Meditation is one of the most ancient and powerful skills you can develop on your path to eating disorder recovery. Mindfulness meditation is a specific form of meditation that can help you tolerate behavior or food cravings, separate yourself from your inner critic, and change your relationship with food. Plus, mindfulness meditation has survived the test of time.

The earliest recorded forms of mindfulness meditation began with Buddhism, Yoga and other eastern philosophies 2,500 years ago in India. Thousands of years later, mindfulness meditation has been adopted by nearly every culture and nation. For example, even the United States military is beginning to teach their soldiers mindfulness meditation to help combat the effects of stress.

Why has mindfulness meditation survived the test of time and become so popular? While there are many reasons for meditation’s popularity, one of the most important reasons is that mindfulness meditation gives specific mindsets and practices to manage urges and cravings.  

Urges and cravings are some of the most stressful challenges humans throughout history have encountered. We all have had strong desires, and learning how to wisely act upon our desires was a challenge our ancestors also had to deal with. For example, alcohol addiction has been documented historically going back into the medieval days. Fortunately, we now have access to mindfulness meditation teachings which have been developed and refined for thousands of years.

Mindfulness Meditation For Intense Physical Urges

A physical craving for a food can seem so intense and overpowering. You might believe that you have to give into your urge because it feels so urgent. One of the first teachings of mindfulness is meditation is calming yourself down using breathing techniques, body scanning and relaxation. By taking deep breaths and scanning your body, you can learn to soothe yourself. With enough practice, you can learn to greatly reduce your panic around food with these techniques.

For example, in 1970 Jon Kabat Zinn began scientifically studying mindfulness at the University Of Massachusetts. To show how mindfulness could reduce pain, Jon taught mindfulness to patients with chronic pain who weren’t benefitting from medication. These people suffered from chronic conditions like fibromyalgia and literally lived in acute pain. By learning mindfulness, the inflammation in their joints measurably decreased and people reported much less pain. This was one of the first instances where the benefits of mindfulness were scientifically proven in a measurable way.

The best part was that mindfulness was free and powerful. This demonstrable finding sparked off a wave of scientific research, and now 50 years later mindfulness appears in nearly every facet of American society from schools to our military.

Mindfulness Meditation For Dealing With Thoughts

Food can also set off a train of negative thoughts. These thoughts can cause you to ruminate for hours and cause you to get trapped in a really negative headspace. Yet with mindfulness meditation, you can learn to detach yourself from these thoughts.

For example, before learning mindfulness, Jon’s chronic pain would feel something painful and then think that life was hopeless. Before mindfulness, both the pain and the hopeless thought were enmeshed. He couldn’t understand that his thoughts were actually different from his physical experience.

After mindfulness, he could see his experience of pain was different than his thoughts. He could see that even though he was in pain, life was not hopeless.

The same principle holds true with cravings and urges because of the intense feelings that cravings can produce. When you practice calming and soothing mindfulness techniques, you can start to see your thoughts arising in tandem with a craving. For example, you might have a thought that you are lazy and fat. With mindfulness, you can see this thought come up and then go away – just like a passing cloud. While you still may have negative thoughts, you start to realize that you don’t have to believe these thoughts.

Finally, mindfulness meditation can seep into your life and help change your eating habits. For example, you can practice mindful eating. Mindful eating means that you slow down and notice how foods taste and impact your body. Instead of binge eating very rapidly, or restrictively eating without appreciation of taste, mindfulness can help you to pause beforehand and make intuitive food choices. You can also learn to appreciate and enjoy food more with this mindfulness meditation practice!

In conclusion, mindfulness meditation is one of the best things to learn to handle cravings. Guided mindfulness meditations can be easily found online, and utilizing a video or audio guide to get started is a great way to ease into the practice of Mindfulness Meditation.  It’s also a great life skill that has been used for thousands of years. We at Cielo House utilize mindfulness meditation with our clients and hope this article has inspired you to give this ancient practice a try!

Jared Levenson, M.A. is a Recovery Counselor at Cielo House. He supports mindfulness in all forms from yoga to mindful eating in order to help people recover and live their best lives.