In Recovery from an Eating Disorder
By: Masha Sardari MS, RD, LDN
Published: December 4, 2023

Recovering from an eating disorder takes time and though everyone’s recovery is different, most people will experience a life-affirming moment of joy when you realize it’s been hours if not days since you had a negative thought about food, eating, your body, or how you look.  

Instead, you realize you’ve been thinking about your partner who loves you, your exciting new job, the beautiful weather, your upcoming vacation, the great restaurant meal you had last night with friends, and that new recipe you’re going to try tonight.  

At that point it hits you, I’m truly in recovery.  

It takes time to get there 

This blogpost is about being in recovery, not so much the journey to get there. What I will say about that journey is that the timeframe for it varies. For example, many people have been living with their eating disorder for years and even decades before attaining recovery. For those people, triggers and urges are deeply embedded, so they’re harder to overcome once recovery begins. Also, the brain rewiring takes longer.  

For people who have had an eating disorder for years, their residential stay (if that’s the strategy they choose) often needs to be longer, the step-down to outpatient care takes more time, and so on.  

Along the way, the triggers are still there (though less powerful), and relapse sometimes happens as well. Eventually, however, complete recovery is possible, even in the tough cases. 

Recovery is cyclical, not linear 

Just as the journey to recovery can be bumpy, recovery may be also. Sometimes there are setbacks, but that doesn’t mean you have to start over at square one. If urges or triggers reappear, you may just need to lean into your support system more—maybe you switch your therapy session from once a month to once a week, for example. 

Or maybe you re-engage your just-for-this-occasion friend network. Whichever part or parts of your treatment plan you depend on most, it’s time to call in those reinforcements.  

Here’s the good thing about the bumpy, cyclical nature of recovery: You learn a lot. You learn what you need to do more of, and less of. Dealing with these things is going to make you stronger and more resilient. It’s going to give you a more complete, real-world recovery toolbox going forward, so you’ll be ready for anything.  

My advice is, try to approach the inevitable bumpy stretches of recovery not with dread but with curiosity.  

The role of therapy in recovery 

Some people think that once they are in recovery, they will no longer need to go to therapy. That’s often not the case though. 

I believe ongoing therapy is a great thing for pretty much everyone at every stage of life. To my mind, there’s not nearly enough therapy happening in the world, because most of us need it. 

Whether you’re in recovery or not, life keeps happening. Tough times happen, trauma happens. My thought? Life can be challenging and therapy makes it easier. 

Common markers of recovery  

Again, everyone’s recovery looks different, but certain aspects are common among many people. The following are signs that things are going well: 

  • It’s relatively easy to maintain your recommended treatment plan.  
  • You rarely if ever feel guilt or shame about your body, weight, or foods that you eat. 
  • You’re rarely if ever obsessed with food or your weight. 
  • Your relationship with food is no longer interfering with your life.  
  • You’re no longer exhibiting compensatory behaviors  
  • You’re sleeping better. 
  • You’re moving for enjoyment, not punishment. This might mean regular walking, dancing, gardening, running, doing yoga, or anything else that brings you joy. 
  • Your relationships are healthy and bring you consistent pleasure. 
  • You feel simple joy and excitement about food; it’s no longer a battle, or fraught with “good” or “bad” associations. 

Five ways to maintain recovery 

  1. Be honest with yourself about how you’re doing. If you notice unhealthy thoughts or behaviors creeping back into your life, don’t try to ignore them. Rather, take action. Sometimes, recovery needs a refresh, so be ready to identify those backsliding moments, and act on them. 
  2. Keep learning about your eating disorder. Stay curious about it. Be open to learning more about yourself and your past ED. It’s best to know what you’re up against, and there’s always new information and new research that may prove helpful. 
  3. Maintain strong therapeutic support. Receiving therapy is always a good thing, ED or no ED. It’s invaluable to continue seeing an expert who knows you well, and who can see things from an objective perspective. Sometimes, the person with the ED is the last person so see things going awry. 
  4. Build a support community. This can be trusted family or friends, or both. Try your best to anchor this community in love, honesty, and empathy. No “judges” allowed in your group! 
  5. Make social media work for you, not against you. Everyone knows the damage social media can do to people with ED tendencies. The unhealthy content, the obsession with “likes,” the constant comparisons with others—it’s a minefield. My advice: Unfollow all those people and sites, and replace them with content that is positive and includes motivating role models and people in successful, long-term ED recovery. 

Recovery is possible  

Living in recovery offers endless possibilities. It gives you the time and space to finally become you. 

People who have found recovery have told me how great it is to be bored again, and to just exist. That can be a profoundly freeing feeling after the relentless, negative looping that is an eating disorder. 


Contact Us
Call Now For a Consultation
Start Your Healing With Koru Spring Today.

"*" indicates required fields

Call now for a consultation