Embodiment exercises for recovery

embodiment work and eating disorders

Why embodiment work needs to be included in eating disorder recovery


Before you start reading this article, pause for a second.

Take a deep breath in through your nose, hold it for a moment, and then let it fall out of your body.

Take another breath in, and this time notice the sensation of the cool air travelling in through your nose and down into your lungs. Feel your rib cage move up as the breath fills your body. Now, release the breath back out through your nose and notice the warmer air on your top lip as it leaves your body.

This short exercise only took a few moments, but it allowed you to be a little more present and a little more connected to your physical body. This is one of many examples of what practicing embodiment can feel like.

In this article, we want to highlight the importance of becoming embodied, especially in eating disorder recovery. This is something we feel passionate about – after all, it’s in our name!

The concept of embodiment and its related theories are extremely complex and based heavily in neurobiology, so we want to be transparent in the fact that this article will be a simplified summary and will really only scratch the surface of this interesting topic. However, we’ve included some resources at the bottom of this page for you to learn more.


What is embodiment and why should I care?

Embodiment is essentially the connection between mind and body – both the lived body (the felt and experienced body) and the physical body (the aesthetic and anatomical body). It is the act of being aware and present within the body, and having an understanding of how and what the body is attempting to communicate.

As a society, we have become disconnected from our bodies. Rather than engagement and communication, objectification of the human body has become the norm. In other words, we see the body as a purely aesthetic thing rather than as a source of wisdom and information – thanks diet culture!

The body communicates with us constantly through the five senses, internal sensations and movement. However, we are not always able to hear it.

Interoception is the processing, representation and perception of bodily signals – in other words, it is the body’s ability to sense itself from the inside. A high sensitivity to this is known as interoceptive awareness. Studies have shown that limited interoceptive awareness is strongly associated with risky decision-making, compromised cognitive function and poor self-regulation of emotions and behaviours.1 A common way that researchers test someone’s interoceptive awareness is by asking them to identify the rate of their own heartbeat without feeling for their pulse.

Disembodiment and poor interoceptive awareness occur when we are chronically outside what we call our window of tolerance.

The window of tolerance is the psychological space where we feel safe, are able to manage daily stressors and fully engage socially with the world around us. When we are outside this space, somatic dysregulation occurs. In other words, the body reacts to stress by becoming either hyperaroused (feeling anxious, angry and out of control) or hypoaroused (feeling numb, exhausted and depressed) in order to cope with what is going on around us.

Leaving our window of tolerance every now and then is a normal part of being human, and the body is designed to be able to self-regulate when this happens. However, as a result of extreme stress, trauma, mental illness and/or other factors, our window of tolerance can sometimes shrink, meaning it takes only a small disruption for us to feel unsafe. This is what happens in people with eating disorders.


Why is embodiment important for eating disorder recovery?

Luckily for us, embodiment work and eating disorders is a strong interest area for many researchers, which means there is constantly new information emerging about this concept.

Research has found that the body’s ability to process somatosensory information is altered in people with eating disorders, and this can persist after recovery.2 For example, the heartbeat perception test described earlier in this article was undertaken in a group of 28 females with anorexia nervosa. Their ability to accurately identify their pulse was significantly worse than people without an eating disorder, as was their ability to recognise bodily sensations related to hunger and satiety.3

Another study published in 2019 found that feeling extraneous from one’s own body (in other words, feeling disembodied) is associated with poor interoceptive awareness, and is a strong risk factor for the development of eating disorder symptoms.4 This study also found that poor interoceptive awareness is associated with distorted body image, impulsivity and compromised decision-making abilities, which are all common characteristics seen in people with eating disorders.

Studies have also demonstrated that interoceptive sensitivity predicts malleability of body-representations.5 This suggests that poor interoceptive awareness decreases the accuracy with which we view our own body, increasing the likelihood of distorted body image.

People struggling with eating disorders often see their body as the enemy.

However, disordered behaviours are one of the body’s ways of communicating underlying somatic dysregulation. As such, the body should be seen as a resource and utilised as part of the solution, rather than as part of the problem.


How can I feel more embodied?

There are tonnes of practices you might mindfully engage in order to become more embodied! Some of our favourites are:

  • Breathwork and meditation
  • Body scans
  • Yoga, especially Shavasana (corpse pose) and Viparita Karani (legs up the wall pose)
  • Aromatherapy
  • Tai Chi
  • Massage, including self-massage or rubbing in lotion
  • Use of weighted objects, such as a weighted blanket or toy
  • Shaking it out – this sounds silly but animals do this after a period of fight/flight! Keep your feet firmly planted on the ground and bounce, swing, sway, shake – whatever feels right!
  • Walking with bare feet on grass or sand
  • Hugging a pillow to your chest and breathing deeply, feeling your body against the cushion


Further resources for learning about embodiment

  • Bessel van der Kolk: The Body Keeps the Score
  • Daniel Siegel: The Developing Mind
  • Giten Tonkov: Feel to Heal
  • Niva Piran: Journeys of Embodiment at the Intersection of Body and Culture




Our ultimate goal with our clients is to help them to build trust with their body in order to be able to let it guide them. Reach out to us at [email protected] for more information about how we can work with you to achieve this.


