11 Do's and Dont's for Recovering From Eating Disorders

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Recovery from an eating disorder can be challenging. Treatment providers will often tell you many things you "should" do. While your provider may have your best interests at heart, they may not always emphasize the things you should avoid doing as you continue to get better. The following are several tips to consider as you work to recover from your eating disorder.​

Don't Beat Yourself Up

Being self-critical often goes along with many other symptoms of eating disorders, but it won't help to motivate you or help you in recovery. Instead, being overly critical of yourself can increase feelings of shame and negative emotions you may experience, exacerbating an already difficult situation. Work to stay positive and use affirmation exercises to help combat self-critical thoughts.

Don't Blame Your Family

Although it used to be more commonly believed that parents were a leading cause of disordered eating, the latest research shows that eating disorders have complex causes that include genetic and societal factors. No family is perfect. If your family has been unsupportive, they likely don't know how to be supportive. Talk with your treatment provider about how to process your relationships to be able to move on as you recover. Many providers will also encourage family sessions and sometimes use teletherapy or online counseling to include family members who live out of town. 

Don't Insist That You Can Recover on Your Own

Research shows that people with eating disorders are more likely to recover with a specialized treatment team in place. In most cases, willpower, self-help books, and independent work cannot replace the professional guidance of a therapist, dietitian, and physician. These professionals have years of experience and training to help you on the road to recovery. (Exception: In some cases, especially when there are no available specialists, or you may not be able to afford care, self-help and guided self-help for bulimia and binge eating disorder may be helpful.)

Don't Put the Needs of Others Above Your Own

Many people prioritize caring for other people above making sure that their own needs are met, sometimes hurting themselves in the process. This can be especially true when you are friends with someone who also has an eating disorder. While you want to help, their stories can be triggering and/or emotionally draining. Make sure that you take care of yourself first and determine how much of yourself you can truly give to others by setting appropriate boundaries.

Don't Believe You Aren't Worth the Cost

Treatment and recovery from an eating disorder can be expensive and time-consuming. Try not to get caught up in thinking that you are not worth the financial commitment that treatment may require. If money is an issue, talk openly with your treatment providers about it. There are often ways to get treatment that is less expensive.

Don't Lose Hope

Eating disorders are serious and sometimes fatal diseases. But they are treatable, and full recovery is possible. When you begin to lose hope, it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Work to stay positive and talk to your therapist anytime you find you are struggling emotionally.

Don't Be Afraid to Ask for Help

Hopefully, you have a wonderful treatment team in place that you can call for help and support, no questions asked. But are you also including your family and friends and giving them a chance to support you in recovery? Asking for help can be a daily process and may require you to ask for specific things (such as support during meals) that they can help you with.

Don't Keep Your Condition a Secret

Keeping secrets about difficult things in your life can lead to feelings of shame and prevent you from asking for support when you need it. Choose people who have earned your trust when it comes to sharing your experience. If they know what's going on, they're more likely to be able to be there for you in ways that will help.

Don't Be Impatient With Recovery

Full recovery can take years and for many, it's not easy. Many people struggle with slips and relapses as well. Have faith in the recovery process and check in with your treatment team if you aren't making the progress that you had hoped for.

Do Listen to Your Treatment Team

Your treatment team should be comprised of professionals who have years of training and experience with eating disorders. Listen to them when they recommend specific changes, even when it might seem scary to you. Changes such as adding a medication, adopting a meal plan, or considering a higher level of care can be important and necessary changes to your treatment plan.

Don't Avoid All Situations That Make You Anxious

Recovery from an eating disorder requires facing situations that you may have been avoiding, such as eating certain foods, tolerating feelings of fullness, and tolerating feelings of anxiety when you do not exercise. Work with your treatment team to develop a plan to gradually face these situations

A Word From Verywell

An eating disorder is a complex mental illness that requires professional care. While there is certainly helpful reading material out there, it can't replace the care of a qualified treatment team. Always consult with your providers before making any changes to your treatment plan.

5 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  3. Halmi KA. Salient components of a comprehensive service for eating disorders. World Psychiatry. 2009;8(3):150–155. PMID: 19812744

  4. Walsh JM, Wheat ME, Freund K. Detection, evaluation, and treatment of eating disorders the role of the primary care physicianJ Gen Intern Med. 2000;15(8):577–590. doi:10.1046/j.1525-1497.2000.02439.x

  5. Resmark G, Herpertz S, Herpertz-Dahlmann B, Zeeck A. Treatment of Anorexia Nervosa-New Evidence-Based GuidelinesJ Clin Med. 2019;8(2):153. Published 2019 Jan 29. doi:10.3390/jcm8020153

Additional Reading

By Susan Cowden, MS
Susan Cowden is a licensed marriage and family therapist and a member of the Academy for Eating Disorders.