A mom of two. A 9 year old hitting puberty. A high school football player. A college scholar. A 65 year old retired school teacher. What do all these people have in common?
They are all susceptible to developing an eating disorder.
Eating disorders do not discriminate. There are currently 30 million people here in the U.S. who reportedly suffer from an eating disorder(ED). There are many different kinds of EDs. Bulimia and Anorexia are the most common, and Anorexia alone has the highest mortality rate of all mental illnesses.
Recently, there has been a shift in ED conversation. Rather than staying silent, those with EDs and those in recovery are bravely sharing their struggles and stories of hope with the world. These stories and experiences are being amplified by social media. The result is a reduction in the stigmatization of EDs and a pro-recovery movement that is uniting those with similar stories and struggles. Together, these voices have become an unyielding conduit for change.
Of these social media mavens are locals Katie Wagner and Jessica Smith of The Good Vibes Tribe Cincinnati . Both struggled with eating disorders, and were able to find recovery. A main component of their path to recovery was yoga. Yoga has been found to be an outlet for those suffering from EDs to facilitate reconnection with and appreciation of the body, as well as mindfulness. Princeton University psychologist and eating disorder expert Robin Boudette, Ph.D., did a study in 2006 where she obtained data from eating disorder patients undergoing yoga therapy. Through this study, she found that “Many patients become much more aware of the body for how it feels, rather than how it looks, which opens a window into a new experience of the body off the yoga mat.”
Katie and Jessica met at a yoga, food, and body image workshop in 2016 and became friends. Together they created Good Vibes Tribe, which promotes healing and positive body image through the power of yoga and community. Their goal for starting Good Vibes Tribe was to help aid in recovery and connect those who are struggling with a community support system so that they know they are not alone. This past fall, the duo began hosting events here in Cincinnati. We talked with Katie and Jessica to learn more.
Katie developed anorexia as a coping mechanism in her late twenties. She began seeking recovery through a deepened yoga practice and by attending regular National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD) support groups. It was through mindful yoga practice and meditation that she was able to reconnect with her body and find self love, which inspired her to be a voice for the eating disordered community. She is now an ANAD group support facilitator and earned her RYT 200 yoga certification.
Jessica likewise found recovery from an eating disorder and body dysmorphia through yoga, which, as she states “has allowed her to view her body as a conduit of strength”. She earned her RYT 200, and has found empowerment through her practice, which has lead her to connect with those suffering from EDs with “empathy and authenticity”. This connection happens through the monthly Good Vibes Tribe events, as well as in her role as a yoga and mindful meditation facilitator at a prison and youth detention center.
Every month, Good Vibes Tribe hosts events focused on healing your relationship with your body. Each event is 2 hours long, is free and open to the public, and features a different keynote speaker and topic for discussion. The yoga practice is led by Katie and Jessica together. The first half-hour is an invigorating practice with movement, and the second half-hour is soothing and meditative. After yoga is the speaker and discussion. In the past, Good Vibes has hosted a licensed therapist, a certified yoga therapist, a body talk practitioner, a mom, and a personal trainer who focused on goal setting and creating your own mantra.
Katie and Jessica have found that, through yoga practice, it is possible to establish a special bond and vulnerability among strangers that can allow people to open up to those around them who they may have never met before class. Through yoga practice, Good Vibes Tribe aims to create a safe space for all identities to be real, and share stories and experiences with those around them that they might not be able to share elsewhere, even with those closest to them.
Katie, Jessica and Good Vibes Tribe believe there should be no shame or guilt in going through the experience of an ED. We asked them the one thing that the general public should know about EDs. They responded, “The most common ED misconception is that you can tell who is struggling from an outward appearance. You can look healthy, and still be internally fighting a battle. You never know who is suffering.” It is their hope that they can be an outlet for those fighting this battle to feel accepted and learn to love and appreciate their bodies through community and the practice of yoga.
Their next event is on April 26th, and is focused on stress management, with guest speaker Kate Bosse, MA, LPCC. Find out more information here .