Sirona Therapy Mount Kisco new clinician Shannon Ramos - Mindfulness expert

Mindfulness In Eating Disorder Recovery

By Shannon Ramos, LMSW


Recovery – Different Perspectives

Recovery can look different and mean different things to different people. Most people who have experienced real recovery would agree that it is not an easy process, yet a process worth doing. Over all, many people in recovery are focusing on making changes in their life to improve their health and well-being. When someone is working on recovering from an Eating Disorder, this process may be the most difficult and most important process they work on because they are working on saving their own life. The practice of Mindfulness can greatly enhance the process of recovery.

We all talk to ourselves throughout the day, including making mental notes about the long list of things we always seem to need to get done. While everyone speaks to themselves, not everyone uses a variety of negative words and descriptions to describe themselves. People with Eating Disorders who are suffering in emotional conflict and pain have an extremely critical voice using statements like, “you’re gross, ugly, fat, looser, alone, no good, you’re a failure”. This voice makes them question their self-image and self-worth. It’s hard to understand why anyone would speak to themselves in this manner, yet it happens more than you may think. Every time we turn on our television, computer, radio or iPhone, we are flooded with constant social media ads and distractions that lie to us about what’s beautiful and what is not. When you add to this, the increasing pressure of everyday life, past traumas and lack of effective coping tools, it becomes easier to understand why one may develop this type of internal dialog. For individuals suffering from an eating disorder, becoming Mindful, or aware of the present moment, can help save them from that critical voice inside of their head.

Individuals who suffer from an Eating Disorder know all too well, their negative self-talk is just one of the many destructive behaviors they partake in. Their everyday life is filled with emotional pain and practicing maladaptive behaviors in order to numb these painful feelings. Many of these people find themselves living in extremely unhealthy cycles, with no clear way out. However, there is a way out and it starts with practicing love and compassion for themselves, while being aware and accepting of their present moment.

Therapeutic Mindfulness is; awareness of present moment with acceptance. Awareness and Acceptance work hand in hand. While practicing being aware, you are paying attention to what is currently happening in your environment; causing you to feel a certain way and possibly engage in a destructive behavior. While practicing acceptance, you are not judging others or yourself. Mindfulness means, understanding you don’t have to act on negative thoughts. Being able to focus on the present moment and feelings without judgment. Being kind and compassionate with yourself while becoming comfortable in your own skin. Practicing Mindfulness can help individuals understand the driving forces behind their Eating Disorder and start the foundation to be successful in their recovery. In time, they can develop the ability to transform impulsive eating habits into healthy thoughts and behaviors.

Individuals who are suffering with an Eating Disorder constantly have thoughts revolving around their food intake, possibility of weight gain, may obsess over their workout regimes and how to hide these thoughts and behaviors. This makes it impossible for them to be able to live in the present moment. Again, when starting recovery, it is critical for the individual to become aware of their social and environmental stresses that trigger their negative thought patterns/feelings.

During recovery, there are specific Mindfulness techniques that can help to prevent destructive behaviors such as not eating and/or purging. The initial goal is to be able to take a step back and focus on the present moment and feelings.

Mindfulness-Understand the Moment

Once you are aware of your present moment, it will be easier for you to identify what personal and environmental factors empower you and what factors make you feel unworthy. When you do get the urge to participate in negative behaviors like, skipping a meal or purging after a meal, ask yourself, “What am I feeling and why do I feel this way?” “What is currently causing me to harm my mind and body?” Practicing Mindfulness will allow you to recognize what the cause is and gain resilience in order to remove these stresses from your life.

Mindfulness-Focus on the Positive

When you are in the habit of practicing Mindfulness, you will realize your thoughts do not have to dictate your behaviors and who you are. You can start to re-frame your negative self-image and thoughts into positive thoughts. This becomes easier when you start implementing healthy behaviors like meditating, taking a yoga class, taking a walk outside, or spending time with supportive family and friends.

Mindfulness-Taking Action

Once you have become aware of your stress triggers and thoughts around your Eating Disorder, you can work on building up your resilience against the disorder. While in initial recovery, you should be working with a dietician to help you create a healthy meal plan. You can then practice being mindful, while you shop and prep for each meal. Whether you are eating alone or eating with others, you should participate eating your meal mindfully. Turn off electronics and focus on your food and or company. Appreciate and enjoy the taste of your food and the friends that you are sharing your meal with.

There is no way to avoid the pain and suffering that comes along with being human, including Mindfulness. However, whether you are struggling with an Eating Disorder or other painful life experiences, Mindfulness can be used as a soothing strategy to help you heal. It will create awareness, and help in understanding who your true self really is. During recovery, you will more than likely relapse from time to time. Remember to be compassionate with yourself, this does not mean you have failed, this is just part of the process of recovery.

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