Recovering from an eating disorder is a difficult struggle that affects everyone differently. Although the treatment plans may be similar, each person experiences different emotions and their own versions of highs and lows, triumphs and defeats, loves and losses. Recovering from an eating disorder means more than the obsession with scales, measuring cups, hiding food, constant guilt and baggy clothes. It means learning to appreciate yourself for who you are without obsessing about your body image or food. It means mending broken relationships that have been damaged because of your eating disorder. It means learning to cope with negative emotions associated with past abuse and trauma. Recovery means overcoming your battle with low-self esteem and not listening to the advertisements, fashion magazines and all of the negative media telling you what your body should and shouldn’t look like.

Life in treatment

However remaining in recovery, post-treatment, is very difficult and you may be faced with unhealthy urges and difficult decisions. When you are in a treatment facility, you are constantly looked after by professionals who set boundaries for you, tell you when and what you can and cannot eat, chart every step of your progress and provide you with therapy and tools to help uncover and control your emotions. Treatment is not easy by any means, it is extremely hard to admit you have a problem, share your feelings in group sessions, eat every vitamin, snack, and meal you are provided when you are used to eating next to nothing and be vulnerable to every person around you. Life in recovery after treatment is a different kind of challenge.

The transition to the real world

When you are back in the real world (working to earn money, doing housework, walking your dog, and grocery shopping), no individual is going to “watch over you” like they were while you were receiving acute treatment. You are responsible for your own actions and decisions. You may feel like you are always around people or environments where you feel pressured to make poor decisions about your diet or engage in behaviors such a binging or purging that can result in relapse. But these are your choices to make, and you are now in control. Your support system in recovery will most likely consist of therapists, nutritionists, friends, doctors, and family members but at the end of the day, you have to make your own individual choice to eat right and maintain your goal body weight, whatever that may be.

Here are some things to keep in mind during the transition from being in acute treatment to being released into the “real world” of recovery:

  • Be honest with yourself. If you or your therapist believes you are not ready to leave inpatient care and transition into a lower level of care, then trust this decision.
  • Surround yourself with people who will support you. You will have enough triggers and urges to work through in recovery. You do not want to be around people who are negative or may tempt you in your recovery.
  • Rely on your support system. If you feel a rush of negative feelings that you may not be able to control, call a friend, family member, therapist or go to a support group. These people are here to help you through rough days.
  • Practice the tools you learned in therapy. You went through weeks or months of treatment to learn coping skills and tools to help you throughout the rest of your life. Whether it is mindfulness, meditation, learning to dissociate your thoughts through cognitive behavior therapy or simply walking away from the negative situation; your tools are there to be practiced daily and not just when you are in a tight spot.