It can be helpful to practice mindfulness during the eating disorder recovery process. Mindfulness is a practice where someone focuses on the present moment. This can make it easier to accept the way that person feels physically and emotionally without trying to change it.
This can help people tolerate the distress that can come with the recovery process. Eating disorder recovery is often a really difficult process. Recovery takes a lot of work because people are trying to change disordered thoughts and behaviors. This can be difficult for a few reasons.
One of these reasons is that eating disorder behaviors are compulsive. This means the urge to engage in disordered behaviors is often so tempting that it feels irresistible.
It can also be hard to make these changes because choosing not to engage in disordered behaviors can cause intense feelings of anxiety, guilt, disgust, or other upsetting feelings. These barriers to recovery can be discouraging and overwhelming.
Knowing how to tolerate the feelings and urges that come up during the recovery process can help people continue to make progress even when it’s hard. Here are five mindfulness tips for eating disorder recovery:
#1: Refocus on the Present Moment
One way to come back to the present moment is to describe your environment using your senses. What can you see, hear, smell, touch, or taste? If focusing on what you can taste creates more anxiety, then stick with the other senses. This can help bring your mind back to what is actually happening in the present moment compared to what you might anticipate will happen.
#2: Intentional Breathing
One common mindfulness practice involves breathing. Breathing in a certain way can help lower stress levels. One way that eating disorder professionals recommend practicing this skill is to count your breaths as you slowly breathe in and out . Focusing on how you inhale and exhale can help you focus your mind.
#3 Neutral Embodiment Skills
Embodiment is a term used to describe the practice of becoming present with your body. This mindfulness skill can be very difficult for people with eating disorders. This can be hard if being aware of your body brings up negative body-image thoughts. One way to start reconnecting with your body is to take a deep breath and search for the parts of your body that feel neutral .
A neutral place in your body would be somewhere that there isn’t any positive or negative feeling tied to it. Being able to start noticing the neutral can help shift your attention from the negative to the neutral.
Over time, this can increase your ability to be aware of your body without having a negative reaction to it. This can be helpful for eating disorder recovery since bad body image moments can drive someone to engage in eating disorder behaviors.
#4 Physical Emotional Embodiment Skills
Another mindfulness embodiment skill is to pay attention to where your emotions are in your body . For example, some people feel anger in their arms or sadness in their chest. Being able to notice the physical sensations of your emotions can help you better pay attention to your feelings without acting on them.
#5: Self-Compassion Meditation
Self-compassion is really helpful during the eating disorder recovery process. Self-compassion can help us give ourselves grace and kindness instead of feeling judgmental towards ourselves.
One way to practice this is to close your eyes and picture someone or something that makes you feel happy or loved. It can be a person, animal, cartoon character—it doesn’t really matter. Imagine what they would say to you about how you’re feeling or what you’re going through .
Notice how you feel receiving this compassion and love from them. How does it feel in your body? How do you feel emotionally? Being able to let yourself feel compassion from others can help you start to feel compassion towards yourself.
References: Costin, C. & Schubert-Grabb, G. (2012). 8 keys to recovery from an eating disorder. W.W. Norton & Company.  Saffi Biasetti, A. (2018). Befriending your body. Shambhala Boulder.
About the Author:
Samantha Bothwell, LMFT, is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, writer, explorer, and lipstick aficionado. She became a therapist after doing her own healing work so she could become whole after spending many years living with her mind and body disconnected. She has focused her clinical work to support the healing process of survivors of sexual violence and eating disorders. She is passionate about guiding people in their return to their truest Self so they can live their most authentic, peaceful life.
The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective on eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.
We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.
Published March 25, 2021, on EatingDisorderHope.com
Reviewed & Approved on March 25, 2021, by Jacquelyn Ekern MS, LPC