Movement may often be overlooked as an effective component of bulimia nervosa recovery programs. While recommending movement for bulimia nervosa patients seems counterintuitive, increasing evidence indicates that when nutritionally-supported movement is closely monitored by eating disorder therapists, patients benefit physically and mentally from the health advantages.
In fact, research shows that eating disorder patients who participate in mindful movement exercises experience reduced signs and symptoms of bulimia nervosa and other eating disorders. Exercise may also reverse heart abnormalities in people with long-term anorexia nervosa, increase muscle strength and improve the overall quality of life.
Exercise as Mindful Movement Therapy During Bulimia Nervosa Recovery
What is the Difference Between the Mindful Movement and Exercise?
Exercise is defined as a repetitive, structured physical activity intended to condition-specific parts of the body. When most people exercise, they concentrate on maintaining endurance and exercising for as long as they feel like they can continue.
The mindful movement does not emphasize endurance, burning calories and increasing muscle strength. Instead, mindful movement practiced by patients at a residential bulimia nervosa treatment center involves stretching and moving in mindful ways that promote a meditative state. Similar to yoga meditation exercises, mindful movement encourages bulimia nervosa recovery by facilitating awareness of emotions and thoughts arising from the adoption of different poses. Stretching the body slowly not only prepares patients for extended meditation therapy but also substitutes as a type of formal meditation for exploring strong emotions that contribute to signs and symptoms of bulimia nervosa.
Practicing mindful movement also helps bulimia nervosa patients explore what it feels like to be on the edge of feeling a bit uncomfortable. Unlike exercise, which is often meant to drive a person through a rigorous exercise plan, mindful movement therapy is not intended to compel patients in bulimia nervosa recovery to “exercise”, but instead to connect with their bodies through movement. The mindful movement offers the opportunity for patients to explore their mind’s reactions to what it perceives as physical movement. Approaching the boundary dividing a “comfort” zone from a “discomfort” zone helps eating disorder patients learn to deal with unpleasant thoughts and emotions productively.
Signs and Symptoms of Bulimia Nervosa
In addition to outwards signs of bulimia nervosa (disappearing after meals to purge, weight loss, recurring illnesses, abusing laxatives and diuretics), people with bulimia nervosa also suffer from fears, phobias, and obsessive-compulsive behaviors. An extreme preoccupation with appearance (constantly inspecting themselves in mirrors), phobic fear of gaining weight, feeling as if they cannot control their eating during binging episodes and giving in to the compulsion to vomit after eating are all psychological symptoms that mindful movement can positively negate.
Most of all, mindful movement helps reduce bulimia nervosa symptoms by improving self-esteem, recognizing negative thought patterns as soon as they emerge and stopping these thoughts from controlling unwanted eating disorder behaviors.
When to Seek Help at a Bulimia Nervosa Treatment Center
Constant purging and overeating episodes associated with bulimia nervosa present a very real and serious health risk demanding professional, caring treatment by eating disorder therapists. In addition to cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, nutritional counseling, and group/individual therapy, a bulimia nervosa recovery plan may include meditation techniques and mindful movement exercises designed to support the restoration of physical and psychological health processes.
Mindful movement therapy will also help patients cope with depression, anxiety and deeply entrenched beliefs about their desire to always be “perfect”. As an integral component of any eating disorder recovery program, the mindful movement represents a newer wave of holistic therapies proving to be both successful and enjoyable by people recovering from bulimia nervosa, anorexia nervosa, binge eating disorder, and other eating disorders.