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Mindfulness Training for Eating Disorders.

November 3, 2009 – 2:40 pm

Mindfulness Training for Eating Disorders.

Most eating disorders are linked to significant amounts of stress, mood disturbance, anxiety, phobias, substance abuse, and physical complications. All these factors have to be addressed when someone is trying to overcome an eating disorder.

Mindfulness training is a technique which can help a person to cope with all these factors. Mindfulness means a calm awareness of body functions, feelings, emotions, thoughts and sensations. Mindfulness consists of paying attention to an experience of the present moment — without moving into thoughts from the past or concerns about the future. Using mindfulness training people with eating disorders can attain control over their body and mind.

What exactly does mindfulness do for the mind and body?  The main benefits of mindfulness are:

1.       Calm and quiet the mind. This will bring more happiness, joy, positive feelings, appreciation and gratitude into people’s lives.  It will also increase kindness to yourself and others which is necessary for ED sufferers as they often behave badly to themselves and others due to their conditioning.

2.       Diminish the grip of habitual responses that cause suffering. ED sufferers all have certain habitual responses to their feelings, thoughts and emotions. For example, bulimics have habits to binge-purge at a certain time a day; anorexics have strict habits and routines about their diets and exercising.

Mindfulness can diminish these habitual behaviours to the point that the sufferer is able to choose how she/he is going to behave at a particular moment.

 

For example, instead of realizing 10-30 minutes later that you’ve been lost in bad thoughts about your body, weight, food, your bad memories or fantasies from the past, a person can stop themself after only 30-60 seconds from wandering thoughts using mindfulness training. With practise, people can increasingly observe these habitual responses and choose to respond in other more constructive ways.

 

3.       Develop a stronger “observing self”. This means to observe what one does. It is like you having a third person who sits inside your own chest and constantly watches what you do.


Mindfulness makes a person become an observer of what one does, thinks and feels.  This helps to have better control over their eating disorder thoughts and behaviours.

For example, when a person gets stressed, instead of reaching for alcohol or going on a binge –purge cycle, the person could simply sit and observe the negative emotions and sensations which were brought on by the stress until they are gone.

Unlike relaxation techniques mindfulness can be developed to the point where it can be practiced in the middle of stressful situations. So instead of reacting to stress a person starts to respond wisely. While being mindful a person can still remain alert and respond appropriately to the situation at hand, instead of being over powered by it.

 

4.       Slow down the pace of thoughts and become more attune to the present moment.   Eating disorder people often complain that they have too much continual inner “chatter” and images from the past or from the future in their minds.


This chatter and images don’t simply go away, because that’s the nature of the human mind. But they can be settled down with practice. This settling down of the mental processes brings relaxation and freedom.

 

With practice one will have the ability to choose what to think about instead of being dragged along with uncontrolled thoughts and feelings. This effect can be experience after just 8-12 minutes of mindfulness state of mind. So, if one practices mindful awareness at least 10 -15 min a day, it may possible for him/her to choose what to think instead of their thoughts going uncontrolled.

 

Mindfulness will also increase your concentration letting you perform task , study and work with better accuracy. It also improves the immune system and general health. It regulates the autonomic nervous system which control automatic functions of the body organs. Mindfulness is a great anti- aging factor as it improves metabolism of the cells.

 

Most eating disorder sufferers who practice mindfulness training find it an incredible tool to beat their problem right at root of the disorder, in the subconscious mind.

You can read about healing meditation for eating disorders CDs at http://www.meditation-sensation.com

Dr Irina  Webster

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