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Gaining Control

By Donna Maebori

Eating disorders - anorexia and bulimia - are addictions by which one has gratification through control by denial. This denial is of one’s own hunger, one’s own body. Recovery, then, has unique challenge. Recovery means letting go of starvation and self-denial, a path which involves eating and caring for your body again. This path is not a matter of leaving a substance behind, such as recovering from alcoholism, it is a matter of a returning to healthful eating and care for your body. But the very substance you ingest - food - is also the source of your addiction. It is a highly complicated and difficult journey.

I taught a weekly Body Awareness class for a hospital eating disorder clinic a few years ago, as part of a comprehensive program. The class used primarily Feldenkrais® movements, for the purpose of teaching a new way to thinking about own’s self, of hopefully gaining a new respect for own’s body. Learning to tolerate paying attention to sensation, breath, movement was often a main accomplishment for many of those who participated.

One young woman, who initially showed one of the most slumped and rounded posturing I had seen, protested against having to assume, to her, an aggressive posture. I suggested she try coming forward into this new kind of posturing in just a small degree, to stay safe and yet to experiment. This she did, and gradually over the weeks could bring herself more fully into this simply upright position. She expressed amazement that she could do this, and said it was the single most helpful change for her. She felt better about herself, and could interact with people with less fear when she was no longer so drawn-in.

Another young woman also learned to use this kind of posturing. One week she came to class, and said that she had had a conference with her family and social worker. In that conference, she deliberately assumed an upright posture, and made full eye contact with her mother to talk to her. She told us in the class that “It was the first time in my life that my mother heard me.”

Both of these women seemed to learn a new action that was no longer about gaining control through self-denial, but rather was about gaining control through a healthy use of self. It is in this kind of way that the Feldenkrais Method can be a part of recovery for this complicated condition.

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