Understanding the Meal Plan in Eating Disorder Recovery for the Long Term

meal as part of eating disorder recovery meal plan

Contributor: Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC Director of Content and Social Media at Eating Disorder Hope/Addiction Hope

If you have been in recovery from an eating disorder, you have likely worked with a registered dietitian (RD) as part of your treatment team. Having an RD is helpful for learning how to renegotiate your relationship with food, developing more normalized eating habits, and understanding how to eat intuitively.

In the earlier phases of recovery, a meal plan is usually prescribed by a RD, which outlines what might be needed nutritionally for the day. As a person recovers, a meal plan can become more flexible, particularly as a person is able to eat more intuitively. So what is the role of a meal plan, if any, in long term recovery?

Understanding the Recovery Process

Whether dealing with anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating disorder, food can be described as chaotic. A person suffering with an eating disorder may develop rigid rules for themselves as a means of making food more “manageable”, but this in turn creates a greater conflict with eating habits.

Foods are often categorized as “good” and “bad”, and when “bad” foods are consumed, eating disorder behaviors are often utilized as a means of compensating. Even on the other end of the spectrum, eating disorder behaviors are used as a way to avoid the consumption of “bad” foods, but in reality, this makes a relationship with food complete chaos.

A more structured meal plan is often needed to help stabilize chaotic eating habits and create a sense of normalcy around eating. This is also an important aspect of medical stabilization from physical side effects from the eating disorder and in some cases, necessary for weight restoration as well. Meals plans can vary based on the individual and may be very specific, in terms of what to eat, but again, this depends on the individual case and what treatment goals involve.

Role of the Meal Plan in Long Term Recovery

As an individual recovers from an eating disorder and learns how to more appropriately feed their body, a meal plan becomes less necessary in the recovery process. The more a person is able to eat intuitively, the less they need to rely on a meal plan to dictate what to eat.

However, meals plans can be useful as a fall back in the instance of a relapse in long term recovery or simply a useful tool to utilize during difficult times. If a person in recovery ever experiences a crisis in their journey that may make it difficult to eat, they can also rely on their older meal plan that once was used to guide them towards normalization of food and eating habits.

Community Discussion – Share your Thoughts here!

How has a meal plan served you in long-term recovery?


Crystal Karges photo

About the Author: 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, Crystal serves as the Special Projects Coordinator for Eating Disorder Hope/Addiction Hope, where her passion to help others find recovery and healing is integrated into each part of her work.

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/AH and nutrition private practice.


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.

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on July 25, 2016
Published on EatingDisorderHope.com

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