Karli Battaglia, APD

EHL Team x





  1. Herbert B, Pollatos O. The Body in the Mind: On the Relationship Between Interoception and Embodiment. Topics in Cognitive Science. 2012;4(4):692-704.
  2. Eshkevari E, Rieger E, Longo M, Haggard P, Treasure J. Persistent body image disturbance following recovery from eating disorders. International Journal of Eating Disorders. 2013;47(4):400-409.
  3. Pollatos O, Kurz A, Albrecht J, Schreder T, Kleemann A, Schöpf V et al. Reduced perception of bodily signals in anorexia nervosa. Eating Behaviors. 2008;9(4):381-388.
  4. Cascino G, Castellini G, Stanghellini G, Ricca V, Cassioli E, Ruzzi V et al. The Role of the Embodiment Disturbance in the Anorexia Nervosa Psychopathology: A Network Analysis Study. Brain Sciences. 2019;9(10):276.
  5. Tsakiris M, Jiménez A, Costantini M. Just a heartbeat away from one’s body: interoceptive sensitivity predicts malleability of body-representations. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 2011;278(1717):2470-2476.


The THRIVE Experience: Anastasia’s Story

We had the privilege to interview one of our past THRIVE participants – Anastasiia who shares her journey to full recovery with us. In today’s blog we share the questions we asked and her answers! 


Q. What were you looking for in a programme?

A. I actually perfectly remember the moment. So it was late at night and I could not sleep because I ate too much and felt physically stuffed and emotionally uneasy. I googled a few questions related to ‘why people overeat at night and I found a very relevant answer from Embody Health London. That was the moment I discovered you.

Q. How did you know you found a programme that was right for you?

Once I looked through the Embody Health London’s website and program overview I felt fairly interested as it was something of a quality and definitely not the information I can find everywhere. So I scheduled my initial 30 min consultation and it was it. Everything was just right.

Q. How would you describe the struggle you were living with prior to the programme?

Oh it was a lot. I had bulimia for years. Before that, clear signs of anorexia. Low self-esteem, excessive focus on food and out of proportion body image.

Could be partly a one way road relationship with my mum. She could be happy and loving in one moment and snap right in the next. I suffered from those swings and oftentimes thought I was the one at fault. On top of that my personality is more sensitive towards other people’s feelings way more than my own. Probably that and many more reasons combined together.


Q. What was your belief about the solution to the struggle prior to the programme ?

In some ways I felt it was me who needed to stop overeating, start controlling myself better and just do the right thing. Which of course hit me back harder when I could not manage to do exactly that.


Q. What told you, you were ready for full recovery?

As I said I was in recovery already. But I was looking for different perspectives, possible knowledge behind the scenes that will help me understand my behaviour better.


Q. What was it like working with Embody Health London?

Loving and warming. I was looking towards every new session. Loads of priceless information. Great exercises and just such sincere support.

Q. How if at all, has this transformation impacted your life?

It brought me to the next level of my recovery. I became more understanding towards myself. And I stonewalled my idea to never diet and to not even have thought about it. With EHL I learned so much real data of why it only hurts. Finally I really understood it.

Q. What objections did you have or doubts that you would have wanted to be addressed before committing to the programme?

I probably had some sort of quality doubts. Just because I so unexpectedly found EHL over the internet. But as I discovered the website and social media I saw I did not need to worry. And never ever I doubted it.


Q. How have celebrating special events changed for you since completing the programme? Christmas? Birthdays? Holidays?

Well…it became more enjoyable actually. As I know I will allow myself anything I want as long as I listen to my body and stop or maybe just take a break when it is time, I am not worried about celebrations any more. I am looking forward to them.

Q. What do you do outside of school/work for fun? What are your interests?

I love doing sports, anything to move my body. I really enjoy travelling and hope that one day I can visit London and meet Cassie and Ariana in real life 🙂 I enjoy reading books and browsing through Instagram and watching movies on Friday evenings. And of course I love hanging out with people and building communities.

If you can relate to Anastasiia’s story and you’re ready to finally get out of the recovery limbo THRIVE is for you.

