How Can I Help Myself Recover From an Eating Disorder

Business Woman Girl on Telephone

Do you think you might have an eating disorder, and are you ready to get help and make a change? If so, you’re in the third stage of eating disorder recovery (called the Preparation Stage), meaning you’ve already made considerable progress on the road to recovery! But even though you’ve made it this far on your journey to recovery, it can be hard to know which steps to take next.

Additionally, preparing to recover from an eating disorder (ED) can be a challenging time full of fears and uncertainty. So if you or a loved one are asking the question, “How can I help myself recover from an eating disorder?” but you’re not sure what comes next, here are five practical things you can do to overcome your obstacles and continue to make progress on the road to recovery.

The Preparation Stage of Eating Disorder Recovery

Eating disorder recovery is often described as a five-stage process. During the first two stages of recovery, you most likely went through periods of denial where you didn’t even recognize that you had a problem or were simply afraid of and resistant to change. But now that you’ve taken the next step in recovery and entered the third stage (Preparation Stage), you not only see and recognize the problem, but you are finally determined to get help and pursue recovery.

As Carlo C. DiClemente and Mary Marden Velasquez write in “Motivational Interviewing and the Stages of Change,” the Preparation Stage occurs when the individual “becom[es] determined and prepared to make the change” [1]. So once you’ve acknowledged the problem and are ready to make a change, what comes next? Or in other words, how can you help yourself (or a loved one) recover from an eating disorder?

African American woman getting help in recoveryFirst, it’s critical to understand that the Preparation Stage of recovery can be an anxious and stressful time. Just because you can finally see the problem and are ready to get help does not mean your fears and uncertainties about recovering go away overnight.

The eating disorder has played a specific function in your life (giving you a sense of control, serving as a coping mechanism, providing comfort, etc.), and it can be scary to let go of. However, by taking the right steps, you can overcome these fears and continue the journey towards eating disorder recovery.

5 Ways to Help Yourself Recover From an Eating Disorder

  • Seek Help – Don’t try to navigate recovery alone. Turn to your doctor, an eating disorder specialist, a therapist, or even a trusted friend or family member to let them know you want to recover. Open up about your concerns and ask them for support and guidance as you prepare to take the next steps.
  • Write Your Reasons – Write out your goals and reasons for recovery (e.g., a list of all the reasons why recovery is important to you or some of the ways recovering from your ED will help you pursue your other life goals) and refer back to this list when recovery feels scary or overwhelming.
  • Identify Barriers – Take time to identify potential barriers to change you may encounter (trauma from your past, lies you might still believe about your disorder not being “that bad,” secret ED behaviors you haven’t told anyone about) and establish ways to overcome these barriers to recovery. This might involve seeing a therapist to address underlying struggles, opening up about your ED behaviors to your support system, or taking the time to educate yourself about the harmful effects eating disorders can have on your physical and mental health.
  • Develop a Plan – Come up with a plan for treatment with the help of your eating disorder specialist, treatment team, doctor, and/or trusted family member/s. During this step, make sure to voice your questions and concerns to ensure you end up in a treatment program that is best for you.
  • Establish Coping Skills – During recovery, you’ll most likely encounter triggers and negative emotions and thoughts. While you may be tempted to turn to ED behaviors as a way to cope with these triggers/emotions/thoughts, you don’t have to. By establishing positive coping skills ahead of time (a person to call for support, a simple activity to engage in, practicing self-soothing techniques), you can set yourself up for success and avoid potential setbacks.

Finally, remember that recovering from an eating disorder does not happen overnight. It is a complex process that involves several different steps. So be patient with yourself (or your loved one) and start small by taking one simple step towards recovery each day.


References:

[1] Diclemente, Carlo C., & Velasquez, Mary Marden. (2002). Motivational Interviewing and the Stages of Change. Research Gate. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Mary_Velasquez/publication/231081405_Motivational_Interviewing_and_the_Stages_of_Change/links/0fcfd50b5f8c5af70e000000/Motivational-Interviewing-and-the-Stages-of-Change.pdf#page=222


About the Author:

Sarah Musick PhotoSarah Musick is a freelance writer who specializes in eating disorder awareness and education. After battling with a 4-years long eating disorder, she made it her mission to help others find hope and healing in recovery.

Her work has been featured on numerous eating disorder blogs and websites. When she’s not writing, Sarah is off traveling the world with her husband.


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 29, 2021, on EatingDisorderHope.com
Reviewed & Approved on January 29, 2021, 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.