Between 2010 and 2017, celebrity chef and eponymous domestic goddess Nigella Lawson, has gone from a ‘voluptuous’ size 16 to a ‘svelte’ size 12. These are not my words, but the words of lifestyle magazines and tabloids, who have endlessly focused on the way that women in the public eye, like Nigella, look.
It’s a trend that seems unlikely to change, but Nigella has credited one particular form of exercise for her ‘miraculous’ weight loss – that’s right, yoga.
In two separate interviews with Good Housekeeping magazine, in 2015 and 2017, she was repeatedly asked about how she had lost weight. She replied that it is her yoga practice that has helped to keep her in shape, but Nigella also kept trying to steer the conversation away from how she looked and what she weighed, instead responding about how doing yoga has made her ‘feel’.
In 2015 she told the magazine, “It’s certainly true my weight went up – that happens in life sometimes”.
But, she said, “I have never been on a diet to try to lose weight. I feel like I haven’t lost weight, but I’m possibly in better shape. I am doing a rather slow form of yoga now called Iyengar.”
She emphasised this again to the magazine when she said, “As you get on in life, you value feeling well as opposed to looking well. Yoga certainly makes you feel great, and you want to carry on feeling great. I just do a bit in a very slow way. Sometimes, lying down!”
Feeling well, not just looking well
Nigella has hit the nail on the head with her response that she values ‘feeling well as opposed to looking well.’ It’s taken some time, but I’ve now come to the same conclusion as Nigella, as well as some other stars, such as Kate Winslet.
In a recent Graham Norton show, Kate revealed that she hadn’t weighed herself for twelve years and it was ‘much better for the mood’ not to know.
But how many of us can put our hands up and honestly say we started yoga to ‘connect with our inner calm’ or some other mindful reason? Probably not many. Most of us, myself included, started going to yoga as part of a personal campaign to ditch the flab and tone up. Many of us, inspired by the endless pictures of insta-yogis looking ‘abs’-olutely fabulous on a beach makes us think that if we do yoga, we too could look like that.
It’s only once we commit to yoga that the true motivation for sticking to the discipline reveals itself: internal well-being.
Feel Happy, Look Happy
The truth is that real beauty and health come from the inside first. Beauty radiates out of every pore of someone who is content. B.K.S. Iyengar, the father of Iyengar yoga – the style of yoga that Nigella has said that she practises, says:
A great boon of yoga, even for relative beginners, is the happiness it brings, a state of self-reliant contentment.
He doesn’t say, that a great boon of yoga is that you will ‘lose those extra pounds’, or ‘look svelte for your selfie‘. The fact is that if we stop looking for happiness by changing the way we look, we find happiness by changing the way we feel.
In 2017, the same questions on weight loss came up, and Nigella answered,
“I do yoga three times a week,’ she said. ‘I have to do something I enjoy, otherwise I wouldn’t do it.” Again, she stressed her commitment to her yoga practice, and the way that it makes her feel – NOT the way it helped her look.
Yoga DOES help with Weight Loss
The fact is that most forms of yoga are an excellent way to keep fit and burn off extraneous calories. But yoga helps your physical health in many ways, not just through the strenuous physical effort involved.
In an article for LiveScience, Beth A. Lewis, Associate Professor at the University of Minnesota School of Kinesiology in Minneapolis, states that ‘yoga can increase one’s mindfulness and the way one relates to their body. So, individuals will become more aware of what they are eating and make better food choices.’
Through yoga the mind and body become more in tune, which often leads the student of yoga to adjust their lifestyle. Personally, I have completely given up drinking any caffeinated drinks due to the effect it was having on my body. I ignored the symptoms for years, but after taking up yoga, I found that I became hyper-aware of the negative physical and mental effects.
Lose Stress first, the rest will follow
The fact is, when we are out of balance emotionally and mentally, the body will also be out of balance. Our attitude to yoga should be that we should address the internal imbalance first, and the rest will follow.
Beth A. Lewis again:
“Additionally, many individuals eat more when they are feeling stressed and yoga can help combat stress, which can influence one’s energy intake.”
In the high-octane, busy modern world that we live in, there are more and more ways that we can get stressed. We can stress about our jobs, about our relationships, our children and the way we look. But stress only adds to the unhealthy cocktail that leads to weight gain and long-term to disease.
As B. K. S. Iyengar says,
‘the essence of yoga is not about external display but internal cultivation.’
If we cultivate our inner balance, the external display looks after itself. Just like Nigella.