Eating Disorders: Relapse and Recovery
Recovery from an eating disorder is different for everyone. For some, it could talk months. For others, years. However, it’s important to remember that relapses will most likely occur; but it’s all apart of the recovery process. Re-learning normal eating habits and coping skills can take a long period of time and often requires lots of support from professionals, friends, and family.
No recovery is the same. The key is to keep moving forward, even if the process is slow. Just keep in mind that a relapse does not mean you should lose all hope, it’s a natural part of the recovery process. So what are some common signs that you may be slipping into a relapse? What are some things you can do to recover from a relapse?
Relapse Warning Signs
Even though all relapses are different, there are some common signs that most experience when they are about to fall into a relapse. This includes:
- Avoiding meals and events involving food
- Making efforts to eat alone
- A return to obsessing about food and weight
- Overwhelming feelings of shame and guilt after eating
- Concealing information from loved ones and your treatment team
- Resuming repeatedly checking appearance in the mirror and weighing outside of treatment
- Justifying small slips and lapses, saying that it’s no big deal or it’s not that bad
- Becoming irritable when the subject of food or eating disorders is brought up
- An increase in stress with no way to manage it
- Increasing anxiety, perfectionism, and depression
- Sleep disturbances
- Isolation from friends and loved ones
So what can you do if you start to notice these signs? Well the best way to deal a relapse is to accept the possibility that it might happen, soon or in the distant future, and make a plan to help manage it. You can do this by:
- Identify your triggers. Based on what you’ve learned in recovery, identify the types of situations where you think you might be most likely to struggle. Maybe that’s being stressed or experiencing a change in your life. Whatever your triggers are, acknowledge them and write them down.
- Identify warning signs. What are signs that recovery is continuing to go well for you? What about when you might need more support? Lastly, what are the signs that you are in full-blown relapse? Note psychological, behavioral, and social signs, such as avoiding meals, not sleeping well, increasing perfectionism, irritability, and breaking plans with friends.
- Identify support people. Find several people, including a therapist, dietitian, psychiatrist, or other professional, whom you can turn to when you’re stressed or having concerns about emerging eating disordered behavior. If appropriate, encourage them to talk to you about any concerns they see as well.
When you are recovering from an eating disorder, there are many questions you should ask yourself. These questions will give you a clearer outlook on what you need during your recovery process.
- How can I keep going, even when I’m uncomfortable? The first thing you need to do is accept the fact that the recovery process will likely be uncomfortable. And that’s okay! In order to experience healing and recovery, you will likely have to experience some discomfort.
- How can I allow others to support me? It’s important to remember that recovery is the time to let others support you, not push them away. The road to recovery is much easier to handle when you are surrounded by a love and support. So don’t push others away, let them support you.
- What goals should I set? Recovery doesn’t happen over night, it’s a process. There are many mini-goals that need to be realized first before you can reach the ultimate goal. Let’s say your ultimate goal is to eat out at a restaurant without feeling anxious. Then you should first set some mini-goals, like practicing by eating meals with your family at home. Set small, achievable goals before you try and tackle your ultimate goal.
In short, recovery is a process and it’s important to remember that it is different for everyone. The most important thing to remember is that relapse is a natural part of recovery.
Interested in learning how to best explore in an effort to experience the vibrant life you desire? If so, I encourage you to check out my website. I offer a variety of programs all dedicated to helping you live a healthier life, from the inside out. My approach is positive and compassionate, my practice is based on the principles of Functional Medicine. Together we’ll take the deep dive into learning WHO you are as an eater, addressing the underlying cause of your symptoms. You’ll learn how to master the skills needed to Live the Change…Be the Change…See the Change.