Healing Eating Disorders Through Mindfulness

How meditation can heal your eating disorder

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For those suffering from eating disorders, comparison mindset is one of those crippling distractions. Comparison mindset is a mental state we experience when our attention isn’t in the present moment. When we’re in comparison, we’re always judging ourselves against others, or even against our past selves. For individuals suffering from an eating disorder, cultivating mindfulness can become the lifeline needed to ease self-destruction.

For those with anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating disorder, thoughts around body image, caloric intake, and weight become incessant. These negative thought patterns hinder our capacity to live joyful, meaningful lives in the present moment. Life can only unfold in the current moment, so when our minds are mired with wishing our weight or body were different, we’re perpetually dissatisfied with life. This dissatisfaction is where misery thrives.

What’s the solution? Mindfulness is one of them. A study from Eastern Washington University suggests that using mindfulness as a treatment paradigm is effective since eating disorders are associated with perfectionism, control, and harsh self-criticism. In essence, if we can change our relationship with our thoughts, we can begin to heal our relationship with ourselves — this includes our body.

Use these Mindfulness Techniques

1) Understand In-The-Moment Triggers

When we’re present with ourselves and our environments, we begin to learn the relationship we have with environmental triggers. For example, asking the question, “What is fueling this self-destructiveness?” is a tremendously helpful piece of self-inquiry for those suffering from eating disorders. Environmental triggers could include seeing skinny model images in the media, a challenging interpersonal relationship or particular foods in the near vicinity. Internal triggers could be default modes of negative thinking or old belief systems. The more we can get to know inner and outer triggers, the more opportunity we have to heal and change our relationship with life. Awareness is the first step of transformation. Mindfulness techniques that help us to shine the light of knowledge on our triggers include daily meditation, journaling and remembering to pause in moments of emotional imbalance. This pausing creates spaciousness for intentional action to unfold — such as mindful breathing or actively changing thought patterns.          

2) Befriend Your Inner Critic

Our inner critic continually tells us we’re not good enough and we’ll never be good enough until we, for example, obtain a particular weight or body image. Inner critics fuel addiction to perfectionism and attachment to maladaptive behaviors such as binging and purging. It’s easy to disown that aggressive inner critic but, in these judgmental moments, it’s essential to practice self-compassion. What is self-compassion anyhow? It’s the feeling that arises when you acknowledge your own suffering with a kind, nonjudgmental heart. Kristen Neff, self-compassion researcher [] talks about self-compassion as a way to shift from self-judgment to self-kindness. Self-compassion involves approaching our perceived failures, hardships and moments of suffering with gentleness. Self-compassion can teach us the beauty of our imperfections, as we begin to own our innate wholeness as individuals. For those suffering from eating disorders, practicing this kindness and compassion turned inward is an essential component to healing and recovery.    

Why Meditation?

Neuroscience now shows what ancient yogis and meditators have known for centuries — that healing happens through the body utilizing stillness and silence. Dr. Anne Fabiny, the former Editor in Chief of Harvard Women’s Health Watch, explains that meditation can be as effective as antidepressants. The negative thought patterns associated with eating disorders can wreak havoc on our mood states, resulting in depressive symptoms. Meditation cultivates a mind that can find itself when it loses itself. For example, when thoughts of self-hatred arise, we can observe it without attachment or reactivity, to then allow it to float out of our consciousness organically. This power of presence is strengthened through formal sitting meditation. Just 10 minutes a day can birth tremendous benefits — bringing awareness to thought patterns and giving us the perspective to see that thoughts are real experiences not necessarily based on truth.

Mindfulness offers us the portal through which we can ignite our inner power for healing. Moment-to-moment, we can change our relationship with the mind, body, and heart, stepping into a life full of joy. Your transformation starts NOW.                                                         

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