Mindfulness is the practice of staying present in the moment, allowing thoughts to come and go without judgment. This same skill can be used to help you navigate meals during eating disorder recovery.
What Is Mindful Eating?
Mindful eating brings awareness to every aspect of your eating experience. This includes noting the sensory aspects of food as well as your personal experience while eating. Mindful eating also emphasizes acceptance of the present moment without trying to change it. Practicing mindfulness while you eat gives you permission to have any thoughts or feelings about your food while still working to complete the meal.
How Does Mindful Eating Play a Role in Eating Disorder Recovery?
Mindful eating directly combats your eating disorder tendencies. For people suffering from an eating disorder, the feeling of hunger or fullness can be distressing. While many people try to suppress their hunger, mindful eating guides you to notice your body’s sensations. This practice can help you accept your body’s needs without labeling any sensations as good or bad. Over time, this can help you build trust with your body and heal your relationship with food.
How to Practice Mindful Eating During Meals
There are some practical steps that you can take to begin practicing mindful eating today.
- Put away any distractions at mealtimes. By putting away your phone or turning off the TV, you are allowing yourself the opportunity to be mentally present while you eat.
- Notice your initial first impressions of the meal. Pay attention to how you feel about the meal in front of you. Accept that these emotions are present and don’t try to push them away. Think about how your food rules influence your impression of the meal. How does the meal itself look?
- Note how your body feels in the moment. Are you holding tension anywhere? Notice any physical signs of hunger and where you feel them. After the meal, reevaluate your levels of hunger and fullness.
- Pay attention to how your emotions impact your experience. Whether you are eager to eat the meal or experiencing a lot of challenges, allow yourself to experience any thoughts or emotions without trying to change them.
- Notice the sensory aspects of the food. Note the flavors, temperature, and texture of the food.
- Accept that your experience may be different from other people. Avoid comparing your meal experience to others or even your previous experiences at meals.
Mindful eating, while a powerful tool, may not be right for everyone depending on their stage of recovery. It’s important to work with an eating disorder treatment provider to create individualized meal strategies. Meal support can provide a safe environment to help guide you through eating and process your experience.
During treatment, you will have a team of therapists and dietitians to support you through the process of nourishing your body. Our residential program at Toledo Center offers support at all meals and snacks to help you learn skills, including mindful eating, to recover from your eating disorder. Contact us to learn more about treatment at Toledo Center or give us a call at 419-885-8800.