In the United States, anywhere from .5–3.7 percent of all females will meet the diagnostic criteria for anorexia at some point in their lives. About 1–4 percent of all females will struggle with bulimia.1 The people who are most prone to anorexia and bulimia tend to be adolescent girls and young women.
I look at my 3-year-old daughter and worry, have I unknowingly skewed her view of the world and her place in it? Despite my best efforts, have I already “tainted” her with my own lapses in self-esteem?
Eating disorders cross every ethnic, gender and age line and are increasing at an alarming rate. Whether by refusing to eat (anorexia nervosa) or binging and purging (bulimia nervosa), the victims deliberately deny their bodies of nutrition and deprive their souls of self-worth. Take a look at the statistics.
Renee was 4 1/2 years old when she walked stiff-legged into my office. She was born with arthrogryposis, a congenital disease where the elbows and knees can’t bend, and the feet are often malformed. Renee had a milder form of arthrogryposis so that her arms moved, but her knees wouldn’t bend. People with arthrogryposis have difficulty with simple tasks like brushing their teeth or combing their hair. They have difficulty with walking because of foot placement. Not being able to bend the knee makes climbing, jumping or running difficult. But Renee loved to dance.
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.
“What doesn’t make sense is how it works,” said Hannah Conway. “You can’t wrap your mind around how it works at all.”
Conway and others have a hard time putting to words the success of an unusual energy therapy — the Lenair Technique, designed to address the many faces of addiction. “I come from a big Irish Catholic family,” Conway said from her office in St. Paul, Minn. “I’m 41 now and went a long time drinking. I tried AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) and it worked nearly five years.” Then Conway went back to drinking. “It was at least six beers a day, if not 12.”