National Eating Disorders Association

10 Simple Ways to Practice Self-Love

Self-love is liberating, but it takes dedication and effort to get to that place. For those recovering from an eating disorder, taking time for self-care is an especially important part of recovery. That’s why we asked three NEDA bloggers for their best tips on how to start your journey to self-love.  

1. Pay attention to how you’re feeling. Paying attention to how you are feeling and what you need is important. Do you need to be with your friends? Alone? Do you need to watch an episode of your favorite comfort show? Do you need tea? A bath? A hug? Stay curious and open to how you’re feeling throughout the day and respect what you need moment to moment. -Alison Znamierowski

2. Act on your needs. “Self-love flourishes when you turn away from something satisfying yet destructive,” says Deborah Khoshaba, Psy.D., a clinical psychologist in Irvine, California, “and focus instead on what you truly need.” The pull of your eating disorder to partake in harmful behaviors may seem appealing, but avoiding them is essential for wellness. Trade your “diet meals” for nourishing fare, or partake in moderate exercise you enjoy rather than pushing yourself excessively at the gym. Choosing even one health-promoting way to fulfill your physical and emotional needs could be enough to set self-nurturing and healing in motion. Once you’ve done so, observe and celebrate the benefits. -August McLaughlin

3. Cut yourself some slack. We would never criticize our friend if he or she made a little mistake like spilling a glass of water on the table, but we beat ourselves up over the smallest things. If you make a simple mistake, laugh it off and chalk it up to a moment of comic relief. -Hilary Smith

4. Volunteer. The notion that tending to our own needs first and foremost holds merit, but assisting others can help get us there. Volunteer work can serve as a healthy distraction from negative self-talk and behaviors, provide intense emotional gratification and has been shown to help minimize stress and depression. If you love animals, for example, volunteer at shelter, or share artistic gifts by donating artwork or playing a musical instrument at an assisted living center. -August McLaughlin

5. Spend time with people who lift you higher. Being selective about who you spend time with is another crucial element of self-care, according to Khoshaba. Avoid people who place undue value on aesthetics or make you feel anything less than embraceable. Delight in the company of friends who embrace you for who you are. -August McLaughlin

6. Detach from social media. Whether it is for an hour or for a day, removing ourselves from the online world allows us to stop comparing ourselves to other people and what they are doing in their lives. Remember, social media allows a person to post what they want the world to see, which usually just includes the good, not the bad or the ugly. Giving ourselves a moment to separate from the virtual world reminds us of what we love about our lives. -Hilary Smith

7. Write a love letter to yourself. People with eating disorders are notoriously hard on themselves, and negative self-talk tends to run rampant. Invest similar amounts of energy into articulating the wonder of you instead. If you find that challenging, make a list of your life’s blessings. Studies conducted at Carnegie-Mellon University showed that contemplating something personally meaningful before engaging in stressful activities reduced people’s stress and improved their performance by 50 percent. In other words, positivity and gratitude reduce stress, making thriving easier. -August McLaughlin

8. Take yourself on a date. One of the more powerful steps I took during my own recovery involved a sumptuous, candlelit dinner I prepared and ate alone. I took my time, savoring the sights, appearances and aromas of the meal, treating myself the way I would treat someone I deeply cared for. I shed a few tears as I ate, not out of sadness but because I realized how it felt to embrace self-love. Whether your solo date involves food or not, nurture yourself as you would a cherished friend. Paired with other treatment measures, it just may help you become your own best friend. -August McLaughlin

9. Reach out. If you are struggling and need support, please reach out to someone. Society encourages us to only show ourselves to others when we are feeling good, and to hide in the shadows when we are feeling bad—try to fight that pressure. If you are not feeling well, and need the love and care of others, reach out to someone (or multiple people) in a way that feels good for you (texting, calling, FaceTiming, meeting in person). Also keep in mind that if they cannot support you in that moment, it does not reflect on your lovability or value. -Alison Znamierowski

10. Step outside and simply breathe. Often, we take for granted that we have the capacity to rejuvenate our minds and bodies by doing an act as routine as breathing. By filling our lungs with air, we remind ourselves that we are worthy, and that is one of the kindest things we can do for ourselves. -Hilary Smith

For more tips, check out:

The Self-Care Master Post: Ideas, Inspiration & More!

Lessons in Self-Care: 5 Ways to Survive and Thrive Through the Holidays When You Have an Eating Disorder

5 Easy Ways to Be Kinder to Yourself

Become Your Own St. Valentine: 5 Ways to Love Your SELF

5 Ways to Make Valentine’s Day Great