Get in touch with us today if you still have queries and want to learn more at [email protected]

Team EHL x

Three signs you are ready to fully recover

eating disorder recovery thrive


Eating disorder recovery is no easy road – be prepared for bumps, twists, and turns along the way. There may be days where you feel on top of everything and days where you seem to be back at square one. But, we’re here to remind you that this is all a perfectly normal and healthy part of the recovery process – and our team at EHL is with you every step of the way! 

This blog explores three key signs that could indicate you are ready to achieve a full recovery in your healing journey. Remember that recovery and the path towards it is within reach, meaningful, and you are worth it.


ONE: You are willing and open to seeking and receiving support.

Whether from friends, family, a therapist or medical professionals – you aren’t afraid to open up to those around you and ask for help when you need it most. Embrace your braveness, and don’t be scared to seek the support you deserve. Your vulnerability is a strength and may even empower those around you to seek help in their own lives – this mindset can bring so much further benefit.

There is plenty of research to show the power of support groups and networks in overcoming trauma and complex life events can be crucial in boosting mental wellbeing, decision-making, mood, behaviour and more. We are a social species who rely on each other in our daily lives, in countless situations and contexts – and in the lens of recovery, these relationships have a huge role to play. (1)

Studies even show negatively-correlated relationships between social connectedness and eating disorder symptoms, particularly amongst family and friends as well as the patient-healthcare professional relationship. (2, 3)

Probably all of us at some point have been in a position where we struggle to ask for help with a challenge we may be facing – so remind yourself of the courage this takes and acknowledge how far you may have come.


TWO: You are patient and prepared to put the work in 

As mentioned, recovery isn’t a walk in the park and will not happen passively. It takes serious momentum to get the ball rolling and also requires a lot of upkeep and persistence to reach a full recovery and not just a quasi one. So take each day as a new window of opportunity and choose the path of healing, no matter how uncomfortable this may feel at times. 

Holding yourself in positive or more neutral regard and having the persistence of effort in your recovery journey will reap considerable benefits in the long term. Limiting beliefs in our recovery process are common and may hinder your progress from time to time, but if you take steps to recover each day – no matter how small, this is significant and will add up to the big fundamental shifts that may lead to our ultimate healing. 

This could look like: breaking from a strict exercise routine and giving yourself some time off, exploring mindfulness, catching up with an old friend, booking a massage, yoga class or therapy session, developing a journalling habit or reconnecting with a food you enjoy. Find what is suitable and attainable for you and do what makes you happy.


THREE: You are increasingly aware of diet culture and ready to question the norm

Let’s face it; recovery is uncomfortable. It can be a very foreign place when we choose to go against something that we may have internalised for a very long time. Leaving this comfort zone initially can feel like a minefield, but taking this step and increasing our awareness of messaging and influence around us is crucial to recovery.

We know that diet culture impacts our behaviours and thought patterns regarding body image and disordered eating, our perceptions of others, our stress levels, and quality of life, to name a few. (4,5)

When you find yourself questioning diet culture, hold onto the thoughts you may experience. Ask yourself if the voice in your head comes from a place of restriction or a place of freedom – is this your eating disorder talking, or your compassionate, loving self? 

If you are able to detach from negative, destructive, and intrusive thinking, chances are you are working on your self-awareness and being more mindful of your thoughts – and getting to that place is powerful progress.

Remember, no matter where you are in your journey, you are doing a remarkable job. Know that you are capable and worthy of full recovery, and every day can be a step closer – which is for you to work towards. 

Want to work with us to heal your relationship with food? Book in a free, no-obligation discovery call today, or learn more about our THRIVE program launching in January 2022!


Priya Chotai, BSc ANutr

EHL Team x



  1. Siegel, D. (2014). Interpersonal Connection, Self-Awareness and Well-Being: The Art and Science of Integration in the Promotion of Health. Lecture, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).


  1. Nunez N. (2019). Social Connectedness and Eating Disorder Symptomatology. Psychology. 38.


  1. Linville D, Brown T, Sturm K, McDougal T. (2012). Eating Disorders and Social Support: Perspectives of Recovered Individuals. Eating Disorders. 20(3):216-231.


  1. Stice E, Ng J, Shaw H. (2010). Risk factors and prodromal eating pathology. J Child Psychol Psychiatry. Apr;51(4):518-25. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-7610.2010.02212.x. Epub 2010 Jan 14. PMID: 20074299.


  1. Dirks AJ, Leeuwenburgh C. (2005). Caloric restriction in humans: potential pitfalls and health concerns. Mech Ageing Dev. 2006 Jan;127(1):1-7. doi: 10.1016/j.mad.2005.09.001. Epub 2005 Oct 13. PMID: 16226298.