Recovery from an eating disorder is undoubtedly possible, but this does not mean there is a time when the work “ends.” While one can live a recovered life, there will always be moments when old thoughts and urges arise, cultural triggers appear, or challenging life situations tempt one back into ineffective coping skills. Building recovery-focused habits that are practiced throughout the life span can make the difference between a lifetime of lapses or sustained recovery.
The stage of treatment you will need will likely change throughout your life, but working with a treatment team should be a consistent part of your life. Post inpatient, residential, or partial treatment, this may look like more frequent visits with a registered dietitian, physical therapist, and mental health therapist.
Over time, appointments may occur less often, and the subject matter may change. For example, meeting with a dietitian once every three months can be appropriate in sustained recovery but, should you experience a health difficulty or become pregnant, the frequency of sessions may need to be increased as your need for support increases.
Similarly, stability in recovery and mental wellness may lead to less frequent therapy sessions. However, life can bring about many challenges that may call for increased visits. Maintaining relationships with these treatment team members will help you in reaching out for more support with trusted individuals should you find a need.
Coping ahead is a skill in Dialectical Behavior Therapy intended to teach an individual to rehearse a plan ahead of time so that they are prepared to cope when distressing situations do arise . Coping ahead is based on the understanding that skills become stronger and more effective the more they are used .
Waiting until the distressing moment has arrived to use a skill makes it less likely that it will work and that, if it does, it will not be to the degree it could have worked. Coping ahead for eating disorders means continuing to use recovery-focused skills such as grounding, mindfulness, affirmations, mantras, positive self-talk, etc., on a daily basis so that, should an eating disorder trigger or urge arise, these skills are honed.
Eating Disorder Recovery Focused Support
Maintaining eating disorder recovery over time also means putting a concerted effort into building a recovery-focused support system through the use of communication and boundary-setting. This is particularly challenging at the beginning of recovery, when one needs to set new boundaries that interrupt old, harmful, and possibly triggering dynamics.
Doing so at the beginning of recovery might mean realizing that people considered to be supportive are actually not or not willing to be supportive in your recovery. Throughout recovery, those that engage in negative self, body, or food talk, those that do not respect your boundaries, or those that tear you down might slip into your life unbeknownst to you.
When you recognize these people, recognize the danger they may pose to your sustained recovery, and don’t be afraid to set and maintain the necessary boundaries. The 3 points mentioned here are only 3 of many areas to consider in pursuing sustained eating disorder recovery.
Even so, they are 3 of the most important areas – professional support, personal support, and coping skills. Maintaining effective coping in these areas can lead to successful, long-lasting eating disorder recovery regardless of triggers and challenges that come along.
Resources Linehan, M. (2014). DBT Training Manual. The Guilford Press. New York, New York.
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 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 February 11, 2021, on EatingDisorderHope.com
Reviewed & Approved on February 11, 2021, by Jacquelyn Ekern MS, LPC