How Mindfulness Can Help to Overcome an Eating Disorder
When it comes to dealing with an eating disorder, being self-aware - or mindful - can be one of your most important tools to recovery.
Being mindful of your thoughts and feelings (and realizing how these thoughts are subsequently affecting your behavior) is essential to getting healthy.
Everywhere you look these days, there are “quick and easy” fixes being offered for every conceivable problem in life. But when it comes to truly conquering an eating disorder, quick and easy just does not cut it. But don’t let that discourage you… There are real solutions.
Eating disorders are deeply rooted within a person’s brain.
It’s not something that is the fault of that individual. As much as we would love to snap our fingers and make that part of us disappear, it just doesn’t work that way. It would be wonderful to offer a quick fix to overcome such a serious issue, but it is not practical (nor safe) to do so. But: this does not mean that they are impossible to overcome - quite the contrary! It requires much conscious effort and hard-work, but it is do-able. And being mindful is the way to do it.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the practice of calming the mind and becoming aware of our inner selves. It’s essential to focus on the now. Let the past go and don’t think about the future. What’s most important is what’s taking place in the present moment. Being mindful about your eating habits can help you discover new paths of healing that will lead you forward in positive ways. Even though many people fall “victim” to eating disorders, it doesn’t mean that you will forever be a victim… You DO have choices and you CAN make steps to heal. But it’s up to you to make that first step.
Being aware of your thoughts seems like a simple concept... But all too often, we refuse to listen to the parts of our minds that tell us to make healthy choices. When we start feeling overwhelmed by stress, the disordered thinking automatically takes over and it becomes “too difficult” to be mindful about the food choices we're making. It’s “easier”, we believe, to stick with what we know and what feels comfortable to us. And that’s exactly where we go wrong. Because, often, what feels comfortable to us is our disordered thinking. We get trapped into unhealthy cycles that way. In the long run, mindfulness can be what saves us.
Mindfulness in Daily Life
Incorporating mindfulness into your daily life can actually be fun and easy. There are many ways to become more self-aware (such as yoga, mantra meditation, or music meditation). You can incorporate other techniques later.
But first, start by simply closing your eyes. For just a little while, don’t think - just be.
Be attentive to your surroundings
...Their sounds and smells, the important little things in our immediate environments that we so very often overlook. There is so much beauty to be found in simple things. Find some of those beautiful things.
When shame and worry start to creep into your mind
...Take a deep breath and simply let them go. They have no place in the here-and-now. Right now it is just you and your surroundings. There is no room for shame, worry or fear.
Now ask yourself: Without the worries from the past and the fears about the future weighing on my mind, how am I feeling right now?
Practicing mindfulness on a regular basis can help you learn about what makes you tick as an individual. Branch out during these quiet times and start thinking about the things that you personally like about your life. Write these things down in list-form and post it in a prominent place so you can see it every day. Visual reminders such as these can help keep you focused on the positives.
Life is not easy.
Especially with such extreme pressures of modern life. Incorporating mindfulness into our lives and into our eating habits gives us the ability to make real and meaningful changes to our lives by making us aware of what we’re doing and by showing us what changes we need to put into place. Because, face it: You can’t change something if you’re not aware of what needs to be done. So, try it! You have nothing to lose and only positive things to gain!
Dr. Irina Webster, MD is a recognized authority in the eating disorders area. She is an author of many books on women health, and propagates mindfulness therapy and neuroplasticity as a treatment for eating disorders.