11 Things to Stop Doing If You Have an Eating Disorder

Things to Avoid If You Want to Recover

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Recovery from an eating disorder is challenging. Treatment providers will tell you many things you 'should' do. But what about the things that you shouldn't be doing? Here are some things that can get in the way of recovery and can keep you stuck in your eating disorder.​

  1. Stop beating yourself up. Being self-critical often goes along with many other symptoms of eating disorders, but it simply is not helpful. It does not help motivate you or help you in recovery. Instead, being overly critical of yourself can increase the amount of shame and negative emotions you experience, only exacerbating an already difficult situation. Work to stay positive and use affirmation exercises to help combat self-critical thoughts.
  2. Stop blaming your family. Although previous writings and thoughts about eating disorders often blamed parents as the cause of eating disorders, 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, it is most likely they do not know how to be supportive. Playing the "blame game" only serves to cause problems rather than helping you move forward, as there is no way to control how another person acts. Talk with your treatment provider about how to process your relationships and move on. Many providers will also encourage family sessions and sometimes use teletherapy to include family members who live out of town. 
  1. Stop believing you can recover on your own. Research shows that eating disorder patients 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, self-help and guided self-help for bulimia and binge eating disorder may be helpful.)
  2. Stop putting the needs of others above your own. Many people put caring for other people above making sure that their own needs are met, and sometimes even hurt themselves in the process. This is 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 become aware of how much of yourself you can truly give to others. Set appropriate boundaries accordingly.
  1. Stop believing you aren't worth the cost. Treatment and recovery from an eating disorder can be expensive and time-consuming. You are worth every penny. Try not to get caught up in thinking that you are not worth the financial commitment that treatment can take. If money is an issue, talk openly with your treatment providers about it. There are often ways to get treatment that is less expensive.
  2. Stop losing hope. Eating disorders are serious and sometimes fatal diseases. However, 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 discuss it with your therapist anytime you begin losing hope.
  3. Stop not asking for help. Hopefully, you have a wonderful treatment team in place on whom you can call for help and support. However, are you also asking your family and friends to support you in recovery? Have you asked for their help? It's not enough to do it just once. Asking for help can be a daily process and may require you to ask for specific things such as support during meals that your support system can provide you.
  1. Stop keeping it a secret. Keeping secrets about difficult things in your life can lead to feelings of shame and difficulty in asking for support when you need it. Choose people in your life who have earned your trust with whom to share your struggle. Talking about eating disorder thoughts and urges with other people often seems to lessen the strength of the thoughts and/or urges.
  2. Stop becoming impatient with recovery. Full recovery can take years and certainly isn't easy. Many people struggle with slips and relapses as well. Stay committed to the recovery process and check in with your treatment team if you aren't making the progress that you had expected.
  3. Stop not listening to your treatment team. Your treatment team should comprise professionals who have years of training and experience in the treatment of eating disorders. Listen to them when they recommend specific changes - even when that is scary to you. Changes such as adding medication, using a meal plan or considering a higher level of care can be important and necessary changes to your treatment plan.
  1. Stop avoiding situations that make you anxious. Recovery from an eating disorder requires facing situations that you may have been avoiding such as eating certain foods that make you anxious, tolerating feelings of fullness, and tolerating anxiety when you do not exercise. Work with your treatment team to develop a plan to gradually face these situations
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