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Recovery from bulimia nervosa: A transformational journey to the sacred space within

Kathryn A Proulx, University of Massachusetts Amherst


According to the National Eating Disorders Association, conservative estimates indicate that following puberty, five to ten million females in the United States struggle with eating disorders. Up to four percent of college age women experience symptoms of bulimia nervosa, a potentially progressive and chronic disorder characterized by recurrent episodes of binge eating followed by inappropriate compensatory behaviors. Although mindfulness-based interventions have been used successfully to treat patients with chronic disorders with similar disregulatory characteristics it has never been applied to bulimia nervosa. The purpose of this study was to understand how college-age women with bulimia nervosa experienced participation in a mindfulness-based eating disorder treatment group (M-BED Group). A phenomenological, interpretive hermeneutic approach was used to describe how the women in this study experienced the M-BED Group. Six college-age women were selected to participate in this study. Data consisted of initial interviews, participant journal notes and researcher notes gathered over the course of the eight-week M-BED Group, and audiotaped individual interviews at the completion of the group. In addition, each participant completed self-portraits before and after participating in the M-BED Group. This data was analyzed using van Manen's method for identifying themes. Following Drew's guidelines, a synthesis of intentionality was then created. Five major themes emerged from the data. The essence of the experience of the participants' in the M-BED Group was that a transformational journey had taken place departing from a lonely place of disconnection and disembodiment, traversing along a path of intra and interpersonal connection, acceptance, nonjudgment, and meditation practice to arrive at an inner relationship with themselves that was more aware and authentic. From this sacred space there was a greater sense of safety and trust that allowed for more human vulnerability and compassion, more spaciousness and freedom. While a M-BED Group is a novel treatment for women with bulimia nervosa, its emphasis on unifying mind, body and spirit with the mindful intention of nonjudgment makes it a particularly effective intervention for these individuals. Since 40% of women with bulimia nervosa do not respond to currently available treatments, a M-BED Group offers an excellent alternative treatment approach.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Proulx, Kathryn A, "Recovery from bulimia nervosa: A transformational journey to the sacred space within" (2005). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3163697.