How a Gratitude Practice Weakens an Eating Disorder

January 24, 2018 Mary-Elizabeth Schurrer

A gratitude practice helps you heal from eating disorders. Eating disorders make it hard to find the positives in life, but gratitude shifts your perspective.

Creating a gratitude practice to enhance eating disorder recovery is important because an eating disorder cheapens your mindset on life and convinces you that suffering is permanent. But learning to practice gratitude can weaken the eating disorder's influence. Gratitude can cut through all that negativity and redirect your focus onto glimmers of hope, beauty, purpose and love. These feelings are often subdued beneath layers of torment and abuse from the eating disorder critic, but finding reasons to appreciate yourself, the people around you and the experiences you're given will cause that voice to fade—then, ultimately, disappear.

Why Does a Gratitude Practice Enhance Eating Disorder Recovery?

Most of the time, eating disorder symptoms will originate from an impulse to numb the effects of anxiety, regret, tension, loneliness or distress. These emotions can be agonizing, so that tendency to repress and escape seems like a safer choice. But the more desensitized you become, the less attuned you are to emotions in general—even the positive ones. An eating disorder consumes the mind with fears of weight, calories, sizes and body image to deflect your attention from the "nuisance" of having to feel. This defense mechanism offers short-term relief, but as your dependence on the eating disorder intensifies, the more unthinkable it might seem that life can hold wonder, enjoyment and meaning.

That is where a gratitude practice comes into the eating disorder recovery equation. While an eating disorder coerces you to isolate and disengage, a gratitude practice motivates you to look for traces of inspiration and encouragement. It arouses curiosity, boldness and surprise. It reminds you there's incentive to be thankful—no matter the circumstance. It readjusts your outlook from surviving to living.

Creating the space for gratitude means being intentional about which thoughts are allowed to take root in your head. So ask the question, "Am I brooding, worrying or complaining instead of savoring this moment and appreciating that I'm still here?"

If you make a conscious effort to be grateful, it becomes like instinct over time at which point, those delusions and scare tactics the eating disorder once used to keep you numb don't seem as enticing anymore.

What I've Learned About Gratitude in Recovery

In my own healing from anorexia, I have found the practice of gratitude both freeing and empowering. Among the beautiful support network of friends and family surrounding me, I am fortunate enough to have a mentor whose story is proof that even in situations which feel insurmountable, there is a bright side, a reason to give thanks. Watching her model this heart of gratitude has taught me to refocus my own life around a radical concept—that gratitude does not hinge on smooth circumstances, managed emotions or a so-called "perfect body."

To be grateful is to hope for tomorrow and breathe in today, to laugh and weep often because the human experience requires both, to dance when it's easy and persist when it's tough. To be grateful is just to decide that life is worthwhile. And once this message sinks in, the eating disorder is spineless against it.

APA Reference
Schurrer, M. (2018, January 24). How a Gratitude Practice Weakens an Eating Disorder, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, May 30 from

Author: Mary-Elizabeth Schurrer

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