I suffered from an eating disorder when I was a young girl. When I looked in the mirror, I hated what I saw. I wanted to scratch myself out of my body. Every minute felt uncomfortable, and my life felt out-of-control. I viewed starvation as a tool for control and to escape the realm of my emotions. I remember how difficult it was to feel centered back then.
Thankfully, a lot has changed since my youth. Today, I don’t run from my life; I run into it, and you can dive fully into life, too. If you are wanting to feel better in your body and to cultivate an inner sense of calm, try following the tips that I’ve presented in this post that have helped me with my own recovery.
Feel Better in Your Body Through Mindfulness and Meditation
Many women do self-destructive and harmful things to mask how they feel in their body and mind. For example, you may refuse to eat because you enjoy the feeling of control and power that come with self-denial. Or, you may drink excessively and do drugs in an attempt to anesthetize your emotions. Whatever is true for you, honor this truth and then start by committing to practicing a daily mindfulness routine. Meditation can be exceedingly helpful to individuals who are plagued by negative thoughts and feelings, or obsessive-compulsive behaviors. Based on my own experience of practicing meditation and deep breathing, I can honestly say that mindfulness has helped me to better deal with my negative emotions and self-destructive urges. Through mindfulness, I feel more optimistic about my life now than ever before.
The beauty of mindfulness is that it involves expanding your awareness of your internal thoughts and emotions, focusing on the now, and on becoming aware of your habitual patterns of responding to life stressors. Mindfulness teaches you to simply observe your thoughts, emotions, sensations, and memories without immediately labeling them as good or bad. By stepping back and observing, instead of being ruled by your emotions, you will be more equipped to choose how you wish to feel and act when faced with adversities.
Feel better in Your Body Through Relationships with Thoughts
Negative thinking patterns keep women focused on controlling themselves as a way of coping. Pressures to be thin, coping internally with stress, or feeling overly empathetic toward others causes many women to develop maladaptive ways of thinking about themselves and the world. For those who suffer from a full-blown eating disorder, controlling the body is a way of relieving distress and providing a sense of safety; however, this style of coping is unhealthy for many reasons, including the fact that it is a ripe breeding ground for cognitive distortions to occur.
The eating disordered voice is a cruel, never-ending dialogue that plays in the mind of the sufferer and causes her to think only in black-and-white terms. This negative voice also encourages sufferers to continue following their eating disorder behavior, so it’s easy to see how such pronounced negative thoughts can lead to depression and feeling not-good-enough. If you’re wanting to feel better in your body and mind, then, I suggest keeping a journal with the goal of keeping a daily written record of key events (i.e., situations in which you find yourself feeling sad, negative about your body, etc.), including how you feel about them. This will train you to be a witness to your thoughts, not a puppet.
Stop Judging Thoughts, Witness and Observe
The critical eating disorder voice is one that tells you that you won’t be happy until you are thin and that your worth is measured only by external merit. However, you will not feel happier or better in your body until you learn how to truly love yourself, which ultimately, requires developing healthier relationships with your thoughts. If I asked you to finish the sentence, “My body….,” what is it that immediately comes to mind? If you’re like many people, your initial thoughts will involve something related to how your body looks. To gain a more balanced perspective, try shifting the focus from how your body looks, to what it can do. Try writing one thing per day about your body that you’re grateful for in your journal. Notice any thoughts that cause you to feel down about your appearance and begin to reframe them with thoughts related to the overall functionality of your body (i.e., “I appreciate that my body enables me to give birth, to walk, etc.”).
Forgiveness Helps You Feel Better in Your Body
You can achieve emotional freedom from your suffering. It has always been with you, however, now you must learn to connect with it. Before you can connect to and feel better in your body, you must first focus on the power of forgiveness. Forgiveness is not for the faint-hearted, especially when you have been wounded. However, to feel better in your body and to live a more meaningful life, this requires work and sometimes involves doing the harder thing.
Forgiveness is a practice of extending grace, one that takes dedication and courage. If you follow the path to forgiveness (of yourself, others, or both), this will give you room to release any shame, resentment, sadness, or anger and make room for more peace in your mind and body. When genuine forgiveness occurs, you will have a greater capacity to connect with both yourself and others in a more meaningful sense.
Fuel Your Body with Nourishment and Movement
It is essential to look after the health of both your mind and body. Fueling your body through healthy practices will allow you to; take charge of your life and feel good about the choices you make; feel energized and more positive; find more enjoyment in life, and; connect to your body’s wisdom. I encourage you to mindfully choose food by paying attention to how you feel instead of using harsh “rules” that promote restriction.
In addition to choosing colorful food and intuitively eating, another great way to fuel the body is through yoga. Yoga teaches you how to connect to yourself from the inside out. It shines a bright light on your core strengths, as well as supports you to take small steps to make healthier choices in your recovery. I know that for me, as I kept showing up to my mat, over time, I learned how to be more compassionate with myself and comfortable again in my own body. Practicing yoga has revealed to me that at my core, underneath my sense of aloneness, devastation, and shadow self, there was an unshakeable desire and capacity to heal. In addition to therapy, yoga gave me my first dose of freedom after feeling isolated for so many years by the weight of trauma.
Remember that any significant lifestyle change is an ongoing work in progress. Start by setting smaller, more achievable goals that are simple to add to your everyday routine. Even though it takes time to make lasting lifestyle changes, taking care of your body is one of the most vital connections you can make in this life. Why settle for an unhealthy and fear-based life when you can feel amazing, from the inside and out?! I wish to give others a way to feel as confident and sure about their recovery as I try to be because I know that it’s possible to live a joyous life without an eating disorder. I have discovered that when you take care of your body and mind, you are more prone to adapt to stress and able to amend maladaptive automatic thoughts, which in turn, leaves room for more happiness. And the more joy that you cultivate from within, the more joy you will grow within your relationships. Ultimately, your relationship to your body is a direct reflection of your thoughts and actions—so be mindful of what you want it to reflect.