Why Eating Disorder Recovery Does Not End with Treatment

Contributor: Staff at Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center

Seeking professional care for an eating disorder is a crucial first step toward achieving a healthier version of yourself. But, recovery from an eating disorder often does not end with treatment. To reduce your risk for relapse as you transition back to your daily life, it can be highly beneficial to develop a network of aftercare support to ensure that you have the resources you need to experience continued success.

Life After Eating Disorder Treatment

When you seek treatment for an eating disorder, you will likely experience a lot of structure, whether through programming, meal planning, or support from staff, family, and peers. With all these tools and support available, it can be much easier to stay on track with your recovery goals when you are in the healing environment of an eating disorder treatment facility.

But once you leave the structured atmosphere of treatment, the transition back to daily life can be challenging. Your schedule may be less predictable, making it more difficult to plan your meals. You will also likely be around more people — whether at work, at school, or in your community — who don’t have experience with or understand what it’s like to be in recovery from an eating disorder.

Life outside of the eating disorder treatment environment can be rife with potential relapse triggers, and it can seem awfully overwhelming when you first transition back to your daily life. But relapse is not inevitable. By planning for your aftercare, you can create a toolkit of aftercare support resources to help you navigate life after treatment.

The Importance of Aftercare Support

Before you transition out of an eating disorder treatment program, your care team will develop an aftercare plan that they will personalize to your specific challenges and recovery goals. This plan will include recommendations for step-down care, such as an intensive outpatient program or a referral to a local therapist in your area, along with other resources you can use to continue your progress. These resources might include:

  • A referral to a dietitian
  • Local eating disorder support groups
  • Alumni support groups
  • Recovery-focused friends and family members

Even though you might feel like you’re in an excellent place in your recovery, following this aftercare plan is essential to maintaining that success well into the future. The next level of care you transition to will help you strengthen the behavior changes you made and the tools you developed while in residential treatment for an eating disorder. And you can continue your progress in any areas you and your care team might have felt needed further exploration.

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The days, months, and even years after treatment for an eating disorder can trigger the compulsion to engage in disordered eating behaviors. You may experience a highly stressful event in your life, be suddenly unable to exercise because of an illness or injury, or start spending more time around an exceptionally thin person. Whatever the trigger, having an aftercare plan in place can better prepare you to manage those urges and maintain your recovery.

Healing from an eating disorder is a journey that often requires many steps along the way. Aftercare is simply a part of the trip that helps you ensure that the train stays on the tracks.


About Our Sponsor:

Timberline Knolls bannerTimberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center, which is located in suburban Chicago, Illinois, provides comprehensive, personalized services in a supportive, gender-specific environment for adolescent girls and adult women who have developed eating disorders, substance use disorders, and certain co-occurring mental health concerns, including depressive disorders. Treatment options at Timberline Knolls include residential care and partial hospitalization. Additional features include specialized faith-based services, family support, and a robust alumnae program.


The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Reviewed & Approved on March 11, 2020, by Jacquelyn Ekern MS, LPC
Published March 11, 2020, on EatingDisorderHope.com

About Baxter Ekern

Baxter is the Vice President of Ekern Enterprises, Inc. He is responsible for the operations of Eating Disorder Hope and ensuring that the website is functioning smoothly.