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Benefits of Caring for a Pet when Overcoming Disordered Eating

A dog is the only thing on earth that will love you more than you love yourself.”
- Josh Billings

In his book Heart Sense for Women, Stephen Sinatra mentions the various benefits pets can have on our health. One of the most important is alleviating loneliness. For those of us who have struggled with eating disorders, the loneliness can be crippling.

An article in the New York Times also explained that pets can also be a source of solace (a teddy bear for all ages) and help to dissipate negative emotions like anger, disappointment and grief. Virtually all people talk to their pets and sometimes use them to work through conflicts or problems. For those of us who love animals, it’s basically impossible to stay in a bad mood when a pair of loving puppy eyes meets yours, or when a super-soft cat rubs up against your hand.

In fact, for a recent National Eating Disorder Awareness walk, organizers made a “point of inviting dogs to this walk, because according to psychologists, veterinarians, and researchers, pets are good for everyone’s mental and physical health. While a pet can't cure symptoms of depression, nor is a pet a substitute for medication or therapy, they can help to improve mild or moderate depression or even just lighten the mood in many people. In the past, pets have been used to help the elderly sleep better. Pets have also been used to help soldiers deal with post traumatic stress syndrome.”

Of course, owning a pet is a responsibility and requires an investment of time and some money, so make sure you are prepared to take care of him or her before you bring them home. If owning a pet isn’t in the cards right now, perhaps you can plan to spend some time snuggling with a friend’s pets or you can volunteer at the local humane society. They are often looking for volunteers to groom, walk and socialize the cats, dogs and other critters that come through their doors.