The Phases of Eating Disorder Recovery
Exploring the 3 phases of recovering from disordered eating
As an Eating Disorder Dietitian, I know that recovery from a complicated relationship with food, chronic dieting or an eating disorder isn’t easy. It is often messy and sometimes up and down. Below are some of the things you may find helpful to review on your journey to creating a healthy relationship with food and your body.
What does recovery from disordered eating actually look like?
Whether you are recovering from a life long battle with the dieting mentality or recovering from a diagnosed eating disorder, the process is still generally the same. The symptoms and behaviors are specific to the individual and their situation, but our approach remains the same.
Eating Disorder Recovery Phase 1
Goal: Reduce and stop using disordered eating behaviors
Expert: Whole team, including you.
The first phase of recovery is where I am going to get really nerdy on you. This is where your Dietitian uses their expertise in science and behavioral change to help you gradually let go of your disordered eating behaviors. The goal here is to make sure that you are medically stable first and that you are not engaging in any behavior that may harm you mentally or physically.
Those behaviors could include:
- Restricting certain food groups unnecessarily;
- Under eating or overeating related to stress or medication side effects;
- Feeling like you need to exercise to earn your food;
- Eating in a sporadic manner that is causing some intestinal discomfort;
- Feeling like you have to eat only clean foods or make the “best” choice always;
- Any behavior that is negatively impacting your relationship with food.
Phase 1 is a big phase! It is where a lot of the work happens. This phase often requires that you build in structure and be more methodical in how you eat.
One question that I get all the time is: “If I am no longer doing my disordered behaviors, am I done? Is that recovery?” The answer, is no. This is not as good as it gets. Now, we get to start challenging our new food behaviors.
Eating Disorder Recovery Phase 2
Goal: Get more comfortable in how you are using food and behaving around food in all different situations
Expert: The whole team and you get to take a bigger role here!
The second phase of recovery is both exciting and challenging. This is where we get to start exploring potentially challenging situations like social settings, festive meals, trying new foods, travelling, or whatever situation has made food hard for you before.
Compassionate input from friends and family can be helpful here since we may think food isn’t a challenge but often our loved ones around us may be able to point out situations they can see that our own authentic self doesn’t show up. You or your loved one’s might notice you may be in your head sometimes and not present or in the moment around food. There may be times you are not being flexible with your food choices or not living life to the fullest due to planning or routines.
At this phase you are beginning to feel a sense of food freedom and can identify times where old thinking is getting in the way with a willingness to abandon the rules and challenge yourself.
Eating Disorder Recovery Phase 3
Goal: Learn to be the expert in how you use food!
Expert: This is when you get to learn tools to become the expert in supporting yourself!
Phase three is where all the skills you have learned so far show up! By now, you have a good understanding of your hunger and fullness cues, you know what your challenging food-related situations look like, you know the mindset you need to maintain making choices that serve you best, and know what things could throw you off track. Through the phases of recovery you have built trust in yourself. You have learned to take care of yourself in a way that makes you feel your best and how to problem solve if something is getting in the way.
Phase three is when you happily get to fire your Dietitian!
Disclaimer – Don’t be a stranger! Feel free to keep in touch and update us over time. It is a sign of strength to reach out for help during different seasons of life that food may become a challenge. You never need to struggle alone.
Who is on your team?
The members of your team depend on your individual situation. Team members can include: you, your support system (family, friends, loved ones), your Registered Dietitian, you Physician, your Counsellor or Psychologist, support groups, and any other care provider that feels helpful for you.
If you are ready to challenge your disordered eating behaviors and want to know what this process would look like for you, let us know! You can find out more information about our Eating Disorder Dietitian services and help for establishing a healthier relationship with food here: Private Virtual Nutrition Counseling Support.
Are you interested in receiving personal nutrition support? Our team of Registered Dietitians can help!
Our Registered Dietitian team specialize in nutrition for mental health, meal planning, weight concerns, emotional eating, eating disorders, digestive health and more. Find out more about our Dietitian Nutrition Counseling Programs here.
As trained Registered Dietitians, you can count on us for credible advice and practical meal planning so you don’t have to stress about food anymore. You can achieve a healthy and joyous relationship with food and your body. Let’s talk about what this can look like for you.
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Disordered Eating, Emotional Eating & Sports Nutrition
Fitness enthusiast and lover of all things food, Jana is passionate about helping her clients improve their relationship with food and their body. She is a strong, motivational leader. Jana also offers the balance of a warm, supportive coaching style to nudge her clients from their comfort zone while feeling safe and supported. She specializes in mental health, eating disorders, body image and sports nutrition.