Eating disorder recovery can be broken down into 5 stages. The first two stages involve denying the issue at hand and avoiding help. The third and fourth stages occur when the individual admits they have a problem and begins to seek help and take action to get better.
The fifth stage of eating disorder recovery is considered the maintenance stage. During this phase, the individual continues to maintain their new, healthy habits, establish strategies to help cope with triggers, and learn how to live life while minimizing relapses with the healthy coping skills they have learned.
In our experience, we have found that too many approaches to eating disorders merely focus on diminishing eating disorder behaviors before discharge, without also getting to the bottom of what causes the problem. Eating disorders are often said to be behavioral disorders. But that is not all there is to them. People binge and purge, restrict food, or even starve themselves, for a reason. These behaviors arise from intentions, and in programs where these underlying issues are not addressed, the individuals suffering from the disorder are more likely to relapse in the fifth stage of recovery.
One of our approaches to disordered eating that sets us apart is our commitment to Treat to Outcome. We don’t just treat the eating disorder symptoms. We treat the whole person. So we are not just suppressing symptoms and behaviors, our goal is to help people to grow out of the need for them. This idea is worked into our treatment the entire time our clients are at Avalon Hills and while we have found that this approach is enough to help them when they leave, there are additional helpful ways to maintain eating disorder recovery including:
- Be mindful of triggers: During the early stages of recovery, individuals are likely to eliminate things in their lives that trigger their eating disorder. This can include scales, diet foods, social media sites, and certain environments or people. During the maintenance stage of recovery, it’s wise to continue to avoid situations that might cause you to slip back into old eating disorder habits and thoughts.
- Make a plan: During this stage of recovery, it may be tempting to slip back into old eating disorder habits. Establishing a plan ahead of time to help cope with potential triggers, emotions, and eating disorder thoughts can help a recovering individual prepare to resist relapse and stay on the recovery track.
- Set goals: Continue to set recovery goals. This can be as simple as eating three meals and two snacks a day or writing out larger goals involving lifelong ambitions. Setting a good range of goals and hitting those goals ensures positive progress.
- Celebrate your success: Reaching this stage of recovery means that tremendous progress has been made. Individuals should celebrate this progress and reward themselves for their hard work and commitment. This may look like making more of a commitment for self-care, getting away with friends, or enjoying an activity they love.
If you or someone you love is experiencing an eating disorder or is in the recovery process, do not lose hope. There is a way to maintain a healthy lifestyle following recovery. For more information or help, give us a call at 866-616-9706.