Avoiding Eating Disorder Relapse
For recovering eating disorder sufferers, it can take years before one is able to live a happy and healthy life without occasionally slipping into old ways of thinking. These moments are inevitable, but they don’t necessarily mean that a relapse is unavoidable. The key is to recognize when warning signs arise and to take preventive measures. And if you haven’t yet sought professional eating disorder treatment, you might want to consider doing so before you revert to old habits.
Signs an Eating Disorder Relapse Is Imminent
If you’re worried about relapsing, here are some hints that may help you get the care you need during this challenging time in your path of recovery. It means that it’s weighing heavily on your mind, and you may find that this worry is closely associated with the thoughts and feelings you used to have when you were in the throes of your eating disorder. If your worry combines with any of the following factors, talk to an eating disorder treatment professional as soon as possible:
- Your thoughts keep turning to food, dieting and weight.
- You have been dishonest with your eating disorder treatment professionals or if you feel compelled to hide information or behaviors.
- You worry that you are losing control and may overcompensate with perfectionism.
- You feel as if you have no outlet for your stress.
- You feel hopeless and wonder what you’re going to do with your life.
- With diet and exercise, your primary goal is to look good rather than to be healthy.
- You believe that you’ll never be happy unless you’re thin.
- You see yourself as overweight or obese.
- Friends or family indicate to you that your self-image is inaccurate.
- You look in the mirror frequently and weigh yourself often.
- You skip meals or find ways to purify yourself after eating.
- You get irritable around the issue of food.
- You feel an overwhelming sense of guilt or shame after eating.
- You avoid events that involve food.
- You isolate yourself or engage in increasingly secretive behaviors.
- You hold contempt for people who are overweight or don’t eat well according to your standards.
Beyond these signs, you have to trust your feelings. You know what it’s like to be inside the mind of an eating disorder sufferer, so you may be able evaluate your condition. Try to be honest with yourself and get help right away, and you can avoid eating disorder relapse.
Focus on Health, not Looks
There are many factors that contribute to eating disorders, but one of the most of the most common is low self-esteem, which often leads to compensatory behaviors. People with eating disorders, especially anorexia and bulimia, become obsessed with staying skinny or reaching a target weight, and all of their diet and exercise activities are in service of this purpose.
In the throes of an eating disorder, it can be easy to forget that food is not a vice. Because of all the complicated feelings of guilt surrounding eating, eating disorder sufferers lose sight of the fact that having a healthy diet is essential to living a full and productive life.
Although it may be one of the hardest things you’ll ever do, now is the time to make changes to the way you think about food. Think of eating not as a vice but as a way to give much-needed energy and nutrients to your body and mind. Think of dieting as out of the question. Healthy eating is much more important and is actually the key to maintaining and keeping a healthy weight.
Tips for Avoiding Relapse
If simply focusing on health is not enough, then you might want to keep these tips in mind.
- Don’t recover on your own. If you haven’t already, seek eating disorder treatment and find a support group where you can share your thoughts and feelings with others who understand what you’re going through. Also, be open with close friends and family members about your illness.
- Have a regular eating schedule. During this rough time, what you need is consistency and balance in your diet. Get into the habit of eating three normal-sized, nutritious meals per day.
- Keep in close contact with your support system. Avoid people who encourage your eating disorder, and stay in close contact with anyone who wants to see you healthy and happy.
- Maintain your weight without binging or purging. Work with your doctor to determine a healthy weight for you, and arrange your life so that you can maintain this weight without having to resort to eating disorder behaviors.
- Exercise at a healthy level. Part of finding a balanced way of life is learning how to exercise without it being merely a weight-loss compensatory measure. Enjoy your exercise, and avoid thinking of it as having a transactional relationship with what you eat. Remember that everyone needs exercise in order to be healthy, and think of your activities as beneficial for your all-around health.
- Know your triggers. Think about what used to set off your eating disorder behaviors, and do whatever you can to avoid those things. Understand that you’ll probably encounter your triggers sooner or later and have a plan of action for dealing with them.
- Don’t obsess. When you find yourself obsessing over food or weight, do something else to get your mind off of it.
- Keep a journal. Keep a journal that enables you to sort through your thoughts and feelings.
- Help others. Try to find ways to get involved in helping others with eating disorders. This may mean participating in a support group, blogging about your struggles or getting involved with an eating disorder recovery group in your area.