Coping Skills for Refeeding During Anorexia Treatment

Doctor starting Refeeding during anorexia treatment

Contributed by Canopy Cove

When an individual engages in the restrictive behaviors of Anorexia Nervosa, they are not only starving their bodies but their minds. The results are often physical damage to the body as well as cognitive deficits that can impact an individual’s ability to focus, speak, engage in higher-order thinking, thus leading to refeeding during anorexia treatment.

As such, the goal of refeeding in treatment is to reverse the negative impact of anorexia by reintroducing food into a starved individual’s diet with the goal of “restoring physiological stability through weight gain and growth rate recovery…by correcting the biological and psychological disorders due to undernutrition [1].

This process, while necessary, can be emotionally taxing on an individual with a complicated relationship to food and weight gain.

It is possible to overcome this challenging aspect of anorexia treatment and, in doing so, take a valuable and crucial step closer to recovery.

Trust Your Treatment Team with Refeeding During Anorexia Treatment

This is crucial. Refeeding is a delicate process that must be done carefully and precisely in order to avoid what is known as “Refeeding Syndrome.”

This syndrome can occur with significantly malnourished patients and describes a metabolic condition that can result in heart failure, arrhythmias, respiratory failure, muscle breakdown, and, in severe cases, death [1].

For this reason, it is essential to trust your treatment team as they assist and support you in engaging in the refeeding process.

Ask Questions

Remember that trust does not need to be blind. Arming ourselves with information is one of the best ways to cope, as it helps us to feel control over what can be a scary experience.

So, if you have any questions regarding anorexia recovery, refeeding, and treatment, know that you have every right to ask these questions and learn more about what you are going through.

Practice Affirmations in Refeeding During Anorexia Treatment

Many struggle with fear and discomfort over their weight gain during refeeding. The voice of your eating disorder will want to overwhelm you with all of the fears that led you to it in the first place.

You must work hard to drown out that voice and rewrite the narrative in your head.

Your affirmation could be a reminder of your “why:” “I will have babies one day,” “so that I can earn a degree,” “to spend next Christmas with my family.”

It may also be a reminder of your worth such as, “I deserve a better life,” “my weight does not define me,” or “I have a beautiful future.”

Woman sitting with her dogOr, it could be all of those things, drawn, written, or cut out and made into a collage.

Overcome the fears that refeeding may bring by changing how you view your worth, your life, and your future.

Be Forgiving

Finally, do not be cruel to yourself, or others, during the refeeding process.

There will be moments where you feel that your body, your mind, and those around you are against you.

Remember that everyone is there working toward your best interest, including you.

You will have bad days, but, they will not all be bad days.


[1] Bargiacchi, A. et al. (2018). Refeeding in Anorexia. European Journal of Pediatrics.

About Our Sponsor:

Canopy Cove Eating Disorder Treatment Center is a leading residential Eating Disorder Treatment Center with 25 years’ experience treating adults and teens who are seeking lasting recovery from Anorexia, Bulimia, Binge Eating Disorder and other related eating disorders.

We are a licensed rehabilitative provider accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities. Trusted and recommended by doctors and therapists throughout the country, our program provides clients with clinical excellence and compassionate care.

As one of the most experienced Eating Disorder Centers in the nation, we’ve developed a highly effective program that incorporates solid evidence-based therapies that have been shown to increase recovery rates.

  • Each person we treat receives a customized treatment plan tailored to their specific needs.
  • We increase recovery rates by simultaneously treating co-existing conditions such as anxiety, depression. (We also accept clients with an Eating Disorder and co-existing Diabetes).
  • We provide family education and family therapy throughout the recovery process. (Offered by phone for out of town families).
    Our Christian-based eating disorder treatment program warmly accepts all clients from various belief systems.

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Image of Margot Rittenhouse.About the Author: 

Margot Rittenhouse, MS, PLPC, NCC is a therapist who is passionate about providing mental health support to all in need and has worked with clients with substance abuse issues, eating disorders, domestic violence victims, and offenders, and severely mentally ill youth.

As a freelance writer for Eating Disorder Hope and Addiction Hope and a mentor with MentorConnect, Margot is a passionate eating disorder advocate, committed to de-stigmatizing these illnesses while showing support for those struggling through mentoring, writing, and volunteering. Margot has a Master’s of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Johns Hopkins University.

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.

Published on December 20, 2018.
Reviewed & Approved on December 20, 2018, by Jacquelyn Ekern MS, LPC

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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.