Feeding the body is only one aspect of recovering from an eating disorder. Nourishing the soul is a different animal. Why do we find it so hard to nourish the soul? For many of us, part of the answer lies in the fact that our culture does not particularly encourage this. Most people lead extremely busy lives, drawn between work and relationships, family and financial concerns. At the end of any given day, there don’t seem to be many ways for us to focus on nourishing our soul. Society has not made it a big priority in our culture. As a result, we have to devote extra effort to doing so. Here are a few ways we can nourish the soul why doing so is vital to recovering from an eating disorder.
Spirituality: Spirituality is one way we can nourish our soul, and it doesn’t necessarily have to mean being religious. Spirituality refers to that which related to the human spirit or soul as opposed to the physical realm. We can see how broad a term this is and how there could be many activities that qualify as spiritual. Perhaps meditation is not your thing, but watching a beautiful sunset makes you feel connected to the world. That counts as spiritual.
Spirituality is so important because the eating disorder tries to create excessive focus on the physical realm. It attempts to get a person lost in the narrow world of the material and detach them from their spiritual self. Practicing spirituality is a way of defending against this tactic of the eating disorder.
Creativity: Sometimes we get intimidated by being creative, judging ourselves and mistakenly assuming we are not creative. Doing something that is creative is a great way to nourish the soul, and you don’t need to be Picasso in order get creative. Visual activities are just one small fraction of the creative spectrum, but even those have become more accessible. If you have never done a “Paint by Numbers” painting or explored some of the intricate coloring books for adults, you really owe it to yourself to try one out. These enable you to get the satisfaction of a highly involved work of art without having to go to Art School.
Music: Music unlocks a part of the brain and a part of the soul that can have transcendent effects. Invest in a nice pair of headphones and take time to re-listen to some of your favorite music in ways you haven’t before. Make music not just something you put on in the background for noise, but an activity in and of itself. You can get lost in a world of music and doing so can activate some of the deeply held feelings that the eating disorder tries to prevent you from. It’s a great way to get at something the eating disorder could not take away from you.
Movement: One of the greatest tragedies of an eating disorder is the way that is tries to twist a person’s sense of physical movement. The eating disorder makes one’s body just a vessel for burning calories, and it discredits forms of physical movement that aren’t geared towards that exclusive pursuit. Invite some creative movement back into your life. Whether it is dance, yoga, other somatic approaches, or just going for a walk to enjoy the world around you, moving your body without the intention of manipulating what it looks like is great refreshment for the soul.
There are so many ways to nourish the soul, it would be impossible to name them all. The good news is that pretty much anything that you find enjoyable and goes beyond just the physical or material world is a form of soul food. Also, there are many opportunities in life to take something from the material realm and give it spiritual significance. For example, spending time with your family doesn’t need to be superficial. Pushing to have a meaningful conversation or doing something meaningful together takes it into the spiritual realm. The eating disorder may manifest itself in a physical form, but over time it begins to creep into a person’s spirit, and so engaging in activities with the specific intention of nourishing the soul is a fantastic way to counteract the eating disorder.
Written by Matt Keck, MFT. – Matt is the co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Cielo House Comprehensive Eating Disorder Treatment Centers.