How Do I Begin Recovery From An Eating Disorder
The inner voices of anorexia and bulimia whisper that you’ll never be happy until you lose weight, that your worth is measured by how you look. But the truth is that happiness and self-esteem come from loving yourself for who you truly are—and that’s only possible with recovery.
The road to recovery from an eating disorder starts with admitting you have a problem. This admission can be tough, especially if you’re still clinging to the belief—even in the back of your mind—that weight loss is the key to your happiness, confidence, and success. Even when you finally understand this isn’t true, old habits are still hard to break.
The good news is that the behaviors you’ve learned can also be unlearned. Just as anyone can develop an eating disorder, so too, anyone can get better. However, overcoming an eating disorder is about more than giving up unhealthy eating behaviors. It’s also about learning new ways to cope with emotional pain and rediscovering who you are beyond your eating habits, weight, and body image.
True recovery from an eating disorder involves learning to:
- Listen to your feelings.
- Accept yourself.
- Love yourself.
This may seem like a lot to tackle, but just remember that you’re not alone. Help is out there and recovery is within your reach. With the right support and guidance, you can break free from your eating disorder’s destructive pattern, regain your health, and find the joy in life again.
Articles On Anorexia Nervosa
Anorexia nervosa, also called anorexia, is a potentially life-threatening eating disorder that is characterized by self-starvation and excessive weight loss. The disorder is diagnosed when a person weighs at least 15% less than their normal/ideal body weight. Extreme weight loss in people with anorexia nervosa can lead to dangerous health problems and even death.
The term anorexia literally means “loss of appetite.” However, this definition is misleading as people with anorexia nervosa are often but refuse food anyway. People with anorexia nervosa have intense fears of becoming fat and see themselves as fat even when they are very thin. These individuals may try to correct this perceived “flaw” by strictly limiting food intake and exercising excessively in order to lose weight.
How Is Anorexia Diagnosed
Identifying anorexia can be challenging. Secrecy, shame, and denial are characteristics of the disorder. As a result, the illness can go undetected for long periods of time.
If symptoms are present, the doctor will begin an evaluation by performing a complete medical history and physical exam. Although there are no lab tests to specifically diagnose anorexia, the doctor might use various diagnostic tests, such as tests, to rule out physical illness as the cause of the weight loss, as well as to evaluate the effects of the weight loss on the body’s organs.
If no physical illness is found, the person might be referred to a psychiatrist or , health care professionals who are specially trained to diagnose and treat mental illnesses. Psychiatrists and psychologists may use specially designed interview and assessment tools to evaluate a person for an eating disorder.
Increase Your Protein Intake
Upping your intake of protein-rich foods can keep you feeling full and help control your appetite.
One study in 19 people showed that increasing protein intake from 15% to 30% led to significant reductions in body weight and fat mass, as well as decreased daily calorie intake by an average of 441 calories .
Similarly, another study found that following a high-protein diet enhanced metabolism, promoted feelings of fullness, and increased levels of glucagon-like peptide 1 , a hormone known for its ability to suppress appetite .
Try including at least one good source of protein — such as meat, eggs, nuts, seeds, or legumes — in each meal and enjoy high-protein snacks when you feel hungry to keep cravings at bay.
Summary Increasing your protein intake has been shown to decrease calorie intake, enhance feelings of fullness, and increase levels of GLP-1, a hormone that can help suppress appetite.
Disobey Your Eating Disorder
On a paper make a list with two columns. In one column, write, “Ed says…” and in the other column, write, “Recovery requires…” On each line under “Ed says…” write what the eating disorder tells you to do.
On the corresponding line under the “Recovery requires” column write down how you will specifically disobey that command. For example,
- “Ed says skip breakfast.” “Recovery requires me to eat breakfast.”
- “Ed says exercise today.” “Recovery requires me to take a day off.”
This approach stems from Life Without Ed by Jenni Schaefer and Thom Rutledge?? and Narrative Therapy.
Clean Out The Kitchen
Having lots of junk food or trigger foods in the kitchen can make it much easier to binge eat.
Conversely, keeping healthy foods on hand can reduce your risk of emotional eating by limiting the number of unhealthy options.
Start by clearing out processed snack foods like chips, candies, and pre-packaged convenience foods and swapping them for healthier alternatives.
Stocking your kitchen with fruits, vegetables, protein-rich foods, whole grains, , and seeds can improve your diet and reduce your risk of binge eating unhealthy foods.
Summary Removing unhealthy foods from your kitchen and stocking up on healthy alternatives can improve diet quality and make it harder to binge eat.
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If Youre A Christian Suffering From An Eating Disorder
Know that you’re not alone. Not only do you have millions of other believers fighting the same fight, but you also have the God of the Universe on your side. The best thing you can do is put your trust in God, and the rest will come. Emotional healing is the first step to physical healing. Know, also, that sometimes it’s up to you to take action.
