National Eating Disorders Association

How to find your way back to your body

Anne-Sophie Reinhardt

When you’re struggling with an eating disorder and body dysmorphia, you and your body literally live on two different planets, you’re so far apart, so disconnected, so estranged.

You probably believe your body is ugly, repulsive, basically just a thing that’s connected to your head. A thing you don’t like or want and would give away in a heartbeat.

I’ve been there. I know exactly how it feels.

During my time with anorexia, I spent an uncountable amount of hours staring at myself in the mirror, looking for perceived imperfections or checking if one could see any changes from one day to another. I stepped on the scale so often that I will never have the urge to repeat this task again (and years into being recovered, I still haven’t weighed myself).

However, despite focusing so much energy and time on these things, I never paid much attention to my body itself. That might sound contradictory, but it is true. When I looked in the mirror, I didn’t see my body for what it was, all I saw was whether I had controlled myself enough or whether I had failed. It wasn’t about my body, it was all about my mind.  So, in order to please my mind, I abused my body in ways that are beyond comprehension.

Yet, as I started to heal my mind, I started to heal my body as well. And today I can look in the mirror, appreciate what I see and even feel love for the body that is uniquely mine.  I now understand that my body is a part of me. It is my temple. No other person in this world has my exact shape. It was, is and will forever be only mine. I am unique and I am built exactly the way that I am supposed to be.

I have truly found my way back to my body and myself and these are some of the tools I used in order to heal and feel complete again.

  1. Realize your body is on your side 
    The first step towards reconnecting with your body is to understand that your body is your friend, your ally, your partner in life. You might snort at this thought, but it is true. Your body is working overtime every day for you. It’s doing its best to keep you healthy, happy and alive. Your body doesn’t want to hurt you, even if it feels like it. Your body, truly, is on your side.
  2. Practice loving-kindness 
    One of my favorite ways to connect with my body is to practice loving-kindness. Loving-kindness meditation refers to sitting down on your mediation cushion (or a chair or whatever feels comfortable to you) and repeating phrases like “May my body be healthy”, “May we be friends”, “May we be a great team”, etc. By saying these loving words over and over again, you’re paving the road for a better relationship and a deeper connection with your body. 
  3. Become aware of your body 
    What’s your first thought when you get up in the morning? Is it something hateful about your body or yourself? How about you change that and make it a habit to become aware of your body every morning before you swing out of bed?   Tomorrow morning after you’ve opened your eyes, take a few moments to breathe, to feel the body connect with the surface that you’re lying on, to feel the temperature, the softness and anything else you notice. Try to refrain from judging your body and simply allow yourself to feel it, nourish it, be with it for a few moments. 
  4. Count your blessings 
    Research shows that the more you practice gratitude the more you’ll feel loved and see the positivity in your life. So, what do you like about your body?   Come on, I know there’s a few things you adore. Is it your eyes, your smile, your belly button, your neck or your big toe?   Focus on those things and repeat how much you love them over and over again - even when you feel silly doing it. Over time, you’ll notice other things about your body that you are suddenly crazy about and your critical look in the mirror won’t be as painful as it might be right now. 
  5. Sense it 
    Using your senses when you do positive body activities helps you to keep your body in positive terms.   So, spoil yourself with some vanilla scented lotion, a hot bath or essential oils. Make these self-care activities a non-negotiable part of your day. It’ll not only lift your mood but help you to feel more at home in your body again.

Give these suggestions a chance and see for yourself how you’ll slowly find your way back to your beautiful body.