It's different for everyone, but recovery from an eating disorder involves overcoming physical, mental and emotional barriers in order to restore normal eating habits, thoughts and behaviours.
For many people, recovery from an eating disorder signifies an end to eating disorder attitudes and behaviours and the development of a healthier physical and psychological state of being. This can include returning to social activities, discovering a sense of purpose and integrating back into daily life.
No set pace
There is no set time for recovery and it is not uncommon for the process to slow down, come to a halt completely or encounter relapses. The pace of each person’s recovery will depend on the Person-Centred treatments and the support they receive.
While this may seem frustrating, it can help to remember that with recovery as the ultimate goal, even the setbacks can be a valuable part of the journey. With the appropriate treatment, recovery from an eating disorder is achievable.
Early treatment leads to better outcomes
Evidence also shows that the sooner you start treatment for an eating disorder, the shorter the recovery process will be.
Early and targeted care will improve the likelihood of positive treatment outcomes for people with an eating disorder.
Focusing on the process of recovery may be a helpful technique to employ, since the end goal of recovery can often seem stressful or unattainable.
Many people who have recovered from eating disorders have identified the following themes, which have helped them manage and learn from the recovery process:
Tips to support a healthy recovery
Support – Feeling supported by those around you will help your treatment and recovery. A circle of support will also decrease the isolation often experienced by people with eating disorders
Hope and motivation – Having a strong sense of hope coupled with the motivation to change eating disorder behaviours is the foundation of recovery
Healthy self-esteem – Remembering that you are worthwhile will remind you that recovery is worthwhile too
Understanding and expressing your emotions – It is normal for a person with an eating disorder to feel a range of emotions and it is helpful to acknowledge and express feelings
Acknowledging set-backs – With the focus on recovery, even taking a step backwards can still be making progress
Coping strategies – Developing a list of coping strategies that calm you down and help you regulate your emotions can help you during stressful or triggering situations
Engaging in activities and interests – Revisiting the things you enjoyed before the development of your eating disorder will build self-esteem and reconnect you with the world around you. For example, if you used to enjoy drawing, taking a pencil and pad to your favourite place can be a helpful and enjoyable experience
To find help in your local area search for Support Organisations or for more information on recovery contact the National Helpline on 1800 334 673.
The Care Team
Eating disorders are complex and multifaceted. While the minimum treatment team is a medical practitioner and a mental health professional, input from practitioners from a range of disciplines is often necessary for comprehensive care. Family and supports are integral to the care team.
Stages of Change
The stages of change model can be helpful in understanding how a person living with an eating disorder may be thinking and feeling at different stages of illness and recovery. There are six stages of change that a person experiencing an eating disorder may go through.
Barriers to Care
Vital access to treatment and recovery can be hampered by a limited availability of care or lack of care in remote areas, by stigma, poor professional skills and poor understanding of the pathways to care.
Relapse & Recurrence
Relapse can be a common part of the recovery process; many people with eating disorders experience a relapse or recurrence as they recover from their disorder and learn to manage their eating habits.