Eating Disorders

Using Meditation as a Tool in Eating Disorder Recovery

How can meditation be used for eating disorder recovery? Meditation is used to change our mindset and helps us create a more constructive and positive mental environment.

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Eating disorders affect people across all cultures, age groups, and genders. Regardless of the type of eating disorder, the physical and mental effects are very straining on the body.

Recovery from an eating disorder is essential for long-term health.

However, the path to overcoming an eating disorder is not easy. Finding useful tools to help someone overcome their eating disorder is critical for successful recovery,

Meditation has been used for thousands of years to increase self-awareness, calm the mind, and bring control over emotions.

The benefits are becoming more popular in Western culture. While anyone who practices meditation understands the benefits, science is starting to understand how it works on a physical level. Society is now bringing meditation out of the ‘woo-woo’ hippy culture and into the mainstream as a useful tool to manage a wide range of disorders, including eating disorders.

What is meditation?

Meditation is simply taking time to find stillness and clarity of the mind. Sitting in silence to breathe and watch a sunset, going for a walk, and taking the time to get out of your head to notice your breath and surroundings are all forms of meditation.


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There are many different types of meditation.

For instance, there is Zen, Vipassana, Mindfulness, Mantra, and transcendental. Just to name a few. However, despite the differences the ultimate goal of all mediation remains the same: to experience the mind and find peace. Deepak Chopra describes meditation as “a vital way to purify and quiet the mind, thus rejuvenating the body.”

How Meditation Can Help in Eating Disorder Recovery

As many as 40% of women with bulimia nervosa do not recover using traditional treatment methods. (source) These results highlight the need for a new approach. Meditation practices have been found to be very effective alternative tools in the battle against many eating disorders including bulimia nervosa, anorexia nervosa, and binge eating.

As reported in The Journal of Treatment and Prevention, meditation helps people control their emotional responses, develop a higher sense of hunger and satiety self-awareness, and be more self-accepting. After undergoing an 8-week meditation treatment program people reported feeling greater acceptance, compassion, self-awareness, reduced distress, and being able to better cope with stress. Certainly a drastic change from the start of the program. Initially, people described themselves as experiencing emotional extremes, feelings of disembodiment and self-loathing.

How can meditation be used for eating disorder recovery?

Meditation is used to change our mindset and helps us create a more constructive and positive mental environment. It also helps us to identify our problems and what is holding us back. For instance, researchers from The Journal of Health Care for Women International spoke with nine anorexia nervosa recovered women. As a result, the women’s stories identified a common five-step framework of the recovery process.

Five-step recovery framework:

  1. seeing the dangers
  2. inching out of anorexia
  3. tolerating exposure without anorexia
  4. gaining perspective by changing the anorexia mindset
  5. discovering and reclaiming self as “good enough”

Once the issue is highlighted, meditation helps us work through that blockage. After that, we are then free to create a positive mindset and self-image. After all, meditation could easily be incorporated into this five-step recovery framework to support and enhance the effects.

How to Start Using Meditation

There are many free meditation resources on the internet you can use. In addition if you are seeking meditation to help you work on a specific goal or eating disorder, you should find a meditation teacher who identifies with your objectives and specializes in the meditation style required to get you there. A teacher will help guide you along the path and make the process easier for you. Meanwhile. you can start playing with the basics to practice in your own time.

Firstly, the basics of meditation are to sit and observe gently:

  1. Get comfortable and start focusing on your breath.
  2. Get curious.
  3. See how it feels to expand your stomach as you breathe in and out slowly to the count of seven.
  4. When you get distracted gently brush the thought away and go back to focusing on your breath.
  5. It’s a good idea to have a timer set to help avoid the ‘How long have I been here?’ worry.

There are many different variations of this basic structure. In addition, you can play soothing music in the background to focus on. You can also play a guided meditation, repeat a mantra, or use the body scan method.

Play around with the different types to find what works for you.

At the end of the day don’t forget that it is a practice. Subsequently. the more you practice, the better you get.

As Buddha said, “In the same way that rain breaks into a house with a bad roof, desire breaks into the mind that has not been practicing meditation.”

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Article Photo by Daniel Mingook Kim on Unsplash


Sources

Kristeller, J. & Wolever, R. (2010). Mindfulness-based eating awareness training for treating binge eating disorder: The conceptual foundation. The Journal of Treatment & Prevention, 19 (1), 49-61. Retrieved from: https://doi.org/10.1080/10640266.2011.533605
Lamoureux, M. & Bottorff, J. (2005). “Becoming the real me”: Recovering from anorexia nervosa . The Journal of Health Care for Women International, 6 (2), 170-188. Retrieved from: https://doi.org/10.1080/07399330590905602
Morishita, S. (2000). Treatment of anorexia nervosa with Naikan therapy. International Medical Journal, 7 (2), 151. Retrieved from: https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2000-00408-003
Proulx, K. (2007). Experiences of women with bulimia nervosa in a mindfulness-based eating disorder treatment group. The Journal of Treatment & Prevention, 16 (1), 52-72. Retrieved from: https://doi.org/10.1080/10640260701773496

 

Adrianne is a health and wellness writer who focuses on helping women develop the mindset and tools live happier, healthier lives. As an avid traveler, foodie, meditator, and yogi her days are kept busy scouring the globe, and scientific journals to discover the secrets of living a successful, happy life, and where the world's best dark chocolate is hiding. She suspects the two may be linked.

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