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FACTS: Disordered Eating, Eating Disorders & Yoga

By Michelle Schlesinger

Yoga has been demonstrated to improve physical health, well-being, anxiety, depression, stress, body esteem, self-esteem, and chronic pain.

Recently several research studies were conducted using Randomized Control Trials to determine if yoga was effective in reducing eating disorder behaviors including those who have body dissatisfaction, Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, Binge Eating Disorder, and Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS).

Those suffering with eating disorders:
• decreased eating disorder symptoms1-4
• decreased food preoccupation1-4
• decreased anxiety and depression symptoms1-4

Other research has examined whether yoga affects disordered eating and other health related variables. Those who practice yoga have:
• greater body awareness5,6
• greater responsiveness to bodily sensations5,6
• greater body satisfaction5
• lower self-objectification5
• greater reflective ability7
• greater ability to self-sooth7

Even more some research has been more exploratory, and interviewed and examined journals of those who practice yoga and their relationship to food:7,8
• women feel more connected when enrolled in yoga
• women felt that they had a healthier relationship with food
• women felt a sense of empowerment

1. Mitchell KS, Mazzeo SE, Rausch SM, Cooke KL. Innovative interventions for disordered eating: Evaluating dissonance-based and yoga interventions. International Journal of Eating Disorders. 2007;40(2):120-128.
2. Carei TR, Breuner CC, Fyfe-Johnson A. 30: The evaluation of yoga in the treatment of eating disorders. Journal of Adolescent Health. 2007;40(2S):31-32.
3.Rain Carei T, Fyfe-Johnson AL, Breuner CC, Brown MA. Randomized Controlled Clinical Trial of Yoga in the Treatment of Eating Disorders. JJournal of Adolescent Health. 2009.
4. McIver S, O’Halloran P, McGartland M. Yoga as a treatment for binge eating disorder: A preliminary study. Complementary Therapies in Medicine. 2009;17(4):196-202.
5. Daubenmier JJ. The relationship of yoga, body awareness, and body responsiveness to self-objectification and disordered eating. Psychology of Women Quarterly. 2005;29(2):207-219.
6. Dittmann K, Freedman M, Beddoe A, Waldrop J. Body Awareness, Eating Attitudes, and Spiritual Beliefs of Women Who Practice Yoga: A Case for Recovery. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 2008;108(9S):34-34.
7. McIver S, McGartland M, O'Halloran P. Overeating is Not About the Food: Women Describe Their Experience of a Yoga Treatment Program for Binge Eating. Qualitative Health Research. 2009;19(9):1234.
8. Boudette R. How Can the Practice of Yoga be Helpful in Recovery from an Eating Disorder? Eating Disorders. 2006;14:167-170.

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