It is important to remember that while relapse is possible, not every slip is a relapse. It can be discouraging and overwhelming to experience a slip in the middle of recovery. Every day will be the start of a new recovery and will have a new battle attached to it.
Eating disorders can carry a sense of “black and white” thinking and discouragement about slips can hinder recovery. Remember that if your loved one does relapse, this is a normal and common part of recovery. Don’t give up!
Though weight and eating habits may change during treatment, the real battle is overcoming the negative thought processes that were created about food and the individual’s weight and body.
A qualitative study on eating disorders identified six different categories for the success of eating disorder recovery:
Internal motivation to change. Many people who have eating disorders will either be in denial that they have an eating disorder or they will deny that it is a problem. It is important to encourage and support your loved one but until they decide to make changes for themselves, recovery will be slow.
Recovery is a process: It is important to remember that recovery is a work in progress. Eating disorders are not about food or weight, they are about an internal struggle which is more difficult to change. It will take a lot of time, patience and support. Don’t get discouraged if your loved one slips.
Perceptions about treatment: It can be valuable to have support from those who are going through similar experiences (example support groups). Eating disorders hold deeper issues that are not easily talked about or understood unless you have one. One of the steps to recovery is believing that it will work.
Developing a life outside of eating disorders: Eating disorders can be all consuming for those involved. Supportive relationships are incredibly beneficial to have during times of uncertainty and recovery. In addition to support during recovery, it can help to develop relationships and a sense of normality outside of their disorder.
Awareness and tolerance of negative emotion: Eating disorders carry a lot of shame and negative self-talk. This is one of the hardest aspects of eating disorders to overcome, however it IS possible.
Self- validation: In addition to negative emotions, positive reassurance from the individual themselves can also help improve recovery.