Setting Reasonable Expectations for Eating Disorder Recovery in 2020

attractive lady overcoming compulsive overeating

Our culture is constantly chasing the concept of instant gratification. In fact, this is one of the factors that make an individual vulnerable to developing disordered eating patterns as a “quick fix” to achieve a certain appearance or resolve personal or mental health challenges. But, eating disorder recovery is not a “quick fix”.

It is this same desire for instant gratification that can lead to disappointment in recovery. Once the brave decision to recover is made, we want it just to happen. The sad truth is that deciding to recover is only the first step of many.

Be Honest About Where You Are in Eating Disorder Recovery

The first step to setting any realistic goal is first to establish the truth about where you are at this very moment. If we aren’t being transparent about our current disordered thoughts and behaviors, we can’t even begin to consider what a realistic expectation is.

Precisely where you are in recovery is where you need to be to begin the process of moving forward.

Narrow Your Focus

The clear goal of eating disorder treatment and recovery is to become recovered. Before you click the “back” button because I just stated something incredibly obvious, consider that goal.

Man considering eating disorder recoveryDoesn’t it bring about more questions than guidance and answers? What does eating disorder recovery look like? What does it look like for me? Who decides? Do I have to be recovered mind, body, and soul to achieve it?

When we set our sights on the umbrella goal of “being recovered,” it’s hard to know what that looks like. This not only makes it confusing on where to begin but can be disconcerting when we don’t allow ourselves to feel successful until we’ve risen to this giant and overwhelming challenge.

Narrow your focus to more attainable, smaller goals that lead up to ultimate eating disorder recovery.

Are you beginning with weight restoration, finding a treatment facility, engaging in therapy, looking for a dietitian, communicating with your loved ones, processing past trauma, changing your self-talk?

All of these may be necessary at some point in your journey, but based on where you are right now (see above), what needs to come first? Once you’ve determined that, break it down even smaller.

If you decided your goal is to recover from an eating disorder and get into eating disorder treatment in 2020, you will first need to find a treatment center and consult with your doctor. You should also ask your insurance company what will be covered, work through how you will get there, and consider how to arrange your job or school while you are in treatment.

All of this sounds incredibly overwhelming, and often, we set a goal, consider the steps it will take to achieve, feel overwhelmed, and throw in the towel. Instead, write out each step and place them in the order they need to be accomplished.

Start with the first one. That is your goal.

Give Yourself a Deadline

Alright, we have a smaller goal. Now, we need to consider a realistic timeline for achieving it.

Girl in a SororityUsing the example above, your first goal might be to consult with your doctor. What is a reasonable time in which you can schedule and attend an appointment with your doctor?

This turns your goal into something less intangible and overwhelming and makes it manageable based on your capabilities. “I will schedule and attend an appointment with my doctor within the next month to ask about eating disorder recovery and referrals.”

In this way, you exactly know what your goal is, what it will look like once it is achieved, and exactly how much time you believe is reasonable to have completed it.

Going “small” in this way not only helps you to feel in control over your recovery process but gives you more opportunities to feel successful and pat yourself on the back.

If we only say “I will be recovered,” we don’t know what that looks like and won’t give ourselves credit for progress until we are fully and completely recovered, which takes time. This can break-down our momentum and feelings of self-worth in the meantime.

Making your goals specific, attainable, and timely helps you to make them more realistic, thus leading to eating disorder recovery!


About the Author:

Image of Margot Rittenhouse.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 on 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 January 8, 2020, on EatingDisorderHope.com
Reviewed & Approved on January 8, 2020, by Jacquelyn Ekern MS, LPC

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.