Eating Disorders Explored

Ask a Therapist

By Merrill DeVito

Originally published in Body Sense magazine, Fall 2002.

Q. My therapist told me that massage and bodywork can be helpful for eating disorders. How can this be?

A. The truth is, millions of American men and women suffer from some sort of eating disorder. Bodywork, however, can help lessen the chasm between body and mind that helps “feed” these disorders. According to author Merrill DeVito, who went on her first diet in the fifth grade, the self-loathing that accompanies eating disorders gets trapped in the entire body, but bodywork helps release it.

“Bodywork brings us back into awareness of our body and shows us how to listen to it. In eating disorders, we learn to ignore our body’s cravings and hunger signals. We overeat, under-eat and instead of eating what we truly crave, we eat non-fat diet foods or fatty feel-good foods. Food choices come out of the brain instead of the body and the body doesn’t get what it needs. Deprivation then leads to binging and unhealthy food choices. We get caught in cycles and lose touch with what our body really needs or wants.” Bodywork, she says, specifically forms of energy work such as reiki and polarity therapy, help break the cycles. “Energy work can create space for the emotions that get confused around food. Massage and bodywork can help those suffering from these disorders ultimately find acceptance with his or her body,” says DeVito.

“For the person recovering from the hellish existence that accompanies an eating disorder, the willingness to receive massage is a major step toward choosing health and life,” adds author and personal trainer Ruth McGinnis.