For persons recovering from an eating disorder, it can feel unsettling and sometimes impossible to stay in one place. There is a certain restlessness and inquietude that often accompanies an eating disorder – a desire to escape or run away from the discomfort you may feel within your own body.
Learning to feel at peace with your body, not just by accepting it, but by celebrating it, is a crucial step in recovery. Even in the midst of the chaos of everyday work, school, or home life, it is important to take time to simply sit with your body and revel in its uniqueness and beauty.
One of the ways that we can be present with our bodies is by practicing mindfulness. By “mindfulness,” we mean reflecting on and observing your surroundings and your own unique thoughts and feelings. We mean taking note of these thoughts and feelings without judging yourself or labeling your feelings as “good” or “bad.” We say that we “practice” mindfulness because it is a learning process that does take practice.
As Jon Kabat-Zinn said in his book Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life, “Mindfulness practice means that we commit fully in each moment to be present; inviting ourselves to interface with this moment in full awareness, with the intention to embody as best we can an orientation of calmness, mindfulness, and equanimity right here and right now.”
It’s important to not pass judgement on feelings such as sadness, frustration, loneliness, and shame because these are things we all experience throughout our lives. To sweep these feelings under the rug without processing them can actually cause more harm to your mental health and exacerbate your eating disorder.
We too often spend a large portion of each day speculating about what we are going to do tomorrow, this weekend, or in the next five years. Within the grips of an eating disorder, it is common for your thoughts to be consumed by what you will eat that day, how you can plan meals for the next day, and how you can avoid the event over the weekend where there would be a lot of food you are not “allowed” to eat. Working with a therapist to practice mindfulness can help alleviate many of these stressors and lend itself to the freedom that accompanies recovery – freedom to live in the present moment with uninhibited joy.
One concrete way to practice mindfulness is to remind yourself of the value of what is happening right now. To be intentional about remaining present in moments of pure joy and bliss. Because even in times of uncertainty and transition, those moments happen every single day.
Recovery is not just feeling safe and comfortable in your own body, it is also no longer wanting to run away.