yoga for eating disorder recovery

According to a recent survey, it is now estimated that over 24 million people in the United States find themselves in a day-to-day battle with their bodies, and turn to eating disorders for the answers. One in two-hundred American women suffer from anorexia, three in one-hundred American women suffer from bulimia, and roughly half of our population personally knows someone who has dealt with (or is dealing with) an eating disorder. Treatment centers are readily available in our nation, but many are incredibly expensive, and few have great success rates. There are however natural treatments that are there for the support in healing of eating disorder recovery, and one of them interestingly enough is the practice of yoga.


healing benefits of yoga

While many of us are  aware of the positive natural healing benefits of yoga practice, so many other people are suffering in our great nation, and are doing so alone. They do not know or understand what they are doing to their bodies, let alone do they find it possible to seek out help for themselves. It can be useful to look around you as to whether your loved ones are suffering in the is way. Some warning signs of an eating disorder are a drastic change in eating habits. Take in mind a person’s regular behavior in light of this, if they have never liked meat, and have recently decided to stop consuming it, then that is not drastic enough to be a red flag for you. However, watch for excuses for not eating, and also keep watch in regards to the bathroom, are they leaving the table immediately after eating? Make note if there are laxatives being kept or any other form of “weight loss” treatment.

Keep your ears open for how they talk about themselves, many suffering from an eating disorder have very low self-esteem and poor body image. They will obsess about being thin and the desire to be thin. In extreme cases of eating disorders, baggy clothes will begin to be worn to hide weight loss. They may begin to hide themselves from the world, becoming introverted and emotionally shut down.

The next step is to help them recognize that they may have a problem that requires some help, it is not your job to “save them”. You can not rescue someone dealing with an eating disorder, they must want to help themselves, and oftentimes they just need to know how to get started. Choose a quiet time to discuss your concern, do not judge, do not comment on how they look (avoid any terms referencing the words fat or thin), do not mention “eating disorder” refer to “your health”. Instead, direct your focus to relationships and feelings and not towards weight or food, and finally do not place any guilt or blame, or try and offer any simple solutions to the problem. Listen to what they have to say, and really hear their emotions.


research shows yoga helps eating disorder recovery

Interestingly, despite the growing numbers in terms of eating disorders in our nation, very little is actually known in regards to how they form, and what causes relapses in sufferers. Researchers led by Lourdes P. Dale from the University of Hartford determined to discover alternate healing for eating disorder recovery as it was noted that many of the traditional healing techniques failed at focusing on the emotional and body awareness aspects of eating disorders. The study involved a 6-week yoga workshop incorporating women with a history of eating disorders. The results were reported that the women who attended the workshop were better at identifying their emotional states, being aware of their emotional states, and found themselves more capable of handling their mood fluctuations. There was also a significant drop in the level of eating concerns for this particular group of women, and these positive outcomes carried on even after the workshop was complete.

Yoga practice focuses on deep breathing, mindfulness, and attention to how the body is working. It literally allows you to take your attention off of the matters surrounding you, and forces you to only think of the matters at hand, the person struggling with an disorder is thus allowed to redirect all their pain, and energy into the mat itself. Peaceful meditation allows for the re-centering of the thought processes, and the poses provide the strength of the body and redirection in the flow of the bodies energy. All positive, and necessary benefits in terms of eating disorder healing.

The biggest challenge in any form of recovery, is taking the first step. It is literally mind over matter and a clarity will suddenly strike the sufferer that says, “I will no longer let this control my life. I am in control.” And when that clarity finally hits them, they will be ready to begin the healing process. Yoga can be there to guide them through to full, and lasting recovery.

Amy Koller


I am a stay-at-home mom and full time online college student. I love meditation and practise yoga in my spare time. Bringing my inner self to peace is one of the things that makes me forget day to day problems.