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Eating Disorders

Meditation Helps Eating Disorder Recovery

Practicing meditation helps people as they recover from eating disorders.

Kasia Bialasiewicz/BigStock
Source: Kasia Bialasiewicz/BigStock

When people are recovering from an eating disorder, feelings of anxiousness or stress can cause them to react through harmful behaviors such as purging, binge-eating, or not eating at all. Reverting back to destructive eating patterns can cause one to feel self-conscious about their body image and overall self-worth.

Practicing meditation during eating disorder recovery can calm an individual’s mind by eliciting a relaxation response. Being relaxed in environments that trigger destructive eating behaviors can help people make more sound decisions to benefit their health. Using techniques learned from meditation as a coping mechanism will ultimately allow individuals to take a step back from a stressful situation, reframe their negative thoughts, and respond in a more productive way.

How to Incorporate Mindfulness Meditation into Your Everyday Routine:

Harvard Health Publications released 4 simple ways to incorporate mindful meditation practices into your daily routine:[1]

  1. Begin your day with a yoga sun salutation - Feel rejuvenated by waking up all parts of your body with simple stretching yoga poses. Practicing 5-10 minutes of yoga to start your day will help to calm your mind before the rush of the day begins.
  2. Breathe - Take 5 minutes during your work or school schedule to check in with your breathing. If you are experiencing a difficult situation or a painful moment, recognize that moment and find your steady breath.
  3. Guided meditation - When your busy work or school day has completed, schedule 10-15 minutes before dinner to engage in a mindful meditation practice. This will allow you to release the stress built up from the day and will help you to engage in mindful eating practices.
  4. Body scan before bed - Take 5 minutes in the evening to get in touch with all parts of your body. Notice areas of tension in your body and release all of the stress from the day’s events. Bring your focus to the present moment and center your thoughts.

All of these techniques take less than 15 minutes to complete. The individual will feel more at ease to battle forward in situations that may trigger destructive eating patterns or thoughts. Using mindfulness meditation will also aid in focusing thoughts towards solutions on how to cope with difficult moments that elicit the stress response.

How Mindfulness Meditation Cultivates Self-Compassion

Mindfulness meditation is an exercise in self-compassion. According to Dr. Kristin Neff, author of Self-compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself, self-compassion is recognizing that you are suffering in a moment or situation, and being kind and understanding towards yourself. The practice of mindfulness meditation helps the person create awareness of the present moment and find self-acceptance and love in moments of difficulty or struggle.

Additional Techniques on How to Incorporate Meditation into Your Life:

  • Schedule time in your day for meditation - The great thing about meditation is that you do not have to meditate for hours to reap its effects. Instead, meditating for as little as 10 minutes can make your mind calmer.
  • Incorporate other calming practices into your routine - Meditation and yoga go hand in hand. Incorporating these relaxation responses will help you to focus on positive thoughts and things you can control.
  • Change it up - If you find that you are getting bored of one type of meditation and need something fresh-try another one! There is a multitude of meditation techniques such as mantra, transcendental, mindfulness, and Zen Buddha meditation[2]. Don’t be afraid to explore the different types of meditation so you can find out which techniques work best for you.
  • Keep a reflective journal - After your meditation practice, find time to reflect on your thoughts, accomplishments, and goals for the future. Keeping track of your progress and responding to areas of struggle will help you to maintain a positive mindset during your recovery.
  • Cultivate self-compassion - Find yourself in the present, assess your emotions, and recognize your struggling moments. Give yourself advice, treat yourself with kindness, or practice self-soothing techniques.

When it seems like the demands of life are in full-speed, remember to slow down and find peace within yourself. This will help you to make more healthy decisions in the present moment. When you center your mind and body and focus on the present moment, you are more likely to engage in behaviors that benefit your overall health.

Greta Gleissner is the Founder of Eating Disorder Recovery Specialists, a nationwide network of eating disorder treatment specialists that provide meal coaching and recovery skills such as CBT, DBT, ACT, MI, etc. EDRS works alongside treatment programs, teams and families to provide transitional aftercare support for post-residential treatment clients.

[1]… pg. 8


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