Combining Established Techniques and New Methods Might Be the Key to Binge Eating Disorder Recovery

It’s become more and more clear since 2013, when binge eating disorder was recognized by the DSM-5, that binge eating disorder treatment is growing in necessity.  BED has been established as the most common form of eating disorder; it’s more common than anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa combined.However, even though it affects so many people, a “one size fits all” approach to treatment doesn’t work in most cases. Like any eating disorder, binge eating disorder is a complex and personal affliction with different causes and presentations from person to person. A binge eating recovery center that offers personalized programs and non-traditional methodology can often make greater strides in treatment than a standardized treatment program.

Alternative methods of eating disorders treatment are proven to be beneficial to people with all kinds of medical issues (like acupuncture used to relieve back pain) and in the same vein, there are alternative treatment methods in use for treating binge eating disorder. These new, alternative treatments have shown great promise when used at modern eating disorder treatment centers, on both a residential and outpatient basis. In combination with more established, evidence-based recovery techniques such as CBT and DBT, clients in recovery stand a better chance of establishing a long-term baseline for recuperation. Check out a few new approaches to binge eating disorder treatment that are helping people become fully recovered and maintaining that recovery.

Massage Therapy

Binge eating disorder is characterized by repeated instances in which a person eats a large amount of food in a short period. These binge eating episodes, usually done in secret, and usually consisting of junk foods like chips, ice cream, or pizza, aren’t really about being hungry or eating. In virtually every case, they are a coping mechanism to counteract negative emotions caused by stress, low self-esteem, or trauma.

Binge eating episodes and the types of food normally eaten during them cause the release of neurological chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin. These “feel-good” brain chemicals can improve mood, raise self-confidence, and alleviate stress. In short, binge eating episodes can trigger brain chemicals that can become almost like an addiction to narcotics that raise the mood.

As a healthy alternative to these binge eating episodes, many eating disorder treatment centers have begun to introduce massage therapy as a regular part of their clients’ routines. There have been numerous studies on how massage therapy can impact mental health treatment positively -one result, in particular, shows beneficial results for eating disorder treatment in general.

The NCBI published the results of a study that was performed on 19 women who were suffering from anorexia nervosa. The group of 19 was split in two; one group received the usual forms of talk therapy used in standard eating disorder treatment, and the other received both the standard and additional massage therapy sessions. Those who had both forms of therapy show a much higher decrease in body dysmorphia (dissatisfaction with and flawed perception of the body), a major contributing cause in most eating disorders.


Yoga is employed in mental health and rehab setting so soften it hardly qualifies as “alternative” or “new” any longer – but since it’s not based in Westerner medicine, we’ll give it a pass. The culmination of centuries of studies in South Asia, yoga is well-established in psychological, medical, and addiction-treatment circles as a physical and mental tool.

In a study titled “Body Awareness, Eating Attitudes, and Spiritual Beliefs of Women Practicing Yoga,” the clinicians involved mentioned:

“Qualitative data reported improvements in body satisfaction and disordered eating due in part to yoga and its associated spirituality.”

A series of poses and stretches designed to align the body with the mind, yoga serves a few vital functions in eating disorder treatment. First, Yoga promotes a sense of mindfulness, i.e. being able to live in the moment and assess emotions without worry about the future or regret about the past. Mindfulness plays an incredibly important role in most eating disorder treatment programs – it’s a powerful method of identifying disordered thoughts as what they are, which is the first step to replacing them with healthier ones.

Secondly, yoga provides a useful method for providing low-impact physical movement that attunes the mind and body. Many people with eating disorders struggle with exercise addiction, though this is not always the case with binge eating disorder sufferers, and resuming physical activity can be a trigger for relapse of disordered exercise. Yoga provides a way to engage in healthy physical exercise without being a trigger for relapse, due partly to its mediative nature, and partly because it does not normally require extensive exertion.

Art Therapy

Art therapy is our final example of an “alternative” therapy that’s become an integral part of a comprehensive eating disorder treatment program. Many centers combine it with a journaling segment or various kinds of music therapy since everyone has different ways of expressing themselves. However, art therapy is useful even for people who have no experience with artwork or think they “can’t draw” or the like. Like many kinds of non-traditional therapy, art therapy allows individuals to gain new perspectives about themselves and their innermost thoughts and emotions.

Art therapy may be free-form, where individuals are asked to draw or paint anything they like as long as it pertains in some way to their relationship with themselves, or with food and eating. In some other situations, the assignment might be more focused, with a specific topic being the subject of the artwork. As an example, an individual in binge eating disorder treatment might be asked to draw something that expresses how they feel like other people see their bodies. This can be compared to what they actually look like as a point of objective comparison in an evidence based therapy like CBT, or it can simply be kept for reflection. The results of art therapy are usually not shared with groups, as they can be intensely private (and some people might feel embarrassed about their art skills), but in other cases, people find it cathartic to share them.

Established Techniques That Combine Well With Alternative Treatments

CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy)

CBT is a cognitive training method normally applied in one-on-one settings with a client and a therapist, although there are some group applications. The counselor specializing in CBT will ask their client in eating disorder treatment to think about a problematic situation they once responded to with disordered thoughts and actions. The individual then works to find positive solutions to that problem by discussing other ways they could have better dealt with that problem with the therapist. The therapist may suggest new coping skills, and with time prompt the individual to design their own healthy reactions. By regularly “rehearsing” these situations, cognitive rehearsal helps a person in recovery to deal with current issues related to their binge eating disorder.

An eating disorder recovery program involving CBT and other forms of cognitive retraining may include validity testing as a way to “test” a client’s disorder thoughts and beliefs. The person in treatment will be allowed to defend their viewpoint regarding these disordered eating and thinking patterns but must support beliefs with objective evidence. Saying that they “feel” a certain way won’t be invalidated as a feeling, but it won’t be sufficiently objective proof to back their disordered ideas about eating. For example, if they believe that eating only a certain food won’t make them ill from nutritional deficiencies, the eating disorder therapist may ask them for proof of their health by bringing blood test results or other lab reports to a counseling session.

(DBT) Dialectical Behavioral Therapy

DBT is based on cognitive behavioral therapy, but it is more focused on a give-and-take between the client and the practitioner than its forebear. In the application of dialectical behavioral therapy, there is a five-step process using what’s known as Socratic questions, in which the therapist asks the client a series of questions that lead them to a desired point of view. They then move on to a five-phase program of recovery.

The first part is the training phase, where behavioral skills that can reduce their reliance on maladaptive coping methods are implemented. Individual psychotherapy, normally in conjunction with group and family therapy sessions, comprises the majority of the second phase. The third phase is grounded in in-the-moment coaching where clients learn how to control their responses to everyday triggers. The fourth stage is often optional, though helpful for many working on becoming recovered from eating disorders. This stage focuses on finding meaning in life by exploring the spiritual plane.

A Combined Approach Brings The Best Chance for a Full Recovery

A quality binge eating disorder recovery center in 2021 knows that a full recovery is more likely to be achieved if a comprehensive treatment plan including traditional and newer, “alternative” therapies is employed.This can include yoga and mindful meditation, art therapy, massage therapy traditional talk therapy, dedicated therapeutic techniques such as CBT and DBT, and many more. If you or a loved one is suffering from binge eating disorder and needs help, don’t worry – a comprehensive plan is available.


With 20 years of behavioral health business development experience, Carrie combines world-class marketing, media, public relations, outreach and business development with a deep understanding of client care and treatment. Her contributions to the world of behavioral health business development – and particularly eating disorder treatment – go beyond simple marketing; she has actively developed leaders for her organizations and for the industry at large.