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Attunement in Eating Disorder Recovery

Have you ever heard the word “attunement”? I ask because attunement in eating disorder recovery (and recovery from diet culture) is an essential part of healing.

Attunement is also one of my favorite words in the work that I do, and I try my best to have it be one of the guiding principles in my life.

Just the other day, as I was beginning to feel claustrophobic in my house, I strapped by daughter in her stroller, leashed up my dogs, and hit the pavement. I was craving outside. Craving fresh air. Craving nature. Craving open space. I needed to get out of my house, so I did.

This is a simple example of being “attuned.” Being able to listen to the information that your body is sharing with you and then respond to that information in a caring, aligned way (whatever that looks like for you). Whether that’s to cry, move, rest, eat, sleep, draw, doodle, call a friend, write your dietitian, pray, breathe, or go outside. There is no “right” or “wrong” or “good” or “bad.” There is only what is right for you in the moment with where you are, what you know, and what you have.

When I think of attunement, I think of going inwards for answers, instead of outwards.

A wonderful researcher, professor and psychologist, Catherine Cook-Cottone, breaks the practice of attunement down into two categories: Body responsiveness and mindful self-care, which you can see below.

As you can see, the practice of attunement has us looking inside for how we choose to eat, move, live, care for ourselves, and essentially BE in the world and in our bodies. 

The practice of attunement is essentially what intuitive eating is based upon. A process that has you reconnecting with your body and its cues – going inwards, instead of outwards. This is essential in healing from diet culture, disordered eating or an eating disorder because with each of these things, we’ve lost our voice. We’ve been told that we can’t trust our body. That we can’t trust our hunger. That essentially our appetite and needs as a whole human should be ignored.

In reality, those are the very things we need to get back in-touch with. That we need to celebrate.

We need to reconnect with our appetite, our desires, and our needs. We need to trust ourselves. Trust the information that our body is sharing with us. And trust that in the most authentic part of our being, when we begin listening, we know how to best care for ourselves. 

And most importantly, we need to be gentle with ourselves AND others, especially during a time where so many of us are just trying to cope the best we can with what’s going on in the world.

I lovingly invite you to begin going inwards in your day-to-day. To gently begin noticing what’s going on for you – in your internal world – emotionally and physically. And when you’re ready, to begin exploring what feels like a caring response to those cues. Below is a triangle of awareness to help you explore.

Sending strength, love and support,

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Cook-Cottone, C. (2015, June). Incorporating positive body image into the treatment of eating disorders: A model for attunement and mindful self-care. Body Image, 14, 158-167.