Mindfulness & Eating Disorders

Nature Path Through Trees in Fall Colors

Mindfulness has BLOWN UP in the past few years. Whether through the practice of yoga, meditation, or new-age holistic solutions – it is all many people talk about. I am a mindfulness convert, therapist, and yoga instructor who happily learned that what popular culture told me was mindfulness was not at all what therapeutic mindfulness is.

Understanding mindfulness has improved my ability to be present, my mental health, and my life in general, and I’m happy to set the record straight for you. This starts what will become a monthly series on mindfulness that corresponds with my Mindfulness Techniques and Skills support group the first Tuesday of every month!

What is Mindfulness?

Most of what popular culture refers to as “mindfulness” is actually more meditation. The idea that mindfulness means sitting quietly in a pretzel position chanting “om” with your eyes closed is only half-true.

Meditation is always mindful, but mindfulness isn’t always meditation. Mindfulness, defined by Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) founder, Marsha Linehan, is “the act of consciously focusing the mind in the present moment without judgment and without attachment to the moment [1].”

Good contrasts are those moments when you arrive at home and don’t even realize you drove there. So many of our days involve automatic, habitual behaviors. With mindfulness, you’re not being asked to close your eyes and chant while driving (please don’t do that).

What mindfulness encourages you to do is “be.” That’s it.

Mindfulness asks you to exist in the present reality without trying to change it or judging it. Without trying to change and without judging yourself.

Driving your route home and noticing what you pass every day. Every day, I drive to work and see a person commuting by walking (uncommon, in my town). If I absent-mindedly drove, I wouldn’t notice them. I feel more like I exist in my town, that I’m connected with this world, and it’s nuances, and that I am living within our current reality because I notice this individual.

Being present means living. It means looking at your life, reality, and the world, scars and all, and accepting it. Acceptance doesn’t mean you agree with the way things are, but that you accept that this is how they are at that moment.

By doing so, you begin at square one of working to make changes, whether in your own life or society, that lead to progress. This puts us into “beginner’s mind…where each moment is a new beginning, a new and unique moment [1].”

Eating Disorders & Being Mindful

Asian American Woman in Wheat Field working on MindfulnessImagine that last sentence as you are in the thick of your eating disorder. Your mind and body are experiencing overwhelming turmoil, and you are likely placing a great deal of guilt and shame on yourself.

Mindfulness tells you, “that was one minute ago, it’s in the past, what do you want to do with this minute?” Practicing mindfulness allows us to start over moment-to-moment, allowing ourselves and the world around us to be human.

Acting at this moment, the control and empowerment that you may be looking for in your eating disorder can be found in a less dangerous fashion. Mindfulness doesn’t ask you to restrict, to limit yourself, or to be a certain way but just to come as you are.

Practicing mindfulness involves seeing your progress and acknowledging that while also acknowledging that there is more progress to be made. If this freedom from your past and judgment and “should” sounds appealing to you, I encourage you to join me on this mindfulness journey with Eating Disorder Hope.

I will be writing on mindfulness skills once every month in the Eating Disorder Hope blog as well as leading a Mindfulness skills group the first Tuesday of every month to directly talk about how we can put these skills into your life.

I look forward to seeing you there and supporting you in adding mindfulness to your recovery toolbelt.


Resources:

[1] Linehan, M. (2015). DBT Skills Training Manual – 2nd Edition. The Guilford Press, ISBN: 978-1-4625-3361-9.


About the Author:

Image of Margot Rittenhouse.Margot Rittenhouse, MS, PLPC, NCC is a therapist who is passionate about providing mental health support to all in need and has worked with clients with substance abuse issues, eating disorders, domestic violence victims, and offenders, and severely mentally ill youth.

As a freelance writer for Eating Disorder Hope and Addiction Hope and a mentor with MentorConnect, Margot is a passionate eating disorder advocate, committed to de-stigmatizing these illnesses while showing support for those struggling through mentoring, writing, and volunteering. Margot has a Master’s of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Johns Hopkins University.


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 June 4, 2020, on EatingDisorderHope.com
Reviewed & Approved on June 4, 2020, by Jacquelyn Ekern MS, LPC

About Baxter Ekern

Baxter is the Vice President of Ekern Enterprises, Inc. He is responsible for the operations of Eating Disorder Hope and ensuring that the website is functioning smoothly.