How to Prevent an Eating Disorder Relapse

Sad young woman sitting on a pier

Eating disorders such as Bulimia Nervosa and Anorexia Nervosa are among the most fatal mental illnesses in the United States. As one might imagine, making a full recovery from an eating disorder takes plenty of planning, motivation and perseverance. Statistics suggest that the vast majority of women with eating disorders will, at some point, relapse and resort back to disordered eating behaviors. Therefore, it’s imperative that women prepare for life after treatment with a thorough relapse prevention plan that they can adhere to.

Social relationships can be a crucial resource for support. Shame and distorted thinking contribute to the presence of eating disordered behaviors. Both shame and distorted thinking are exacerbated by silence and isolation. Surrounding yourself with supportive people who can walk with you through your struggles and successes is truly an asset to your recovery. Having someone who can listen to and persevere with you without pitying you, becoming overwhelmed with what you share, or try to fix everything, can be crucial to challenging those self-defeating thoughts and behaviors while assisting you in not feeling so alone in your journey.

 Eating disorder support groups are also excellent resources for women in recovery. These groups help women meet others in recovery who understand what it is like to have an eating disorder. And because everyone’s experience is a little different, this is also a great place to hear alternative perspectives that may be helpful for you in your own recovery journey. Support groups can provide the peer support to assist with motivation needed to stay in long term recovery from eating disorders.

It is also be helpful to be mindful of triggers that can lead to an increase in eating disordered related thoughts and behaviors. Each person’s triggers will be different and specific to their personal experiences, but in general be careful with what you choose to surround yourself in your environment. Some examples may be:

  • Media (social media, movies, magazines, etc.)
  • Trauma Reminders
  • Scales
  • Buffets
  • Unhealthy relationships (people who are not supportive, people who support engagement in eating disordered behaviors and/or are active in their own disorders with no motivation for recovery, people who make comments about your weight, food intake, mental status, etc., and/or people who are highly critical)

While it’s nearly impossible to avoid these things at all times, it’s important to understand how they can trigger negative feelings about your weight and body image and have a self-care plan prepared to respond if challenging feeling and thoughts arise.

In recovery, planning your meals ahead of time can be helpful in assisting you to stick to a healthy meal plan. Working with a dietitian to assist you with individualized meal planning, accountability, and support, also can be very beneficial to navigating challenges that may arise with meals.

If and when relapse does occur, it’s very important to try to view it as a learning experience rather than a failure. A relapse in behaviors is more indicative of your current stress level and need for additional coping skills, not as a reflection of your success, ability, or value. Analyzing triggers and warning signs that led up to the relapse is helpful in preventing and responding to those situations in a different way in the future. Some of the most common warning signs for an eating disorder relapse include:

  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Justification of eating disordered behaviors (restriction, purging, over-exercising, laxative use, etc.)
  • Increased struggles with body image
  • Substance abuse
  • Other self-harming behaviors
  • Withdrawing from activities you normally enjoy
  • Allowing food to take priority over your plans, relationships, engagement in activities, etc.
  • Hiding eating habits from family/friends
  • Making excuses
  • Lying
  • High anxiety, depression, and trauma-related responses
  • Missing therapy appointments, support groups, medical appointments

Magnolia Creek Treatment Center for Eating Disorders offers an extensive family and aftercare program as part of our treatment curriculum. All our clients receive individualized discharge plans and access to recovery protection process groups. Our clinicians also keep in touch with our alumni members by providing therapeutic and dietetic consultations over the phone. Our family program helps the entire family establish relationship goals while also providing family members with information on eating disorders and mental health. We currently offer an intensive two day family workshop which is very intensive.

To learn more about enrolling at Magnolia Creek Treatment Center for Eating Disorders, please call our admissions office at 205-409-4220 or fill out our contact form. We are an in-network treatment provider with BCBS and Aetna insurances.

Share:

Similar Blog Posts

Doctor in a lab coat sits across from patient at a desk explaining health consequences to them.

Health Consequences of Binge Eating Disorder

The effects of binge eating disorder (BED) may seem obvious such as weight gain. But there are other—more subtle and sometimes more serious—health consequences of binge eating. We’re going to take a look at those today. If you’re someone who struggles with binge eating disorder, it might be difficult to read through this list. But

Read More »
Line drawing of a woman thinking. A lightbulb is drawn next to her.

How to Eat When Recovering from Binge Eating Disorder

If you’re in recovery from binge eating disorder (BED), you know the binge cycle did not serve your body well. Still, finding the right way forward can feel tricky. Let’s look at a few strategies for eating that are simple to follow and will enable you to live free from disordered eating patterns. Before we

Read More »

5 Self-Affirmations for a Healthy Body Image

Thinking positive thoughts about your body can give you an emotional boost—but it’s not just about the feel-goods. Filling your brain with body affirmations might also move you to make different choices. After all, research shows us that focusing on perceived physical flaws is the leading contributor to eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia.1 Thinking

Read More »
Girl looking in mirror

How Body Image Issues Lead to Eating Disorders

Your body image is the way you view your physical self. When you struggle with body image issues, you do not see yourself as others do. In fact, you do not see yourself as you actually are. This can make you strive for ideals that do not balance with reality. How Body Image Issues Begin

Read More »
Scroll to Top