By Irina Webster

As much as we would love to snap our fingers and offer a quick fix to overcoming eating disorders, it’s just not safe nor practical to do so. However, the simple act of being mindful of how you’re feeling on a regular basis – and how those feelings are being manifested into actions that could be harming your body and mind – is very important step to your healing journey.

Mindfulnessis a practice of calming the mind and becoming aware of our inner selves in the present moment. The term meditation refers to a wider range of practices generally meant to help the individual achieve some sense of inner peace and relaxation. In a broad sense, the term mindful meditation refers to a practice in which an individual strives to achieve a calm and stable state-of-mind that is based solely in the present moment. In this moment, the shame from the past and the worries of the future cease to exist. All that matters is that you look at yourself in a non-judgemental manner in the present moment.

Being hard on yourself for the past or worrying about the future is not part of the here-and-now. In the present moment, it is just you and your surroundings. Listen to it. Be present. Quiet your mind and just be. Even though it may seem like a small thing, embrace the fact that right now, you are making a positive step, just by doing this. Every small step you take adds up to big steps. And by taking this first step, you are already on your way to great change!

Make a conscious effort to become more aware of your thoughts and actions when it comes to your eating habits. Make it a personal goal to get enough essential vitamins and minerals and to stay hydrated throughout the day – because, let’s face it, it is quite impossible to make informed decisions about your health when you don’t have the necessary fuel your brain needs to do so. When a person suffers from an eating disorder, their choices are often not conscious choices – the decisions that end up being made are made by the disordered part of the brain (which is often the part that is too tired from lack of proper nutrition to think clearly). The voice within your head that tells you to binge, purge or starve yourself is not your rational voice. With practice, mindful thinking and mindful eating can help you get your true voice back.

Being mindful of eating regular meals is something we hear all too often, but understanding why it is so important can make such a difference in our lives. Our bodies are quite literally machines. They need a steady and constant supply of nutrition to keep them functioning at their optimal levels throughout the day. If you go all day without eating, you will feel tired and low. It’s as simple as that. In this state, there is no way that you can make informed decisions about anything in your life. Nutrition affects everything. Even the act of being mindful becomes impossible if you don’t have the basic fuel to help your brain function the way it needs to.

Another important thing to remember is that, within your mind, something called your “ego” poses as the real you. When you have an eating disorder, the faulty information that you get from this ego is what you inevitably come to believe. Wisdom comes from identifying with your true mind, or your true self. It is essential when attempting to overcome an eating disorder to separate your true mind from that ego state which is constantly giving you incorrect information. Once you make this separation, proper healing can begin. Make a conscious effort to listen to your true mind.

Armed with this new information, start putting it into practice. A good first step is to keep a journal. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. Just make an effort to recognize when you’re happy or sad, stressed, angry or overwhelmed. Make a chart. What types of foods do you choose during these varying times? Keeping track of your moods and the actions that stem from them is important in helping you make some major changes in your life and can be an essential step in your road to healing.

Don’t react blindly to stressful stimuli and make unhealthy choices. Remember – you’re worth more than that! It is also vital to make sure you don’t give up if you don’t start achieving the results you want right away. It’s one of the biggest mistakes we make as human beings. We get frustrated when we don’t see immediate results, so we are too quick to say, “This doesn’t work!” or “I put the effort in, but I still failed.” Don’t fall victim to this way of thinking. In reality, you will NEVER fail as long as you are willing to keep trying. Set-backs are different. Set-backs do not make you a failure. They simply make you human. The most important thing is to pick yourself up after you stumble and keep going. Learn from your experiences and keep moving forward. Stick with it. Nothing worthwhile ever truly comes easy – especially something as serious as overcoming an eating disorder. It will take time to achieve the results you seek. But with dedication those results WILL come.

YOU hold the power to change your life for the better. Managing and overcoming an eating disorder is no easy feat. But it IS possible. And no longer does success have to happen to “someone else”… right now, the time has come for you to start this journey.

Dr Irina Webster MD is a recognised authority in the eating disorders area. She is an author of many books on women health. She propagates mindfulness therapy and neuroplasticity as a treatment for eating disorders.

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