Eating Disorders (ED) manifest in many different ways. Anorexia Nervosa, for example, is a disorder characterized in large part by weight loss, difficulties in maintaining an appropriate body weight, and distorted body image. Bulimia Nervosa, is characterized by compulsive binging and purging behaviors. Binge Eating disorder, a lesser known form of ED, is marked by repetitive episodes of eating large amounts of food in a compulsive way, to the point it causes discomfort. It is common for a large portion of the people diagnosed with these and other disorders to have coinciding anxiety or mood disorders.
Recently, researchers at the University of Oslo conducted a study to see if Yoga practice can be beneficial in the treatment of eating disorders. The researchers hypothesized that Yoga would help to increase body awareness and reduce body satisfaction among those who suffer from eating disorders. Additionally, they believed that yoga could reduce binge eating and food preoccupation, and increase awareness of triggers among those with Binge Eating Disorders.
For the study, the researchers gathered volunteers who met the DSM-5 criteria for an eating disorder. The control group in the study did not engage in yoga, and instead received counseling and education regarding nutrition, physical activity, and eating disorders. The experimental group did 90 minutes of Hatha yoga, led by an experienced yoga instructor, two times per week for a total of 11 weeks. Beyond the physical practice of yoga, they were also taught the underlying philosophies of yoga and were encouraged to practice yoga at home between sessions. To assess whether or not yoga had an effect in treating their disorders, they used the Eating Disorders Examination, which evaluates the severity of a disorder based on responses to questions regarding restraint, eating concern, weight concern, and shape concern. Ultimately, the experimental group, which took part in the yoga in addition to traditional therapies, showed steeper declines in their Eating Disorder Examination scores when compared to the control group, who just took part in traditional therapies.
These results support the researchers hypothesis that Yoga can aid the treatment of eating disorders and sets ground work for further research to be done. Yoga alone may not be enough to combat the devastating effects of ED, but it can be a tool and component to incorporate into treatment.
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Karlsen, Vrabel, Bratland-Sanda, Ulleberg, Benum. “Effect of Yoga in the Treatment of Eating Disorders:A Single BlindedRandomized Controlled Trial with 6-Months Follow-up” International Journal of Yoga, vol 11, no. 2, 2018, pp. 166-169