Written by Ashlee Davis, this post is all about how she explored within and healed her relationship with her body.
I knew I hit rock bottom when my hair started falling out. It had been thinning for years, but I remember the moment I looked in the mirror and a wave of terror washed over me. I was finally able to see what I was doing to my body.
At the time, I exercised every morning, seven days a week, without exception. I ate the same “healthy” foods for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, along with two big cups of black coffee and at least three full packs of sugar-free gum to keep my appetite in check between meals.
I was always on edge, thinking about food, exercise, and my routine. I rarely skipped a meal, but was starving my body in the midst of intense marathon training. I was exhausted during the day and often woke up at night sweating with my heart racing. While these symptoms raised red flags, they weren’t enough to halt my pursuit of the perfect body.
I wasn’t willing to gain back weight, after years of hard work and dedication. I struggled with overeating growing up, and when I figured out how to control my body, there was no turning back — or so I thought. I fell in love with fitness and nutrition, which fueled my confidence and empowered my entire being, but also served as an excuse for self-destruction.
After seeing myself clearly in the mirror, I frantically researched hair loss causes and treatments. I stopped chewing gum, overexercising, and taking birth control — all notable triggers. I was convinced quitting the pill would lead me to shut down, lose all of my hair, and remain infertile for the rest of my life. I feared I had cancer and a chronic digestive disorder from my artificial sweetener addiction. I knew I had to change, and I was willing to do anything to right my wrongs.
As I expected, my period didn’t show up a month later, so I sought out an acupuncturist, praying for a miracle. He calmed my nerves and introduced me to the world of alternative medicine, whole foods, and holistic health. With high hopes and good intentions, I started following an organic Paleo diet and low-impact exercise routine. I went to a functional medicine doctor and experimented with different supplements and protocols. I knew my body could heal itself on its own, if given a chance.
As I hit the ground running on my new journey, I enrolled at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and began Kundalini Yoga teacher training. I was ready to heal myself and help others do the same. Both programs drastically shifted my perception. I realized that bringing my body back to balance, hormonally and holistically, required more than a clean meal plan and workout regimen.
Then, I found Nicole, the first health authority to help me connect all of the dots. She showed me that food and movement are crucial to balancing hormones, but not at the cost of mental and emotional health and well-being. I had been meditating for years, yet kept this practice of trust and surrender separate from my physical body. I knew whole foods and restorative exercise would help bring back my period, but I first had to let go of the fear and anxiety surrounding this part of my life.
Chronic stress, perfectionism, extremism, negative self-talk, and limiting beliefs were the true culprits. When Nicole taught me that less could actually be more when it came to reclaiming my health and my life, I set out on a new path. I loosened up and re-prioritized, with stress relief, self-love, and body acceptance at the top of my mind. I felt my body begin to relax, but I still had lessons to learn.
When I finally chose to let go of control, I didn’t know how to navigate my new world. I wanted to eat well and nourish my body, but I didn’t know how without structure that felt like restriction. I quit my job to pursue health coaching and help women find balance beyond diets and fitness plans, yet I hadn’t fully figured it out for myself.
Slowing down, letting go, openly experimenting, and paying close attention to my thoughts, feelings, and patterns allowed me to finally discover the root cause of my lifelong struggle with my body.
I used food and my body to cope with my feelings. Whether my diet and exercise were poor or perfect, I was still turning to food as an escape from myself. I turned to food and exercise whenever I was stressed, anxious, or overwhelmed. I was either overeating and feeling guilty and ashamed or obsessing over controlling my food and exercising as much as possible.
And what caused my chronic fear and compulsive behavior? My underlying belief that I was not good enough — physically, mentally, and emotionally. I never considered myself thin enough, creative enough, or loved enough. I was living in a perpetual state of lack, blaming my body, and compensating with food and exercise.
Once I came to this realization and found the root cause of my disordered eating, a clear path to healing unfolded. I could now see what I had been ignoring most of my life. I knew it was time to take a new approach and address the deep-rooted beliefs that were literally and figuratively blocking my flow.
I was no longer afraid to trust myself because I knew that was the answer I had been looking for all along. I began using mindful tools and practices to recognize and process my thoughts and feelings without food and to release limiting beliefs and compulsive patterns that were putting perpetual stress on my body. Committing to myself – rather than a specific plan or protocol – allowed me to finally heal.
How I Shifted My Perception of Food and My Body
Yoga and Meditation: Kundalini Yoga and meditation helped me to clear my mind, slow down my thoughts, and develop a deeper awareness of the habits and patterns that were keeping me disconnected from my body, my intuition, and the present moment.
Honesty with Myself: I was brutally honest with myself about why I was turning to food, diets, and exercise – for more than just health reasons. I had to fully admit that a driving force behind my desire to control was a lifelong distrust in myself and discontent with my body.
Honesty with Others: After getting honest with myself, I realized sharing the truth of my experience with others had an exponential healing effect on my entire body, mind, and spirit. It strengthened my relationships, helped me become a far more authentic and powerful coach, and lifted what felt like a physical weight off of my shoulders.
Mindful Eating: When I stopped worrying about whether or not my meals were perfect and shifted my focus to the actual experience of eating, I was able to connect with my body in a way that I never had before. Mindful eating also transformed the way I approached, consumed, and digested my food.
Joining Forces with My Body: It took me a long time, but when I finally realized controlling and manipulating my food and body was never going to work, I was able to join forces with my body to heal my digestion, balance my hormones, and eat and exercise intuitively.
Committing to the Deeper Work: In my experience, committing to the emotional, psychological, and spiritual work is what led to true, sustainable change in my health and in my life. For years, I ate clean, exercised moderately, experimented with supplements, completed protocols, followed the advice of doctors and health practitioners, and practiced a wide variety of mindful and stress-relieving techniques. I was diligent, driven, and well-intentioned, but it wasn’t until I committed to looking within that I began to break through blocks, repair my relationship with my body, and reclaim my power.
Ashlee Davis is an emotional and disordered eating coach and Kundalini Yoga and meditation teacher on a mission to help women heal their relationship with food, their bodies, and ultimately, themselves. She teaches her clients how to drop the excess physical, mental, and emotional weight blocking them from finding balance, reclaiming their power, igniting their inner light, and becoming the highest version of themselves. You can find her at www.ashleemdavis.com.