You can’t expect to be healed if you don’t seek healing. Come to terms with your disorder, try to identify and address the cause, and seek treatment. The longer you wait, the harder it will be to recover.
And finally, pray. Philippians 4:6 says,
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
If you just have faith in Christ, He will be with you and deliver you from all of your struggles.
What are your experiences with eating disorders?
Know The Warning Signs
Disordered eating can manifest in many ways. If you notice things out of the ordinary, do your research: it’s not all about restricting food or extreme dieting. Hiding food, eating at odd times, over-exercising, use of laxatives, obsessive portion-counting and calorie awareness, horrible self-confidence — all can be .
Advertising And Body Pressures
Of course, it’s impossible and foolish to only blame the parents. Many brilliant, loving parents can be blindsided by a body image issue in their son or daughter. However, sometimes it’s not enough to create a safe “we’ll love you however you are” environment in the home. Like it or not, kids are much more plugged into the wider world than previous generations. They’re exposed to much more. On their smartphones and tablets, they’re not just texting their friends and taking photos – they’re also seeing Instagram photos of airbrushed models and seeing other celebrities being mocked for putting on a few pounds of weight. Children haven’t lived the necessary years to see how shallow these things are; it becomes the lens through which they see the world. All of a sudden, their childish puppy fat becomes an imperfection.
Prevalence Of Eating Disorders
The prevalence of eating disorders is astonishing. According to The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, , eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.
While the occurrence of eating disorders varies between countries, studies and evidence-based research shows, that on a global scale, there is an agreement that these mental conditions, including disordered eating and body image issues, have increased worldwide over the last 30 years.
Eating Attitudes Test Take The Eat
The EAT-26 is the most widely cited standardized self-report screening measure that may be able to help you determine if you have an eating disorder that needs professional attention. The EAT-26 is not designed to make a diagnosis of an eating disorder or to take the place of a professional diagnosis or consultation. The EAT-26 is free to users . Take the EAT-26 now and get immediate and anonymous feedback:
Garner et al. . The Eating Attitudes Test: Psychometric features and clinical correlates. Psychological Medicine, 12, 871-878. Garner & Garfinkel. . The Eating Attitudes Test: Psychometric features and clinical correlates. Psychological Medicine, 12, 871-878
How To Talk To Someone About Their Eating Disorder
The decision to make a change is rarely an easy one for someone with an eating disorder. If the eating disorder has left them malnourished, it can distort the way they think—about their body, the world around them, even your motivations for trying to help. Bombarding them with dire warnings about the health consequences of their eating disorder or trying to bully them into eating normally probably won’t work. Eating disorders often fill an important role in the person’s life—a way to cope with unpleasant emotions—so the allure can be strong. Since you may be met with defensiveness or denial, you’ll need to tread carefully when broaching the subject.
Pick a good time. Choose a time when you can speak to the person in private without distractions or constraints. You don’t want to have to stop in the middle of the conversation because of other obligations! It’s also important to have the conversation at a time of emotional calm. Don’t try to have this conversation right after a blow up.
Explain why you’re concerned. Be careful to avoid lecturing or criticizing, as this will only make your loved one defensive. Instead, refer to specific situations and behaviors you’ve noticed, and why they worry you. Your goal at this point is not to offer solutions, but to express your concerns about the person’s health, how you much you love them, and your desire to help.
What not to do
Psychotherapy And Nutritional Counseling
, , and family therapy sessions help individuals with eating disorders specifically understand their thoughts, emotions, and behaviors that trigger their unhealthy episodes. In addition, medications have also been prescribed and proven to be effective.
Lastly, due to the serious physical problems caused by these mental conditions, it is important that our comprehensive treatment plans for a person with anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa or binge eating disorder include medical care in conjunction with therapy.
This helps individuals engage in healthy eating habits to rebuild their overall wellbeing, mentally and physically. It is important to note, that the exact form of treatment to tend to the needs of each individual will vary.
What Are The Symptoms Of Eating Disorders
The symptoms of eating disorders vary, depending on the disorder:
The symptoms of binge-eating include
- Eating unusually large amounts of food in a specific amount of time, such as a 2-hour period
- Eating even when you’re full or not hungry
- Eating fast during binge episodes
- Eating until you’re uncomfortably full
- Eating alone or in secret to avoid embarrassment
- Feeling distressed, ashamed, or guilty about your eating
- Frequently dieting, possibly without weight loss
The symptoms of bulimia nervosa include the same symptoms as binge-eating, plus trying to get rid of the food or weight after binging by
- Purging, making yourself throw up or using laxatives or enemas to speed up the movement of food through your body
- Doing intensive and excessive exercise
- Chronically inflamed and sore throat
- Swollen salivary glands in the neck and jaw area
- Worn tooth enamel and increasingly sensitive and decaying teeth. This is caused by the exposure to stomach acid every time you throw up.
