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8 Ways to Heal the Spirit at an Eating Disorder Treatment Center

There is more than one kind of treatment available at an eating disorder treatment center. Some are more clinical or medical than others, and others are more focused on the emotional aspects. It is important to remember tending to the spirit at eating disorder facilities is just as important as tending to the body. Many individuals going into inpatient or outpatient eating disorder treatment aren’t fully aware of the importance of going beyond the physical, but spiritual recovery is one of the most important things anyone in recovery can do.

Comprehensive healing is a mind and body issue – it’s not just one or the other. People can repair the damage to their bodies caused by eating disorders, but they also need to repair their mind and soul. By tending to the soul along with the body, it is possible for eating disorder facilities to provide a two-pronged approach, so clients can become fully recovered, with the tools to apply to life following their time at an eating disorder treatment center. In this way, clients can empower themselves to get the most out of a fully recovered lifestyle, free of the despair the eating disorder can bring. Here are eight ways to heal the spirit during eating disorder treatment.

1. Take a Moment to Appreciate the Small Joys

At both inpatient and outpatient eating disorder treatment centers, one of the main areas of focus is developing a positive mindset. In no way are the seriousness of eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa (which can be life-threatening) ignored or discounted. Clients working toward recovery need to be honest and open about the struggle of the eating disorder, but they also need to be aware that there is still joy to be had. Many eating disorders cause individuals to focus on flawed, negative perceptions of themselves, to the point of obsession. If they don’t take the time to appreciate the small things, it can be hard to maintain a positive outlook on life and on eating disorder recovery.

Body, mind, and spirit are all parts of one whole. The spirit is just as important than anything going on with the body. Keeping a positive outlook and staying in touch with spirituality is shown time and time again to assist physical healing at modern eating disorder treatment centers. While the process can take time, it is extremely rewarding and one of the best ways to get on a path of health and wellness that is so vitally important to leading a recovered life.

2. Find Yourself in the Natural World

An individual suffering from anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder or other eating disorders may consider eating disorder treatment facilities to be akin to psychiatric hospitals, but this is not always the case. A home-like setting with the opportunities for time spent outdoors can be found at certain treatment centers.

Being in the natural world can be a great healer, and one of the best ways to tend to the soul and become their healthiest self. As eating disorder treatment techniques move beyond medication and psychiatric therapy, forward thinking centers such as Monte Nido stress the importance of experiential therapy. Nature walks and excursions rank among the most useful and popular among our clients. They promote mindfulness and a connection with the wider world.

3. Pick a Hobby and Stick to It

For many people who come to eating disorder treatment centers, finding a hobby that supports and nurtures their soul can be very important. It doesn’t matter what type of hobby that is, as long as it is not harmful and doesn’t perpetuate disordered behaviors. If those criteria are met and don’t lead them back to the kind of compulsive actions from their eating disorders, then they can be constructive and helpful. Some people enjoy hobbies they can do alone at home and others like to do something active with other people. What’s important is identifying a healthy, captivating activity that brings you joy.

For tending to the soul, hobbies that also nourish the body can be good choices. Whether they involve physical activity, such as walking or swimming, or are less active such as chess or journaling, these hobbies should be supported as part of a comprehensive treatment program.

4. It’s Not Selfish to Practice Self-Care

Society sometimes teaches individuals caring for themselves is selfish, but it is actually the opposite. Taught as part of most eating disorder recovery programs, self-care is widely considered to be central to tending the spirit. A full recovery from any eating disorder is possible, but people can get caught up in treatment methodologies, sometimes forgetting to take a moment now and then and consider what is truly best for their recovery. That could mean cutting out toxic people, moving to a new location, changing jobs, or nearly anything else that can help people be more aware of their life and the things in it that are important and valuable to them.

