Sunday, May 31, 2009
Knitting and EDs
I have to admit my eyebrows went up when I first read about this study, which looked at whether the act of knitting could help people recovering from eating disorders. There are a lot of wacky, unproven, and frankly ridiculous "therapies" out there for eating disorders, many of which are rubbish.
But this one actually makes sense. Researchers from the University of British Columbia, Oxford University, and the Beau Cote Centre for Eating Disorders looked at whether the repetitive act of knitting could help with the inevitable anxiety and perseveration that comes along with the recovery process. While their study sample was small--38 women on an ED ward in a hospital--the results suggest that knitting did in fact have something of a calming and even therapeutic effect.
I can understand the principle: For me, washing dishes or weeding provides a similar effect. Human beings are hard-wired to work with our hands. And repetitive work like knitting can facilitate a zenlike meditation state that can be very soothing.
I like the fact that the researchers aren't claiming that knitting helps people recover from EDs. They point out instead the secondary but still important component of anxiety management. And I know not only from my own experience but also from Ancel Keys' Minnesota Starvation Study that anxiety is a major biological component of re-feeding and recovery.
And if knitting helps with anxiety, I'm sure there are other activities that do the same, that help break the cycle of obsessive thinking that comes along with EDs. Maybe crocheting? Quilting? Fiber arts as ED recovery corollaries? I love it.