- and other gastrointestinal problems
- Severe dehydration from purging
- Electrolyte imbalance, which could be too low or too high levels of sodium, calcium, potassium and other minerals. This can lead to a or heart attack.
The symptoms of anorexia nervosa include
- Eating very little, to the point of starving yourself
- Intensive and excessive exercise
- Intense fear of gaining weight
- Distorted body image – seeing yourself as overweight even when you are severely underweight
What You Can Do Today
If you’re ready to have a conversation with your child today about their eating disorder, it’s imperative to stay calm and first listen to what they have to say. Validate their emotions and repeat back what you’ve heard. Then share the facts about eating disorders with them, and what you have personally observed of their behaviors. Express how this makes you feel, using “I-statements.” Remind them that you love them and share what positive personality traits you see in them. If you can manage your own anxiety and provide a calm space for your child, they are more likely to hear what you have to say.
Above all, remember that recovery from an eating disorder doesn’t happen in a day, and it doesn’t happen alone. Eating disorders are treatable, and with the right support, your child can go on to live a full and healthy life.
How To Handle Eating Disorder Triggers
If you are in recovery from an eating disorder, it may feel as if virtually everything around you is a trigger. These triggers often seem to be inescapable and impossible to be ignored. Rather, they come unannounced and unbidden in the sights and sounds of daily life.
Triggers for an eating disorder come in a range of forms. Simply overhearing a conversation about weight loss, or seeing calorie counts listed on a restaurant menu can cause anxiety and even a relapse. When you encounter a trigger, any situation can become overwhelming.
Mental Health Treatment Locator
For more information, resources, and research on mental illnesses, visit the NIMH website at . The National Library of Medicine’s MedlinePlus website also has information on a wide variety of mental disorders.
For general information on mental health and to locate treatment services, call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Treatment Referral Helpline at 1–800–662–HELP . SAMHSA also has a Behavioral Health Treatment Locator on its website that can be searched by location.
Keep A Food And Mood Journal
Keeping a food and mood journal that tracks what you eat and how you feel can be an effective tool. It can help identify potential emotional and food triggers and promote healthier eating habits.
One study in 17 people showed that using an online self-help program that involved keeping a food diary was associated with fewer self-reported episodes of binge eating .
Several other studies also suggest that tracking your intake may be linked to increased weight loss and aid long-term weight management .
To get started, simply start recording what you eat and how you feel each day using either a journal or app.
Summary Food and mood journals can help identify triggers to address potential problems. Studies show that using a food diary is associated with fewer episodes of binge eating, as well as increased weight loss.
What Are The Treatments For Eating Disorders
Treatment plans for eating disorders are tailored to individual needs. You will likely have a team of providers helping you, including doctors, nutritionists, nurses, and therapists. The treatments may include
- Individual, group, and/or family psychotherapy. Individual therapy may include cognitive behavioral approaches, which help you to identify and change negative and unhelpful thoughts. It also helps you build coping skills and change behavioral patterns.
- Medical care and monitoring, including care for the complications that eating disorders can cause
- Nutrition counseling. Doctors, nurses, and counselors will help you eat healthy to reach and maintain a healthy weight.
- Medicines, such as , antipsychotics, or mood stabilizers, may help treat some eating disorders. The medicines can also help with the depression and anxiety symptoms that often go along with eating disorders.
Some people with serious eating disorders may need to be in a hospital or in a residential treatment program. Residential treatment programs combine housing and treatment services.
NIH: National Institute of Mental Health
Know That Eating Disorders Ebb And Flow
A straight upward arrow to recovery would be excellent, but it may not be the way things go for your friend or family member. Relapses happen, particularly if life has become stressful or something has gone wrong; eating disorders are a coping method. Recognize this and don’t be disappointed or angry if it happens.
What Are The Duties Of An Eating Disorder Psychologist
- These psychologists work together with other professionals who are obligated to help alleviate the problem that the patient faces. Often, the doctor may be needed to state that the patient is not suffering any other complicated malady.
- They do the work of assessing the patient and determining the causes of the problem.
- Coming up with a treatment plan that will help the patient deal with the mental or emotional causes of the disorder.
- Gradually through therapy assisting the patient to avoid the retrogressive thoughts that may be to blame for the eating disorder. Usually, this can be done through focusing on importance of keeping healthy rather than merely watching on weight.
