Effective Eating Disorder Treatment Heals the Mind and Body

Every year, Mental Health America creates a theme for National Mental Health Month. For May 2019, the theme is #4Mind4Body, with a focus on the connection between physical health and mental health. This is such an important connection to keep in mind when treating eating disorders. Conditions like anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder, and others take as much of a toll on the body as on the mind.

Therefore, an effective treatment plan should address both physical health and mental health.

Holistic Therapies for Eating Disorders

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Beyond medical stabilization and exercise reintegration, there are many ways to utilize the mind-body connection in recovery. New holistic therapies are emerging, such as:

●      Trauma-sensitive yoga

●      Meditation and mindfulness practices

●      Acupuncture

●      Aromatherapy

●      Reiki

These therapies use the healing power of movement, touch, and the human senses. When individuals are grounded in physical reality, they learn to reconnect with what their body is telling them. They begin to tune into normal hunger cues. They have a better idea of what a healthy eating and exercise routine looks like.

Additionally, these therapies are designed to put individuals in touch with how they feel, rather than how they look. This is essential for body acceptance.

For all these reasons, holistic treatments can be effective. However, it’s important to remember that these therapies on their own cannot lead to full recovery. Rather, they act as a supplement to traditional therapies. If you or a loved one struggles with disordered eating, you should consult with a mental healthcare provider to create a recovery plan.

The Importance of Trauma-Informed Care

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Traumatic events such as physical or sexual abuse, accidents, neglect, or a dysfunctional home environment can lead individuals into unhealthy coping mechanisms like disordered eating. For individuals with eating disorders who have also experienced trauma, the most effective treatments are holistic therapies in conjunction with trauma-informed care. The goal of trauma-informed care is to treat the whole person, not just the symptoms. It’s important to establish a sense of safety as well as client autonomy.

Trauma-informed treatment is the perfect example of integrating both mind and body care, as providers work to create a physically and psychologically safe environment.

True Recovery Is in Overall Health

Recovery is often framed as eliminating eating disorder thoughts and behaviors. However, true recovery is achieving overall health in mind and body. That should be the focus of our efforts. This May’s theme of 4Mind4Body reminds us of this truth.

We talk about mental health and physical health as if they are separate, but in reality, they are intertwined and together make up the overall health of a person.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

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Jodi Jaspan is a Licensed Professional Counselor and serves as the Director of Business Development for Seeds of Hope, an eating disorder treatment program in Pennsylvania. Seeds of Hope treats adults and adolescents of all genders and aims to create a safe and welcoming space for all.