Ashtanga Blog

Yoga, nutrition and body image

How yoga practice helped me overcome negative body image and befriend my body and myself

Portrait of Tania Kemou on a rooftop in Greece

I spent about 10 years of my teenage and young adult life obsessing about my weight.

I was always skinny but never as skinny as I would like to be. I would weigh myself every day (sometimes more than once), follow different diets, count calories and spend endless hours at the gym, not to become healthier but skinnier. Sometimes I would allow myself a sweet or a rich meal as a reward for being so disciplined and right after eating it I would regret it and exhaust myself at training in order to burn it. I knew my issues but didn’t want to face them.

Instead, controlling my weight was an easy way for me to gain a sense of control over my life.

It wasn’t until years later, through yoga practice and in depth self study that I realised that this was my way of making up for the lack of self esteem and purpose.

Back then my life was all about making money working a job I disliked so I can afford the fancy life I though would make me happy. I was not only addicted to controlling my weight but also to compulsive shopping and partying. The endless pursuit of such pleasures became the main motivation behind everything I did and that went hand in hand with unhealthy eating habits. 

Eating disorders, together with substance abuse are very common ways the human mind uses to fill the void.

Luckily in my case it didn’t go too far. But many people are struggling with this. And although you can always blame your disorders on someone else (family, work environment, society etc) the truth is if you dig deep and get to really know who you are, your addictions will tell you something about yourself. They will show you what you’re trying to escape through the self-destructive behaviour. And then it’s your responsibility to break the pattern, to find the courage to love yourself instead of punishing yourself. 

For me this tremendous strength came through Ashtanga Yoga.

It changed completely the way I viewed my body and made me focus on how I feel, instead of how I look. Until then I treated my body as the enemy, something that was getting in the way between me and my dream life. By punishing my body for not being skinny enough I was punishing myself for not being good enough, young enough, cool enough, smart enough, successful enough. 

Through practice i started befriending my body. I discovered what deep, conscious breathing really means and realised I had never done it before. Practice brought to light all my shadows, all the demons I yet had to fight. It offered me perspective and showed me that I was trapped in my own game. It gave me purpose in so many ways, that I no longer have the need to be self destructive to gain a sense of control. It gave me the courage to let go of my harmful patterns and in a way it saved me from myself. 

Today I can say that i have established a healthy relationship with eating. I follow a heathy vegetarian diet but I no longer go crazy if once I do an excess. I want my food to be nourishing, delicious and unprocessed as much as possible. I don’t count calories, don’t exclude carbs and fat and don’t and won’t own a body scale ever again.

It is never too late to befriend your body.

But in order to do so, you need to cure the mind first. If your mind is telling you that you’re not worthy and you’re punishing your body as a result, then your mind is working against you and you need to change that. Ask for help, find something meaningful to dedicate your time to, talk to people you trust, get real and honest so you can get better. Don’t be ashamed and know that you’re not alone.