Eating Disorders And Food
When you have an eating disorder you obsess over what you eat, how much you eat, when you eat, and everything else about eating and food. The truth is that anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating aren’t really about food. You developed an eating disorder because you started to use food and eating as coping mechanisms for other issues. Eating disorders are psychological. Food and eating become ways to cope with painful feelings and to get a sense of control over your life. When you learn different coping mechanisms, you can stop using food in that way. The first step is to go to therapy or counseling with a professional who will help you sort through the emotions that led you to obsess over food in the first place. Then you can begin to put new coping strategies to work in your everyday life.
What Causes Eating Disorders
Eating disorders can be caused indirectly by traumatizing life events such as exposure to violence, family conflict, stress, or loss. Personality traits such as emotional instability, obsessiveness, and perfectionism also play a role in the likelihood of developing an eating disorder.
They do not have to be caused by external factors, however. Studies show that a predisposition to having an eating disorder can actually be biologically inherited. About 56% of the risk of having an eating disorder comes from genetics.
Scientifically, the brain structure responsible for regulating eating behaviors- the hypothalamus- has been strongly studied to find a link between abnormalities and eating disorders. Irregularities in neurotransmitters can also trigger them- bulimics, for example, are known to have unusually low levels of serotonin.
Can Anorexia Be Prevented
Although it might not be possible to prevent all cases of anorexia, it is helpful to begin treatment in people as soon as they begin to have symptoms. In addition, teaching and encouraging healthy eating habits and realistic attitudes about food and body image also might be helpful in preventing the development or worsening of eating disorders.
Strategies For Effective Treatment
Consult your family doctor for an assessment or a referral to an appropriate specialist. There are a variety of specialists, including adolescent medicine, who are specially trained to diagnose and treat disordered eating. “Trying to address it on your own is often difficult and ineffective,” notes Dr. Heinberg.
From the beginning, having family support is associated with better outcomes for patients with disordered eating. Family-based treatments are considered the most effective in treating adolescents and young adults. However, the involvement of a support system is very helpful for patients of any age.
What Are The Symptoms Of Anorexia
The symptoms of anorexia often include the following:
- Rapid weight loss over several weeks or months
- Continuing to diet/limited eating even when thin or when weight is very low
- Having an unusual interest in food, calories, , or cooking
- Intense fear of gaining weight
- Strange eating habits or routines, such as eating in secret
- Feeling fat, even if underweight
- Inability to realistically assess one’s own body weight
- Striving for perfection and being very self-critical
- Undue influence of body weight or shape on self-esteem
- Depression, , or irritability
- Laxative, , or diet pill use
- Frequent illness
- Feeling worthless or hopeless
- Social withdrawal
- Physical symptoms that develop over time, including: low tolerance of cold weather, brittle and nails, dry or yellowing , , , swollen joints, decay, and a new growth of thin over the body
Untreated, anorexia nervosa can lead to:
- Damaged organs, especially the , , and
- Drop in blood pressure, pulse, and breathing rates
- Loss of hair
- Death from starvation or suicide
Other Essential Skills Required
- Good listening skills- to enable one understand the problems of the patient.
- Influential- to be able to challenge the patient to stop negative thinking.
- Good speaking skills- ultimately it is the way these psychologists to convinces the patient that will stir a different perception of the situation by the latter.
- Creative problem solving skills- it is the ability to propose new avenues of solving underlying problems that will spur success.
- Patience- when working with these psychologically compromised people, one needs to have lots of patience to make any progress.
National Alliance On Mental Illness
aims to offer education, support, and public awareness of mental health issues.
Some NAMI resources you may find useful are:
- Helpline: The NAMI helpline provides information, support, and treatment referrals to those with mental health conditions. It’s available Monday through Friday.
- Support groups: NAMI offers support groups throughout the country for people with mental health conditions and their families.
How Are Eating Disorders Treated
It is important to seek treatment early for eating disorders. People with eating disorders are at higher risk for suicide and medical complications. Some people with eating disorders may also have other mental disorders or problems with substance use.
Treatment plans for eating disorders include psychotherapy, medical care and monitoring, nutritional counseling, medications, or a combination of these approaches. Typical treatment goals include restoring adequate nutrition, bringing weight to a healthy level, reducing excessive exercise, and stopping binge-purge and binge-eating behaviors. Complete recovery is possible.
Specific forms of psychotherapy and cognitive behavioral approaches can be effective for treating specific eating disorders. For more about psychotherapies, visit .
Research also suggests that medications may help treat some eating disorders and co-occurring anxiety or depression related to eating disorders. Information about medications changes frequently, so talk to your health care professional and check the U.S. Food and Drug Administration website for the latest warnings, patient medication guides, or newly approved medications.
How Do I Find Treatment?
The NIMH is a federal research agency and cannot provide medical advice or practitioner referrals. However, there are tools and resources available at that may help you find a provider or treatment.