

Foods in this category are fresh, nutritious, and include:

  • fresh fruits and vegetables
  • sprouted grains, nuts
  • nut and seed milk
  • honey

The Sattvic diet aligns closely with what we recognize as a modern healthy diet.

2. Rajasic Diet:

This diet is considered over-stimulating, leading to feelings of jealousy, anger, and selfishness. It’s recommended for leaders and fighters, as it may evoke excitement, confidence, and intelligence.

Foods in this category are:

  • bitter
  • tart
  • salty
  • spicy
  • sugary

This includes items like white sugar, radishes, spicy and fried foods. It’s all about the stimulating foods.

3. Tamasic Diet:

This diet is believed to induce pessimism, weakness, laziness, and hinder spiritual progress. It’s associated with a shorter life expectancy and poor health.

Foods in this category include:

  • meats from big animals
  • onions
  • mushrooms
  • stale
  • under-cooked
  • highly fried foods
  • high-fat foods
  • certain spices
  • butter
  • liquor

It’s a fascinating take on how food can affect not just our bodies but also our minds, based on ancient yoga wisdom.

But here’s the kicker with the Yogic diet for eating disorders…

Studies suggest that diving into yoga practice doesn’t just lead to perfecting that downward dog. It also impacts our eating habits in the long run.

It’s pretty clear that when our spiritual well-being is on point, our eating habits tend to follow suit. That’s a pretty great connection between the mind, the body, and what’s on our plates!

The Yoga and Food Connection

Let’s look deeper into the Connection of the Yogic Diet and Eating Disorders

With its emphasis on mindfulness, self-compassion, self-empathy, and tranquility, yoga also supports and strengthens eating disorder recovery.

In fact, in Western societies, Yoga and Ayurveda are gaining traction as holistic alternatives for treating various disorders, from the physical to the mental — including eating disorders (ED).

There are three main types of eating disorders:

  1. anorexia nervosa
  2. bulimia nervosa
  3. unspecified disorders

Anxiety and depression are often linked with these disorders, affecting around 60% of individuals with anorexia and bulimia nervosa.

Binge eating, characterized by eating large amounts of food with a feeling of lack of control, is associated with being overweight and severe adiposity (obesity).

Current treatments for eating disorders mainly involve cognitive-behavioral and interpersonal therapy. This aims to bring about positive changes in people’s eating behaviors.

However, progress in treatment development is limited due to insufficient understanding of the mechanisms behind the development and persistence of eating disorders.

Ayurveda takes a personalized and preventive approach, considering everything from your individual characteristics to your lifestyle.

Yoga is increasingly recognized as a beneficial practice for individuals struggling with eating disorders.

Here’s an overview of how it can have a positive impact:

  1. Mindfulness and Body Awareness:
    Yoga encourages mindfulness and promotes a greater awareness of the body. This increased mindfulness can help individuals with eating disorders become more aware of their hunger and fullness cues and develop a healthier relationship with food.
  2. Stress Reduction:
    Many eating disorders are exacerbated by stress and anxiety. Yoga, known for its stress-reducing qualities, can help lower anxiety levels, which may, in turn, reduce the impulse for disordered eating behaviors.
  3. Emotional Regulation:
    Yoga can assist in better emotional regulation. By learning to stay present and calm in challenging yoga poses, individuals may be better equipped to handle emotional distress without resorting to disordered eating patterns.
  4. Positive Body Image:
    Regular yoga practice can foster an appreciation for what the body can do, rather than how it looks. This shift in perspective can be particularly beneficial for those with body image issues, a common aspect of many eating disorders.
  5. Improved Self-esteem and Self-acceptance:
    Through yoga, individuals may gain a sense of accomplishment and increased self-esteem, which can be pivotal in recovering from an eating disorder. Yoga teaches self-compassion and acceptance, key components in the healing process.
  6. Physical Health Benefits:
    While yoga is not a high-intensity workout, it can contribute to physical fitness and overall health, which is particularly important for those who may have compromised their health due to an eating disorder.
  7. Community and Support:
    Yoga classes can provide a sense of community and support, offering a non-judgmental environment where individuals can feel safe and supported.
  8. Complementary to Traditional Treatment:
    Yoga can be a valuable complementary treatment to traditional therapies for eating disorders, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and nutritional counseling.

It’s important to note that while yoga can be a beneficial adjunct therapy, it should not replace professional treatment for eating disorders. Working with healthcare professionals to create a comprehensive treatment plan is crucial.

Additionally, it’s essential to have yoga instructors who are sensitive to the needs of individuals with eating disorders, as certain aspects of yoga practice may need to be modified for this population.

So, the takeaway?

Yoga isn’t just about striking poses or finding your inner calm. It’s a lifestyle that intertwines your spiritual, mental, and physical well-being, even influencing the way you see food and eat.

Ayurveda, Yoga, the Yogic Diet and Eating Disorders

Ayurveda is like a magical holistic system that combines herbal treatments, diet, yoga, and meditation.

In fact, Ayurveda and Yoga are two interconnected, ancient traditions that originated in India and share similar philosophical roots and principles.

The integration offers a comprehensive approach to well-being, combining the knowledge of Ayurveda’s personalized medicine and Yoga’s mind-body practices.

Together, they provide a framework for maintaining health, preventing diseases, and promoting a balanced and harmonious life.

Their association is profound, and the two philosophies complement each other in various ways:

  1. Shared Philosophical Foundation: Both Ayurveda and Yoga stem from the ancient texts known as the Vedas. They share a common philosophical basis, emphasizing the holistic approach to health and well-being. They view health as a balance between the body, mind, and spirit.
  2. Holistic Approach: Ayurveda and Yoga both embrace a holistic perspective on health, addressing not only physical aspects but also mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. They believe in treating the root cause of imbalances rather than just alleviating symptoms.
  3. Lifestyle and Preventive Medicine: Both systems focus on preventive measures and lifestyle modifications to maintain health. Ayurveda incorporates practices like personalized diets, herbal remedies, and detoxification, while Yoga includes asanas (postures), pranayama (breathing exercises), and meditation to maintain and restore balance.
  4. Interconnected Practices: Yoga is considered a part of Ayurveda, serving as a means to balance the doshas (energetic forces) within the body. Yoga practice is believed to harmonize the body, mind, and spirit, complementing Ayurvedic principles.
  5. Common Goal of Self-Realization: Ayurveda and Yoga share the ultimate goal of achieving self-realization or self-awareness. They aim to help individuals align with their true nature and reach a state of optimal health and consciousness.
  6. Combined Therapies: In practice, Ayurveda and Yoga often intertwine. Ayurvedic treatments might incorporate Yoga postures and breathing exercises to complement healing. For instance, specific asanas or breathing techniques can be recommended according to an individual’s dosha imbalance.

Who knew that a yoga session could be the first step towards a fresher, healthier, and more balanced eating journey?

Next time you’re on your yoga mat, take a moment to appreciate the hidden connection between those poses and the food you choose. It’s pretty mind-blowing when you think about it!

Until next time, keep striking those poses and choosing those veggies.

Namaste, my friends!

P.S. If you would like detailed information about the connections between Yoga and Food, refer to this NIH abstract.