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August 6, 2017

Embarking on Mission Trips as an Eating Disorder Survivor

Woman considering eating disorder recovery

Whether through a church, non-profit organization, college or for humanitarian purposes, mission trips can be a powerful way to give back to a community through volunteering time and effort.

Helping others who may be less fortunate through tangible and practical ways creates a positive impact for all involved.

Past mission trips supported by United States churches and organizations have involved almost 2.5 million participants, including youth groups and those serving in the United States [1].

Mission trips can vary depending on the purpose of the organization and goals of the work itself.

This can include length of the trip (short-term versus long-term), location (national versus international), cost, and trip type.  If you are in recovery from an eating disorder, there are several factors to consider before embarking on your first mission trip.

Relapse Prevention Planning for Mission Trips in Recovery

Eating disorder recovery is an ongoing process that requires diligence, planning and preparation. Having general awareness about situations that can be potentially triggering may be helpful in supporting eating disorder recovery efforts.

When it comes to traveling, this is something that should be carefully considered with your treatment team ahead of time to determine whether you are in an appropriate place in your own recovery. Traveling for a mission trip may involve conditions that can be challenging while in eating disorder recovery, such as having limited access to food, lack of support, and difficult physical conditions that can create obstacles for self-care.

Woman standing in field on a mission trip

Being exposed to certain conditions involving potential trauma to other human beings may also be triggering for a person in eating disorder recovery, especially if trauma, abuse, or neglect played a role in the development of the disease. These are important factors to consider before considering travel and work in a certain region or part of the world.

If you are hoping to become involved in a mission trip, consider starting out slowly by becoming involved in a local ministry or participating in short-term work with gradual exposure. Be sure you are in a solid place in your own recovery before committing to a long-term trip or traveling internationally. Even then, it is crucial to stay connected to a support system that can keep you accountable during this season of your life.

Keeping Recovery a Priority as an Eating Disorder Survivor

As an eating disorder survivor, it is important to take steps that will support your recovery for the long-term.

A mission trip can be a wonderful way to give back to others while opening your heart and life to other communities and ways of living. Just be sure to lean on the support of your professional treatment team to determine if this is the right time for you to embark on your mission trip as you work to maintain your eating disorder recovery.

Crystal Headshot 2About the Author: Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC is a Contributing Writer for Eating Disorder Hope.

Crystal is a Masters-level Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) with a specialty focus in eating disorders, maternal/child health and wellness, and intuitive eating. Combining clinical experience with a love of social media and writing,

As a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, Crystal has dedicated her career to helping others establish a healthy relationship with food and body through her work with EDH and nutrition private practice.


[1]: Short Term Missions, “Research and Statistics”, http://www.shorttermmissions.com/articles/research Accessed 19 June 2017

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 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 August 6, 2017.
Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on August 6, 2017.
Published on EatingDisorderHope.com

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