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Learn more about the results we get at Within

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Meditation and eating disorder recovery

Practicing meditation can help with internal healing by offering the opportunity to bring mind, body, and soul into alignment, vibrating with a peaceful harmony that radiates from the inside out.1

Learning to utilize this ancient practice can be especially helpful if you are struggling with or recovering from an eating disorder. Nurturing thoughtful mental healing through practices like guided meditation is an integral part of recovering from an eating disorder and returning to meaningful living. 

4
 minute read
Last updated on 
May 31, 2023
Meditation class
In this article

What is meditation?

Meditation is not about turning off your thoughts. It's about letting those thoughts pass through you unimpeded and without judgment. It's about focusing on nothing but the present moment and letting that moment be whatever it is rather than spending time and energy trying to define it. It's about simply being—and feeling comfortable with that.1

You don't need to find a local eating disorder treatment center—remote treatment is available.

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Meditation is not just a state of being but also a skill that can be learned and built upon. This is why it's called a meditation practice or routine.1

The benefits of meditation for your mental health

In their purest sense, thoughts are not "good" or "bad." They are merely the result of electrical impulses sent through our brains. What makes them "good" or "bad" is the meaning we attach to them. It's important and even necessary to do this sometimes. Indeed, without this trick, we would be at risk of falling for our own worst impulses. 

But relying too much on this tact can be dangerous, too. We can spend too much time in "analyze" mode, distracted by our self-dictated reality and vulnerable, in this state of mind, to creating or following unhelpful thought patterns.

Allowing our thoughts the space to simply exist saves our minds the time and energy of chasing them down or rerouting them, which helps calm the mind. This sets off a beneficial cascade through the body, lowering stress hormone levels, creating a sense of relaxation, and promoting a more measured and positive outlook.

Add to that how meditation techniques help strengthen focus and build awareness, and the practice becomes a powerful tool for supporting mental health.

Indeed, across several studies over the years, different types of meditation have been found to boost self-esteem, improve concentration and decision-making, reduce stress levels, and combat symptoms of depression.1,2

Meditation class

Harnessing meditation for eating disorders

Meditation can help people heal from eating disorders, both during active treatment and while in recovery. 

Letting go of disordered eating behaviors and the thoughts behind them can be a difficult transition, which may cause undue stress on many people trying to recover. The calming impact of meditation can help people get through these trials, maintaining a clearer focus on their goals and the broader perspective needed to stick with them.3,4

Meditation can also help people keep their view of themselves in perspective. Recognizing your journey with an eating disorder in this way, and responding with kindness and patience toward yourself, is called self-compassion, and it's an outgrowth of the self-awareness developed by meditation. Developing these skills is an essential part of healing from an eating disorder. 

Once someone learns to accept themselves, that's when healing truly takes place. Meditation can allow for growth around self-love and internal healing. Planting these positive seeds and continuing to water them with meditation will help create deep, strong roots of self-esteem and self-acceptance. 

Types of meditation for eating disorders

While the practice has been used in some form for millennia, a few methods of meditation have become especially popular today, including:

Mindfulness meditation

Mindfulness meditation is set around the thoughts and sensations of the present moment. Thoughts may come and go, so long as no involvement with them or judgment takes place. Practice mindfulness daily to gain valuable insights and help boost the healing process.

Focus meditation

Focus meditation uses a specific object or sensation to focus on, including the feeling of breathing, a candle's dancing flame, the chanting of a mantra, or the sound of a gong.

Loving-kindness meditation

Loving-kindness meditation involves reciting and repeating positive mantras to help cultivate feelings of kindness, love, and acceptance.

Visualization meditation

This type of meditation focuses on how it impacts each of the senses. The scene can depict a spiritual journey, reaching a specific goal, or several other situations.

Final thoughts on meditation for eating disorders

Focusing on the present moment as a meditative practice is a proactive approach to decluttering the mind, creating awareness, and building healthier perspectives.10 If you can practice meditation, it can be a valuable part of both the treatment of, and recovery from, an eating disorder.

Remember that mastering mindfulness and meditation may be difficult for many with harmful behaviors, such as disordered eating. It can be challenging to let go of negative feelings, but many treatment providers support mindfulness and believe meditation helps boost self-awareness about one's eating disorder.

If you or someone you love needs help overcoming an eating disorder, know that help is available now at Within.

Disclaimer about "overeating": Within Health hesitatingly uses the word "overeating" because it is the term currently associated with this condition in society, however, we believe it inherently overlooks the various psychological aspects of this condition which are often interconnected with internalized diet culture, and a restrictive mindset about food. For the remainder of this piece, we will therefore be putting "overeating" in quotations to recognize that the diagnosis itself pathologizes behavior that is potentially hardwired and adaptive to a restrictive mindset.

Disclaimer about weight loss drugs: Within does not endorse the use of any weight loss drug or behavior and seeks to provide education on the insidious nature of diet culture. We understand the complex nature of disordered eating and eating disorders and strongly encourage anyone engaging in these behaviors to reach out for help as soon as possible. No statement should be taken as healthcare advice. All healthcare decisions should be made with your individual healthcare provider.

Resources

  1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2022, June). Meditation and mindfulness: What you need to know. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Retrieved April 3, 2023.
  2. Corliss, J. (2014, January 8). Mindfulness meditation may ease anxiety, mental stress. Harvard Health Publishing. Retrieved April 3, 2023.
  3. Kyoto University. (2023, February 5). Accepting anxiety for peace of mind: Meditation therapy effective in reducing suffering for anorexia patients. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 3, 2023.
  4. Yu, J., Song, P., Zhang, Y., & Wei, Z. (2020). Effects of mindfulness-based intervention on the treatment of problematic eating behaviors: A systematic review. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 26(8), 666–679. 

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