A recent study revealed that the percentage of women under 20 and over 50 experiencing symptoms of an eating disorder was the same at 13%. As much as we want to believe that eating disorders are solely a problem for our younger generation, older adults also suffer from eating disorders.
Physical health conditions, mental health challenges, stress, and societal pressures are inciting unhealthy eating behaviors and food choices in people of all ages. The dangers that eating disorders like bulimia, anorexia, and binge eating bring to one’s physical and mental health mustn’t be overlooked.
If you’re trying to navigate disordered eating, mindfulness can help. Practicing mindfulness when eating and making food choices can help restore a healthy relationship with food that lessens the chances of developing an eating disorder.
Let’s see how below.
Eating With Intention
Many people fall into the unhealthy pattern of eating whatever they want, whenever they want, however they want, without any regard for the nutritional value of what they’re eating. And thus, an unhealthy relationship with food is born.
Of course, you can eat whatever you want. But your physical appearance, internal organs, and systems will almost always pay the price. Mindful eating can help you avoid this because the core of it is paying careful attention to the food that you eat.
You eat with intention. You start paying attention to what you put in your mouth, and there’s a purpose for each mouthful. Food becomes fuel rather than something to do because it tastes good, prompting a healthier relationship with it.
Grow Your Food Knowledge
There is a lot to learn about food. Without a fundamental understanding of the food groups, where they came from, how they affect your body, how to best make them, their purpose, and so forth, there’s no chance for a genuinely healthy relationship with food.
Incorporating mindfulness into your eating and food choices allows you to grow your food knowledge. This is because, as mentioned above, the core of mindful eating is truly paying attention to your food intake and how it affects you.
So, the very practice of mindful eating forces you to grow your food knowledge, resulting in a healthier relationship with food.
Understand the Relationship Between Nutrition and Exercise
Nutrition and exercise. You need both to be at your healthiest mentally and physically. But truly understanding one or the other, and incorporating them into your daily life, requires you to comprehend their relationship.
Simply put, exercising all the time means nothing if you eat unhealthy all of the time. And if you’re truly looking to accomplish your peak physical condition, you must exercise regularly and eat well.
Mindfulness helps you discover the foods you should be eating to be generally healthy and also the foods that will help you achieve your physical fitness goals. As a result, your relationship with food will be about sustainability as much as it is about constantly striving for better health.
Develop a Better Relationship With Yourself
Harvard Health Publishing breaks down mindfulness stating it “means focusing on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting your feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.”
When we think about this in terms of eating, it means focusing on the present moment while eating, acknowledging and accepting your feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations as you eat specific foods.
This kind of internal reflection is the start of not just a better relationship with food but with yourself overall. You begin paying attention to what happens to you when you eat. And based on what you learn, you can adjust your food choices to support your physical and mental health better.
Better physical and mental health only leads to a better relationship with yourself. For example, your physical wellness may inspire such mental clarity that you discover and have the energy for new passions. Or maybe your internal dialogue gets better, and your mindset grows because of it.
The more you know, love, and care for yourself, the better your food and life choices will be.
Mindfulness Becomes a Part of Your Everyday Life
As we can see, mindfulness can be influential in your relationship with food. Even more powerful than that is how mindfulness can spread to your entire life. You become more mindful of the food you eat and carry that attentiveness to the rest of the choices you make in your life.
For example, instead of surrounding yourself with anyone, you make more intentional choices about friendships and relationships. You’re more mindful of when you’re practicing negative self-talk and can interrupt the dialogue with something positive. Or you take your time finding your next job because you want it to be meaningful this time.
Mindfulness can start with food. But it won’t end there if you do it right.
Embrace Help if You Need It
According to ANAD, “9% of the U.S. population, or 28.8 million Americans, will have an eating disorder in their lifetime.” It’s nothing to be ashamed of. And there’s no reason you shouldn’t seek support if you need it.
The risk for suicide is much greater for individuals with a history of an eating disorder. So, if you’re seriously struggling with an eating disorder, please embrace help from a licensed mental health professional, like an eating disorder therapist.
An eating disorder therapist specializes in helping patients with eating disorders identify, understand, and address the root causes of their disordered eating patterns.
Through enhanced cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, or another therapy model, eating disorder therapists can help those living with an eating disorder better manage and, hopefully, heal from it entirely.
Whether you need support from a therapist or want to walk the journey alone, your relationship with food can improve with mindfulness.