National Eating Disorders Association
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Recovery

Equine-assisted therapy has been an emerging form of psychotherapy in recent decades. While research has demonstrated its efficacy in treating mental health diagnoses such as PTSD, autism, and mood disorders, research regarding equine-assisted therapy and eating disorders is lacking. As a therapist using the Equine-Assisted Growth and Learning Association (EAGALA) model of equine-assisted psychotherapy (EAP), I have been able to observe how aspects of the model and working with horses in general could be beneficial in the treatment of eating disorders.

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When I logged onto Facebook this morning, a friend had posted the following excerpt from Margaret Atwood’s poem Shapechangers in Winter:

This is the solstice, the still point

of the sun, its cusp and midnight,

the year’s threshold

and unlocking, where the past

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When I left treatment several months ago, it was all I had known for twelve years. I was excited to start my new life, but I also realized that I had no clue what I was doing. I had never had to be an adult, and I was now in my early 30s and trying to navigate the world. I had missed out on so much growth, and I had no idea if it would be possible to catch up. I still have no idea, but at least I am fumbling through trying to figure it out. 

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Yoga, with its tenets of peacefulness, self-compassion, mindfulness, and self- empathy, both empowers and enhances recovery from eating disorders and body image despair. Yoga promotes harmony within and strengthens the relationship with the body through physical poses (asanas), breathing exercises (pranayama), non-harmful self-care (ahimsa), and meditation,

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I was told early on, that journaling might be a really effective tool to help me on my journey to recovery. I know from talking to so many other people who suffer with an eating disorder that I’m not the only one who has been encouraged to use writing as a way to connect to my thoughts and feelings. 

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I often use the beautiful words of the poet Rumi to probe my yoga students: “Do you pay regular visits to yourself? Start now.” I follow this with the very powerful declaration of the first verse of the treatise Yoga Sutra, “Atha Yoganushasanam,” which means, “Now is the time for Yoga.”

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We recognize that making the decision to enter a treatment program can be very difficult. For those who might be considering a higher level of care, we thought some words of encouragement might help make the decision feel a little less daunting.

NEDA collaborated with EDCare to gather advice from others who have previously made the decision. We reached out to our community on social media and asked the question: “How would you encourage others who are hesitant to enter eating disorder treatment?”

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I believe that traveling teaches us so much about ourselves, the world, and our relationship to both. That being said, traveling was merely a dream I had for a very long time. I very much wanted to experience new places. I wanted to feel the excitement of new surroundings. I wanted to learn and be a part of new cultures. But I was held prisoner by an eating disorder.

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“But I’m just not that artistic!” is something I hear frequently in practice with individuals working through their eating disorder recovery. You don’t have to consider yourself “artistic “to use creative expression as a coping mechanism in your recovery journey.  Art in its many forms can serve as a positive way to cope or as a distraction from the eating disorder voice in your head.   

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It is widely recognized that there is stigma towards mental health (vs. physical health) problems. The perception is that many people with psychological disorders somehow “choose” to have them, that it's their “fault” for being “weak,” that they could just “pull themselves up by the bootstraps” and “snap out of it” if they wanted to, and that they deserve less empathy overall. 

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