Having struggled between multiple eating disorders and body image conflicts from youth until adulthood, now Kundalini yoga and health coach Ashlee Davis provides a first-hand account on her life and what she’s learned.
New York-based coach Ashlee Davis has fostered an interesting relationship with food and body image over the years. After multiple diets, constant anxiety and fatigue, and her general troubled relationship with food, she now dedicates her time to helping others who are still struggling to heal their relationship with food and their own bodies. Ashlee spoke with me to recount everything about her story – with more personal insight.
Ashlee Davis, at a young age, liked to “eat her feelings” and had constant cravings no matter her mood. In college, she began her long-term relationship with dieting which escalated after graduation, when she became a health journalist. “My job – and healthy physique – became my identity”, she states on her official biography. Her struggle included a two-year training regimen for the New York City Marathon (while on a strict diet which affected her knee and overall physique). After seeing doctors, naturopaths, and health coaches about her condition, she went on a Paleo diet but to no avail – she was still experiencing fatigue and anxiety.
So, she enrolled at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and took Kundalini Yoga teacher training. Now, she’s a certified Kundalini yoga teacher and health coach who helps individuals build a long-lasting healthy relationship with food and their bodies. She is making a huge difference in her journey to help others ultimately love themselves regardless of the food they eat and the body they were born with.
We at Dollar Tea Club, and now you, get to hear her story on a one-to-one discussion.
Tell us something about your story that we haven’t seen in your biography – specifically your feelings and emotions when you were going through your hardships.
Like many other people, and many other women (moreso that I’ve met), I struggled with food for a majority of my life and as I grew up, it was a source of comfort…and then a numbing agent. At a very young age, before I consciously realized that it was a central, focal point for me. It was so comfortable as a kid so it wasn’t a big deal first. [There was] no consequence over time. I continued to turn to food as a solution; anything from a big problem to even a small problem like boredom.
Over time, food has an impact on the body combined with the influx of messaging we receive from every direction about what your body should be like. It causes a lot of endless thoughts and emotions that whirl around and can start clutter in the mind, and cement themselves as beliefs…and that was the case for me. I don’t want to repeat what I said in my bio (her official story on the Ashlee Davis website, summarized above). But, I overate and then dieted, I just kept seeking for an answer in food or on the flip side, in diets to make myself feel like I had figured it out. I just wanted to get to this point where I had my body figured out and had my body in peace.
What are the hardest challenges you’ve faced, and how did you overcome them?
My biggest hardships involved binging and feeling sick afterwards. It wasn’t necessarily apparent outwardly; I buried a ton of self-loathing and just a lot of stress that I pretended wasn’t there, which eventually manifested in physical ways. When I was undereating and exercising, I was really starving my body of nutrients.
I was really pushing my body to the limit and that resulted in emotion issues, brain fog, inability to focus, and also hormonal balances and extreme fatigue.
I hit a wall and realized that I couldn’t do that to myself anymore…that was the turning point and it’s been a long road that’s hard to summarize. That was the beginning of a change and I realized there had to be another way. (Quoting Geneen Roth, author) No matter how many times you’ve tried bingeing and dieting, it is possible to stop your obsession with food. Thankfully, I had already been interested in meditation.
What are pieces of wisdom you’ve learned from your experiences?
[I asked myself], how can I look into nourishing myself? How can I feel sane? I’ve been crazy about my obsession with food and that’s when I found Kundalini Yoga and meditation as one practice. That’s when I found acupuncture, and it’s been really helpful.
These are pieces of wisdom that I found to be universal in the sense that I could use them everyday no matter the circumstance, no matter what I was doing for exercise…I could use these tools to remain connected to myself. Today, I continue to use them and practice returning to myself when I end up in a place where emotions and stress come up.
In the past, I would feel blindsided by anxiety, which would lead to compulsive eating or obsessing over food. Now, I do my best to be proactive in staying centered and connected to myself every single day.
When those emotions and stress come up I can at least see them and be aware of them, and turn to a set of mindful techniques, tools, etc. instead of going down the rabbit hole.
What advice would you give to your college self?
Hmm. That’s a good question (laughs)…it’s about the food, but it’s not about the food. The most important thing you can do is to learn how to listen to yourself and connect with yourself. Eating well and exercising are key parts of that connection and love.
The conversation you have with yourself and your higher power trumps every given exercise.
What are your philosophies in terms of food and lifestyle now (as a yoga-spiritual coach)?
I have found that prioritizing a time to be with yourself and be willing to sit and look at yourself and look at your mind is the greatest self-love.
When we give ourselves our undivided attention, that in my opinion is the ultimate self-love.
And meditation practice is just that. Committing to a practice allows you to more deeply feel and benefit from any other given activity or practice in the realm of self-love. Meditation allows you to more deeply feel that bubble bath, or that walk on the beach, or that feeling of that breeze through your hair, or drinking that cup of tea! Meditation enhances those things, and that’s why I would say it’s the ultimate practice you can commit.
Read about Ashlee Davis on her website or connect with her if you’re struggling with your own relationship with food or your body. Fun fact to distract from the seriousness: she loves herbal tea! (because who doesn’t)