The possibility of losing weight through the practice of yoga is widely acknowledged but not well-proven. One facet of reducing excess weight and maintaining a healthy body mass is the ability to control and to reduce emotional binge eating. New scientific research has revealed the impact that practicing yoga can on depression, improving metabolism and supporting healthier dietary choices. These two new research studies have linked the practices of yoga with a reduction in unhealthy emotional eating.
Ancient Chinese wisdom has long held that the stomach is where we hold feelings of anxiety, obsession, and worry; all of which can lead to emotional eating and unbalanced lifestyle habits. Balancing and transforming this excessive emotional energy through yoga and meditation can help us to rain in and integrate these feelings which can allow us to reduce binge eating. Interestingly, new scientific studies have confirmed yoga’s ability to regulate the emotions and reduce emotional eating.
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New research shows yoga reduces emotional eating
During a recent medical science convention, several studies were presented by experts in their fields. Lindsay Hopkins, of the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Centre, had conducted studies on 23 males that had practiced yoga over an eight week period. After only 2 months of yoga, twice a week, the participants showed significant reductions in stress and levels of depression. This is important because depression can be a major triggering cause of binge eating.
In a second study, presented at the convention by Alliant International University, women who participated in yoga classes reported that they were able to control emotional eating far better than before they had tried yoga. They reported that their disordered eating habits were significantly reduced and at the end of the 8-week study the yoga participants had significantly reduced symptoms of depression. This study sheds light on a fantastically positive way to approach the problem of emotional eating which can not only help fight off the urges to eat but also improve the underlying conditions that may lead to the condition.
Bracha Goetz is a Harvard-educated food addictions researcher and has experienced the connection between emotional eating and yoga. “Yoga helps to reduce emotional eating and binge eating because it trains the mind to focus, to be present, and it helps to calm the mind,” she explains. “It also helps to align the mind, body, and soul so that less impulsive decisions are made by our lower brain and the higher (prefrontal cortex) part of our brain becomes more fully engaged.”
The power of yoga to heal emotional eating
There are many ways how yoga and meditation techniques can help reduce binge eating. Fortunately, you don’t need to do anything fancy or special in your practice as a general yoga and meditation practice will naturally harmonize our emotions, increase awareness, boost acceptance, cultivate inner-strength and reduce stress. These mat skills easily transfer to your daily life experience of making mindful eating decisions.
Practicing yoga helps you to become more mindful and self-aware. This new awareness will enable you to examine the reasons that underlie unhealthy eating patterns and through this new understanding, you can come to make more healthy lifestyle choices. Megan Junchaya, the founder of Vibe N’ Thrive, describes how yoga helped her create awareness of her food cravings. “I started noticing that when troubling emotions would come up, although the urge was still there to turn to food, I would automatically become mindful and focus on my breathing. Without even realizing it, I was turning inwards to find peace instead of looking for outside sources of comfort.”
Yoga and meditation also helps you to learn to honor, appreciate and accept your current body, life, and limitations. Yoga instructor Lucile Hernandez Rodriguez notes that “If you struggle with emotional eating, chances are your body image and feeling of self-worth are not very good. Yoga allows you to be aware of your limitations and accept them in a loving way. You know what happens when you manage to do the advanced version of a pose? Nothing! Yoga forces you to reduce your ego by adapting the pose to your unique body and not the contrary.” As you learn to love yourself more honestly then it becomes much easier to curb those desires to binge eat to make yourself feel better.
Lastly, a regular yoga practice builds willpower, inner strength, and mindful-habit building. “Yoga is not just asana, it is also meditation, breathwork, philosophy and community of like-minded people!” Rodriguez reminds us. “When you are practicing yoga, you are building your toolkit against emotional eating but more importantly for an overall better life. Through all these, yoga brings more mindfulness into your daily life, making you feel connected to your higher self and choosing what really serves you.” The more inner strength you build through practicing on your mat the more willpower you can call upon when tempted by emotional hunger. This creates a powerful cycle that reinforces itself and leads to an overall healthier yogic lifestyle.
There is no perfect answer to any of life’s complex problems, but sometimes starting with actions that are simple, easy and positive can lead to a whole new outlook on life. Meditation and yoga can bring a new joy into your life which is healthy, emotionally healing and it’s something you can do anywhere, including at home!