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Recovery center uses art to help patients with eating disorders

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Posted at 9:53 PM, Mar 04, 2013
and last updated 2013-03-04 21:53:40-05

Tens of millions of Americans struggle with eating disorders, and it's not just teenagers and women; men suffer from them, too.

Now an eating recovery center is using art to help them overcome the illness.

It's an art exhibit with the usual accoutrements: thought-proving creations, food and drink, and enlightened conversation.

But each of these artists shares a painful problem.

Each suffers from an eating disorder including Mary Baldwin; the 21-year-old has sought treatment three times for anorexia.

"I use my eating disorder behavior to run away from what I'm feeling," says Mary.

This time, she believes she has her eating disorder under control thanks in part to art therapy.

“It was kind of like continual journaling. Different moods bring different marks on the page. It's an interesting way to connect with myself in different ways," says Mary.

Baldwin's piece called the Doodle Tree.

It incorporates words guiding her recovery: hope, empowerment and accepting imperfection.

"That is what brings out these behaviors, is avoidance of emotional life."

Art therapist Lisa Talucci says art helps patients process emotions they typically bury.

"There is an inherent healing process that goes on in creating art because it bypasses language.  It goes to a more authentic experience that we not put words to," says Talucci.

Today, Baldwin creates art with words that signify her journey now: courage, truth and thriving.

She says she's not just surviving anymore.

"I'm pretty hopeful at the moment, in my last few days here," says Mary.

It's artwork that represents pain and hope for a better tomorrow.

"I'm just excited to be a young woman in the world again," says Mary.