By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“The practice of yoga can offer a therapeutic venue for engaging in physical activity while providing an outlet for many of the symptoms associated with eating disorders.“ – Jacquelyn Ekern
Around 30 million people in the United States of all ages and genders suffer from an eating disorder; either anorexia nervosa, bulimia, or binge eating disorder. 95% of those who have eating disorders are between the ages of 12 and 26. Eating disorders are not just troubling psychological problems, they can be deadly, having the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. Eating disorders can be difficult to treat because eating is necessary and cannot be simply stopped as in smoking cessation or abstaining from drugs or alcohol. One must learn to eat appropriately not stop. So, it is important to find methods that can help prevent and treat eating disorders. Contemplative practices, mindfulness, and mindful eating have shown promise for treating eating disorders. In addition, yoga practice appears to be beneficial.
In today’s Research News article “Effect of yoga in the treatment of eating disorders: A single-blinded randomized controlled trial with 6-months follow-up.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: http://www.ijoy.org.in/article.asp?issn=0973-6131;year=2018;volume=11;issue=2;spage=166;epage=169;aulast=Karlsen ), Karlsen and colleagues recruited young adult women, over 18 years of age, with eating disorders, primarily bulimia and unspecified eating disorders and randomly assigned them to either a yoga practice condition or a wait-list control group. The Hatha Yoga practice occurred twice a week for 90 minutes for 11 weeks. They were measured before and after treatment and 6 months later for global eating disorders, restraint, eating concern, weight concern, and shape concern.
They found that the yoga practice women in comparison to baseline and the wait-list control group had significantly lower global eating disorders scores, restraint, eating concern, and weight concern at the end of training. These improvements increased over time being largest at the 6-month follow up measurements. No adverse events were observed. Unfortunately, about a third of the women in the yoga group dropped out over the course of training. This is comparable to drop out rates observed from other eating disorder treatments. Hence, Hatha Yoga practice appears to be a safe and effective treatment of eating disorders in young adult women.
It is not known how yoga may assist with eating disorders. But, eating disorders are often associated with distorted body images and yoga practice emphasizes the appreciation of the body as it is. This may work to improve the accuracy of the women’s body images. It is also possible that the mindfulness aspects of yoga practice ground the women more in the present moment. Eating disorders are associated with the projection of the impact of eating on future body fatness. By, focusing on the present moment and the experience of eating in the present moment, yoga practice may increase the pleasure of eating and decrease the worry about its future impact.
So, improve eating disorders with yoga.
“Yoga can be an effective tool to restore the imbalances in both the body and the mind that occur with eating disorders. Yoga has a profound ability to balance the emotions and has been shown to help relieve depression, anger and anxiety and to promote equanimity: a calm, clear focused mind. Yoga can also promote self-esteem and a positive body image, which play primary roles in eating disorders, through the cultivation of non-judgment, confidence, self-acceptance, openness and inner strength. Physically, a regular yoga practice can help rebuild the strength, energy and bone density that is damaged and lost with Anorexia.” – Timothy Burgin
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
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Karlsen KE, Vrabel K, Bratland-Sanda S, Ulleberg P, Benum K. Effect of yoga in the treatment of eating disorders: A single-blinded randomized controlled trial with 6-months follow-up. Int J Yoga 2018;11:166-9
Aim of the Study: The aim of this study is to examine the effect of yoga treatment of eating disorders (EDs). Methods: Adult females meeting the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual-IV criteria for bulimia nervosa or ED not otherwise specified (n = 30) were randomized to 11-week yoga intervention group (2 × 90 min/week) or a control group. Outcome measures, the Eating Disorder Examination (EDE)-Interview and Eating Disorders Inventory-2 (EDI-2) scores, were administered at baseline, posttest, and at 6-month follow-up. There was a dropout rate of 30% (posttest) and 37% (6-month follow-up). Results: The intervention group showed reductions in EDE global score (P < 0.01), the EDE subscale restraint (P < 0.05), and eating concern (P < 0.01) compared to the control group. The differences between the groups increased at 6-month follow-up. There were no differences between the groups in the EDI-2 score. Conclusion: The results indicate that yoga could be effective in the treatment of ED.