Eating is one of the most enjoyable personal and social activities that we do. And yet few things make people as miserable as being overweight.
We are advised of the dangers of obesity and its current worldwide epidemic shows no signs of abating. Yet, despite the massive growth in the dieting industry, there seems to be no real solution to the problems of being overweight.
Suffering from an eating condition that led to overweightness is a problem that Sarajoy Marsh understands only too well.
In the introduction to Hunger, Hope, and Healing she shares her sense of frustration and despair at being under the control of a condition that seemed to demonstrate a self-destructive tendency all of its own.
It was her desperate struggle to monitor and adjust her food intake, along with the endless cycle of trying to remained emotionally balanced, that caused her to search for a better approach to her recurrent problem.
In the end, and through a fortuitous experience, she discovered that the practice of yoga was her salvation.
Hunger, Hope, and Healing is a practical approach to the cycles of over-eating and yo-yo dieting. It embraces the treatment of the feelings of anger, self-hatred and hopelessness that often accompany failed dietary regimes.
The book opens with a look at hunger in its various forms. It includes the primal desire we all have for food, love, security and to belong.
Marsh argues that eating is only an external way of satiating our inner hunger and that we need to confront the other issues in our lives. As she explains to those women who attend her workshops, there is no room for self-recrimination over the sense of powerlessness that results from failed eating regimes for this, in itself, can create the emotional difficulties that cause so many additional problems and addictions.
The first of the practical exercises demonstrates the connection between mind and body as well as highlighting the stresses trapped within the muscles. She offers a series of simple breathing and stretching routines to release trapped emotional energy.
From her many years of working with overweight clients, Marsh has come to recognize that many suffer from an inability to ground themselves into the earth and, more importantly, into their own bodies. She addresses this with a number of advanced yoga exercises, designed to bring you into closer contact with your senses.
In part two, the author highlights the practice of focussing, mindfullness as well as including more advanced yoga techniques for improving the physical body and establishing new neural pathways and habitual patterns of behavior.
From this point in the therapy, the author explains the actual process of eating, what levels of hunger you might experience and which foods might trigger off eating binges and food cravings.
Good dietary regimes clearly play an important role in proper eating and the author examines key aspects of it, such as the effect of comfort foods, the need to maintain regular meal-times and the importance of staying aware of your blood sugar levels.
Part three of Hunger, Hope, and Healing opens with a chapter that takes to heart the psychological stresses induced by the pendulum swings of personal weight control. This can lead to feelings of shame and loss of personal power. However, the author argues that a return to faith in your ability to change ingrained personal circumstances can be found through regular yogic practice.
Marsh continues to integrate yoga principles into her eating philosophy by explaining the teachings behind the ‘kleshas’. She defines these as ‘the five most powerful and painful ways in which our minds become distorted and cause us emotional and mental pain’.
She identifies these as suffering caused through ignorance, ego, aversion, desire and fear. You need to address these to create the most balanced state of being.
The fourth and final part of the book deals with the principles of forgiveness and freedom. These form what the author refers to as the third stage of recovery which is based upon kriya yoga and the process of self-forgiveness.
The final part of the publication includes a personal roadmap of questions aimed at guiding you through an analysis of your relationship to your eating issues. The book closes with a general index of yoga exercises included in the book, a resources section and full index.
Anyone who has struggled with a weight issue for any period of tine understands that you are dealing with an inner force, or demon, that destroys the benefits of regular exercise and dieting through the imposition of its own ‘fat agenda’.
Regular yoga exercises are recognized to have major health an fitness benefits but this is the first book that specifically deals with its benefits for eating problems.
So, if you are fed up with being under the control of these inner forces, this is a book that will help get you back on track to a thinner and healthier lifestyle.
Whilst reading this book, you get the over-riding impression of that the author has a deep empathy for those who have struggled—perhaps for many years—with weight issues.
Whilst it is a compassionate book, it is also brutally honest in its dealings with the dark emotions that underpin over-consumption of any kind.
It strives to draw out the dark material of unresolved emotional issues that most of us would happily choose to ignore… but cannot afford to if we are serious about shifting those excess pounds.
All of the practical yoga and breathing exercises are extremely well presented and are made even easier to understand through the addition of photographs.
The addition of anecdotal stories from others who have had weight issues add greatly to the feeling that you are not alone in the struggle to regain control over your body.
This is a terrifically well thought out and attractively designed book. It carries you along over some rocky terrain in a supportive and engaging way.
I do, however, have one slight caveat. The photographs that accompany the exercises feature a young, thin and supple young woman who is obviously an expert in yoga practice. Some of the positions that she demonstrates would be virtually impossible for anyone of more advanced years and who carries a spare tyre around their midriff. I hope this does not negate the effectiveness of the exercises to beginners.
I would also have liked to have read more about how yoga can help those at the far ends of eating disorders—those who are clinically obese or who suffer from anorexia or bulimia.
Does yoga offer a viable solution for such sufferers?
I would like to have known.
Nevertheless, these few criticisms do not spoil what is a superb publication. It does not patronise its reader in any way as so many dieting books tend to. Instead, it presents a practical, workable and intensive system of weight management that, if followed, will bring about many other additional health benefits.
Sarahjoy Marsh’s insights and guidance will inspire and motivate many who have failed at dieting programs and health regimes of any kind. Her book offers a powerfully practical and compassionate solution to healing the emotional roots of overweightness and food cravings.