Look to Your Community for Support in Lasting Eating Disorders Recovery

Chief Marketing Officer Julie Holland’s EverydayHealth blog “The Truth About Eating Disorders,” is temporarily unavailable while it moves to a new location on the EverydayHealth website. In the meantime, Julie’s blogs will be posted here on the Eating Recovery Center blog. Eating disorders recovery is an ongoing, lifelong process. Leaving the familiarity and security of an eating disorders treatment center can be overwhelming at first. However, through identifying community resources and turning to those around us for support and guidance, lasting eating disorders recovery can be reality. That’s exactly what we saw last weekend at Eating Recovery Center’s 2nd Annual Alumni Retreat. Each summer, we invite all former adult patients to attend a two-day retreat to connect with old friends and treatment professionals and find support wherever they may be in their eating disorders recovery process. During the retreat, alumni are able to attend sessions that speak to what they participated in while seeking treatment at the Center, such as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), which supports the idea that people can live a valued life in the presence of negative thoughts and feelings. Alumni events are opportunities to extend lessons learned in treatment to each individual’s own life. Eating disorders relapse prevention One crucial element that we stress during each alumni event, and in aftercare planning, is eating disorders relapse prevention. Although an individual may be in recovery from an eating disorder, it’s a lifelong journey to stay in recovery; therefore, Pam Cleland, MS, LPC, aftercare coordinator at Eating Recovery Center, offers these four ways that individuals can prevent themselves from experiencing an eating disorder relapse.

  1. Be consistent with your outpatient treatment team. Regular visits with your clinician, dietitian, psychiatrist and other members of your team are crucial to lasting recovery.
  2. Follow your meal plan diligently. Your nutritionist carefully plans out your meal plan so that it can be a source of empowerment as you continue in recovery.
  3. Surround yourself with friends, family and loved ones who are understanding, nonjudgmental and can help in preventing relapse.
  4. Never forget your internal values. Focusing on your internal values will help improve your “selfs”: self-esteem, self-awareness and self-confidence.

An eating disorder relapse doesn’t have to be a major setback, as long as you use your support network and treatment team to work through it. Pam encourages individuals to remember an eating disorders relapse doesn’t mean failure. Using exercise in a healthy manner For eating disordered individuals, it can be difficult to find a healthy way to return to exercise, especially if they’re recovering from bulimia nervosa and compulsively exercised to purge calories. Additionally, it’s not realistic to believe a patient will remove all exercise for his or her life; after all, it’s a healthy activity. As a patient, what is important is developing a healthy “movement plan” with your nutritionist or dietitian that incorporates relevant activities, your meal plan and addresses the dangerous implications of over-exercising. Eating disorders recovery is a process Eating disorders recovery is all about practicing. Throughout eating disorders treatment, patients are taught different ways to practice non-eating disordered behaviors, practice how to handle negative thoughts and practice supporting their own wellbeing. However, if you find yourself, a friend or a loved one going through an eating disorders relapse, be kind to yourself and accept those personal limitations that inevitably exist, but don’t set you back. Know that “failure” doesn’t define you and embrace that you’re willing to take on challenges. -- Did you miss out on this year’s alumni retreat? Email Sarah Gilstrap ( and ask to be added to our alumni e-newsletter list to say up to date on all alumni events.

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