Most modern residential and outpatient eating disorder treatment facilities advocate for self-care as a part of their programs, and patients have to realize self-care is not at all selfish. It is a necessary part of life, and even for those who have responsibilities to care for others, self-care remains hugely important. People who practice good self-care nourish their bodies and their souls, and by doing that they are better able to meet the demands of life.

5. Don’t Be Ashamed to Reach Out for Love and Support

Without an outside support network, full recovery is entirely possible – but is significantly easier when you have people who will provide love and support during treatment and recovery. Before entering an eating disorder treatment center, one of the things staff will want to know is what support each client has at their disposal.

Even for those who have outside friends and family to talk to, reaching out can be difficult. Eating disorders often carry feelings of guilt and shame, and some clients may feel embarrassed about entering an eating disorder treatment center. That is why a loving and accepting circle of friends and family can make all the difference. This “cheerleading” can help people embrace their recovered life and move toward a place of peace and joy.

6. Write Your Feelings Down – Journal or Blog for Yourself

Part of eating disorder counseling is often writing down the feelings and thoughts you have about life, the treatment process and the eating disorder itself. Tracking how those feelings change as you progress along the journey toward recovery may provide insight into your progress. As more positive mindsets take precedence over disordered behavior, the more journaling can help reinforce a positive attitude. This may help people in eating disorder recovery centers look back on how far they’ve come, and also set goals for the future. Whether you use a paper journal, write on an online blog, or discuss and address feelings and thoughts some other way, writing it down can help.

Please note that blogging online at first may not be wise. The feelings and thoughts most people have about their eating disorders are intensely personal, but there are big benefits to openly discussing them over time. The important thing is to write them down somewhere. When thoughts and feelings are pushed down and shoved away, they aren’t dealt with properly. That can mean they haven’t really been addressed and are prone to resurfacing, but journaling or blogging can help get those feelings and thoughts out into the open where they can be seen and dealt with.

7. Look Toward the Future

When struggling with an eating disorder, it can be hard to see any brightness or hope for the future. Some people may be depressed, or they may be stuck in a negative thinking loop that says getting better is not an option for them. But with the help of eating disorder treatment facilities which promote mindfulness, many people are able to heal their bodies and their souls at the same time. This shows them how they can look toward the future and focus on things that make them happy and fulfilled. Showing people they can be fully recovered can add to the joy of future exploration.

Tending to the soul is as equally essential as tending to the body, but many people entering treatment have trouble realizing that early on in their journey. As they look more toward the future and begin the process of becoming fully recovered, they begin to feel more secure about working on their soul along with their physical health. Although showing them how to look toward the future positively can take work and guidance, people who focus on seeing the value in the future are better able to get more from their treatment experience.

8. Consider New Ways to Look at the World

Having the right mindset is an important component of work in treatment. When it comes to finding the right way to look at the world, there are a lot of different options. An eating disorder recovery center can help with developing and supporting focus, dreams and goals. By addressing the issue in the best way possible, anyone who needs eating disorder treatment can focus on a better mindset and new and interesting ways to see the world. The world provides a lot of unique experiences, and when there are options to consider and ideas to explore, the world can seem like a more interesting and enjoyable place, as opposed to scary and unknown.

Looking for new ways to examine the world is among the very best choices anyone can make when they are looking toward a fully recovered life. Eating disorder treatment options that allow for open-mindedness and exploration of the future can help people tend to their soul and get more out of their life. It is one of the best ways to heal both mind and body for long-term success.


Melissa Orshan Spann, PhD, LMHC, RTY 200, is Chief Clinical Officer at Monte Nido, overseeing the clinical operations and programming for over 50 programs across the U.S. Dr. Spann is a Certified Eating Disorder Specialist and clinical supervisor as well as an accomplished presenter and passionate clinician who has spent her career working in the eating disorder field in higher levels of care. She is a member of the Academy for Eating Disorders and the International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals where she serves on the national certification committee, supervision faculty, and is on the board of her local chapter. She received her doctoral degree from Drexel University, master’s degree from the University of Miami, and bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida.