Ayurveda’s approach to eating disorders

When we look at eating habits and the unhealthy kind of them from the Ayurvedic perspective I believe that it can be a healing practice. 

Ayurveda can heal our relationship with food and through the practices of meditation and yogic postures, asana we can also heal our relationship with our thoughts and progressively with our bodies as well.

By understanding the qualities of food, we can develop a different relationship to it. It becomes less of an antagonist since the mentality behind the eating disorder often relates to lack of control, to the idea that food would harm us, not knowing what to eat etc. So from the food relationship side, it is a process of making food our friend. Keeping in mind that Ayurveda sees food as medicine. 

When it comes to our relationship with ourselves, there is then the mental/emotional aspect and the physical.

They are all disturbed for someone with unhealthy eating habits. Mentally there will be worry and anxiety, a need to control our environment, feeling empty, not enough. The relationship to the body is also one of conflict. Just like with the food, we could say that the body is seen as an antagonist. 

The need to control comes back on all aspects of eating disorders and this is not something we should try to change. In fact, the condition would most probably worsen if we try to take away the control aspect. 

When we feel a need to control our environment, it comes to counter a feeling of helplessness. Helplessness can be approached through understanding. The same way we can tackle helplessness when someone feels unfairly treated by clarifying the situation, we can tackle this helplessness by creating an understanding of the doshas. When a person understands their tendencies and how they are bringing them further away from balance, they realise why they feel out of control.

What we are really talking about here is the need to change perspective. It’s a need to change how we perceive the world and ourselves. This is not easily done and especially if we ourselves don’t wish to do it. Because one thing is very true : most people with unnatural eating habits don’t actually believe that there is anything wrong in how they relate to food. 

But for the sake of this episode, let’s imagine that we wish to change our eating habits and we use Ayurveda to do so. 

We want to bring our relationship with food as well with the body/mind complex into balance again. When it comes to how we use food in our disordered eating, we can associate the 3 usually spoken of categories to each and one of the doshas. 

In some opinions, eating disorders would be affected to the Pitta dosha and even though it clearly results in issues with this dosha, i think we can also look at it from the tendencies of each type.

A Vata person is more inclined to develop anorexia whereas the Pitta person would lean more to bulimia and a Kapha person would perhaps be more likely to become a binge eater. 

Understanding the way we relate to food through the tendencies of the doshas can be really helpful because it brings us back to the idea that “like attracts like and opposites balance out”.

If we can see that our tendency is to pretend we dont need to eat anything (VATA) and that this brings in irregularity in our patterns with meals, we know that vata needs grounding, warming and slowing down to reverse itself. If we know that we are intense in both action and mentality, we can see our tendency of fire in starving until we can no longer maintain it and we throw anything into our mouth. To regret it minutes after and then cancel what we did. We know that Pitta needs to be softened, cooled down and grounded to reverse so this might mean to make sure that we never let our hunger become too intense. If we know that we binge eat without the bulimic behaviour of compensating, we are more on the kapha spectrum and we might feel very ashamed. We withdraw from social occasions and we constantly eat to fill the void that this isolation is bringing us. In this case, the opposite  qualities of kapha are needed : heat up, make more dynamic and dry out. 

Hi, I’m Charlotte (Yogi Cha). I’m a yoga teacher with a degree in clinical psychology. I’ve always had a deep curiosity toward eastern and western approaches to understanding the mind, and the ming/body union. You’ll find me in the lovely Canggu Bali, nestled amongst coconuts, palm trees and sunshine 🥥🌴🌞