Yoga and Binge Eating Disorder


Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is characterized by symptoms such as eating large quantities of food in a short period of time; feelings of lack of control; eating rapidly; and eating until uncomfortably full.  BED is associated with low self-esteem, poor self-acceptance and increased stress levels.   BED is a relatively new disorder, appearing as a separate disorder for the first time in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual-V (2015), however it is not a new phenomenon.  It is suggested that 20-30% of individuals seeking treatment for obesity may have moderate to severe symptoms of BED.  Individuals with BED use binge eating as a way to avoid negative affect, including depression and anxiety.  This leads to a lack of awareness of the internal processes, sensations and experiences, disconnecting the individual’s internal state and bodily experience.  This disconnect is then generalizes to the way one experiences, perceives and reacts to others and the world around them.

viewTreatment for BED has typically centered on cognitive behavioral therapies, weight loss therapies and interpersonal therapies. Many of these therapies have shown some success their effects are often short term.  Mindfulness based treatment approaches are quickly gaining recognition as providing value in treating dysregulatory disorders.   Mindfulness based approaches have shown success in improving awareness of the internal experience, interrupting maladaptive patterns, decreasing stress related reactions, and increasing a sense of control and self-acceptance.  Such processes are congruent with the struggles of individuals with BED.

Yoga has been shown to be an effective mindfulness based experience.  Yoga is a beneficial treatment modality for individuals with BED for several reasons.  Yoga focuses on mindfulness, increasing one’s awareness of their internal experience while reconnecting one with their body.  Yoga has been beneficial in shifting from feeling distracted and physically disconnected to focused and physically present.  Several research studies have found a reduction in disordered eating patterns and food consumption, as well as increases in body awareness, satisfaction with physical appearance and an overall improvement in connectedness to physical well-being.

Mindfulness-based yoga therapy is an effective treatment for Binge Eating Disorder.  While individuals with BED may initially be uncomfortable with yoga, due to a disconnect with the body, multiple studies have shown significant improvement in BED symptoms through yoga.  Yoga allows the opportunity for individuals with BED to reconnect with their unfamiliar bodily and emotional experiences, thus reducing negative BED symptoms and improving awareness, satisfaction and overall quality of life.

Valerie Luxon, Psy.D.Fully-Licensed Clinical Psychologist and  Director of Clinical Training and Program Development at Inner Door Center.

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