How an Attitude of Gratitude Can Help With an Eating Disorder

Updated: Oct 9, 2020

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Have you ever heard the phrase: What if you only had tomorrow what you thanked God for today? Regardless of your religion or stance on faith, the statement is pretty powerful. Be thankful for what you have today because you might not have it tomorrow.

That statement describes an attitude of gratitude. An attitude of gratitude is defined as a mental position, feeling, or emotion of thankfulness or appreciation for any benefits received. That mindset facilitates contentment, promotes physical health, enhances sleep, strengthens relationships, and encourages kindness.

What does that have to do with your eating disorder? Research shows that this mindset aids in addiction recovery. Though exact methods (how much gratitude, what to be thankful for, etc.) and healing (amount of improvement or growth) is unknown, addicts will recover if they employ an attitude of gratitude.

Often, an attitude of gratitude is the exact opposite of the thought processes surrounding your eating disorder. While your eating disorder thoughts are mostly negative, an attitude of gratitude is widely positive. It’s a great principle to adopt if you want to recover.

Eating disorders are unique to the individual, but one common occurrence is when your disordered eating tells you lies. If we think of an eating disorder as a little devil on your shoulder, it whispers in your ear to keep you trapped in your disease.

With an attitude of gratitude, it can be a little angel on your other shoulder. It will tell you to appreciate the resources available to you and your ability to complete tasks. This angel will encourage you to be thankful that you have food to eat, that your body can work out, and that you have the resources to be healthy.

For example, your eating disorder will tell you that you have to look like a marathon runner for you to be considered valuable. But an attitude of gratitude is different. It will ask you to be thankful for the treadmill, the gym, and the ability to run. While your eating disorder is comparing yourself to others, an attitude of gratitude is putting your life in perspective.

How can an attitude of gratitude aid in your recovery?

  • Puts life in perspective. Instead of focusing on what you don’t have, focus on what you do have. You will find that you have a lot more than you thought you did when you do this. It makes your problems seem smaller because your life is so much more than your eating disorder. If the problem isn’t huge, it feels tackle able. Whether you eat the donut or not, doesn’t seem to matter as much as your grandma’s cancer treatment.

  • Shifts your priorities. If you know what is essential, you will stop focusing on everything else. If getting a project finished at work is more important, it won’t matter as much if the office party has a chocolate cake or not. If hanging out with your family is more pressing, you won’t obsess over how many calories are in the pizza they ordered without you. Day to day decisions shouldn’t affect significant events in our life.

  • Creates progress, not perfection. Being thankful for your situation doesn’t mean it can’t improve. Appreciate what you can do and how far you have come. An attitude of gratitude isn’t restricted to the past or present; it applies to the future as well. Even if you have a setback, you can be grateful for how far you got and recognize you can get there again.

  • Help you stop comparing yourself to others. If you focus on yourself and what you do have, you won’t focus on others and what you don’t have. Comparison is all about things you can’t control, so focus on what you can control. That awareness will help you see the problems in your own life.

  • Debunk lies of your eating disorder. One major lie that I told myself was that if I slimmed down, I would have more friends. I didn’t realize that I already had awesome friends. I didn’t need to seek out more; I needed to appreciate the relationships that I did have. If I had an attitude of gratitude, I would see the friends right in front of my face, and I would have been able to recover from my eating disorder faster.

How to be thankful…

At the gym. Focus on what you can do. Can you run a mile? Two miles? Can you kickbox or dance? Not everyone has that ability, so be thankful that you can!

At a party. Focus on the relationship, not the food or figures. You went to a party to interact with other humans, not stuff your face. Be thankful for the people at the gathering!

At the dinner table. Focus on how the food is going to fuel your body. Food is fantastic - it can give you energy and focus to do what you need to do.

At work. Focus on your job. Nothing else at work matters besides doing what you are paid to do. Don’t worry about the super-fit coworker or obese boss. Don’t worry about the manager who thinks being a good manager entails bringing donuts every Friday. That’s not why you go to work.

At a restaurant. Focus on the fact that you didn’t have to cook or clean. Be thankful for the chefs, waitresses, and busboys. Be grateful that you have the extra money to go out to eat.

How is it different from a positive attitude?

Further reading:

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