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Eating Disorder Relapse

Eating Disorder Relapse: Getting Help

by Isabella Coronel
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Find Support for Recovery from Disordered Eating at Catalina

Disordered eating behaviors can be challenging to overcome, and many people experience a relapse of their behaviors and thoughts surrounding food at some point. Whether you have anorexia nervosa, binge eating disorder, or bulimia nervosa, you need the help and assistance of a relapse prevention program. What does an eating disorder relapse look like and how can you treat the warning signs?

If you or a loved one have suffered a relapse in the fight to overcome disordered eating, you are not alone, and there are proven options for support offered at Catalina.

Catalina Behavioral Health has a comprehensive treatment team with experience in treating eating disorders. We can help you get a proper diagnosis, take the first steps toward healing your eating behaviors, and assist you in the event of a relapse.

Keep reading to learn how to get your eating disorder symptoms under control, and learn more about our evidence-based treatment programs now!

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What is an Eating Disorder Relapse?

The recovery process from eating disorders tends to be long and arduous. Even after you get your physical health in order, you may still be at risk of engaging in disordered eating behaviors when you are well into your recovery journey.

It is common to see relapses with 35 to 41 percent of individuals with anorexia nervosa experiencing a recurrence of symptoms in the first 18 months of treatment. Relapse probability in those with bulimia or eating disorders not otherwise specified (ED-NOS) is even higher at 43 percent, predicted by stress and negative life events.

What are the Typical Signs that an Eating Disorder is Returning?

The question here is what does an eating disorder relapse really mean?

Here are a few symptoms and warning signs that your eating disorders might be on their way to turning into a full relapse:

  • Skipping meals or avoiding situations where food might be present
  • Purging meals or snacks
  • Weighing yourself constantly and stressing over the number on the scale
  • Exercising more than usual or in an attempt to keep weight off
  • Negative body image or considering yourself “overweight” despite evidence to the contrary
  • Issues with control around food by being either restrictive or overindulgent
  • Experiencing guilt after eating
  • Obsession with body shape and return of body dysmorphia issues
  • Depression, mood issues, and the tendency to isolate
  • Lying to loved ones and your treatment team about symptoms

If you think that some of these risk factors might be popping up, it is time to get a relapse prevention plan in place. You can get back on track with healthy eating habits with the help of our team at Catalina.

Our Relapse Prevention Program for Eating Disorders

Relapse Prevention Program for Eating Disorders

When you notice more than a few signs of your disordered behaviors rearing up again, it is time to let the professionals know. It might mean that you need more intensive services for a while, a more structured program, or other help intervening in these harmful behaviors.

It is important to maintain hope for your recovery journey, as it is possible to live without the constant need for control around meal times. If relapse occurs, here are a few things you can do to minimize the potentially disastrous consequences of falling back into all the hallmark behaviors of your eating disorder.

Come Up with a Meal Plan

No matter what type of eating disorder you have, a meal plan can be a great tool to alleviate the guilt or decision-making surrounding your meal times. You can work with a nutritionist to set up a healthy diet that you can stick to, planning ahead for what you will eat. Then, when mealtime rolls around, you simply have to refer to the previously established plan.

Instead of feeling guilty surrounding what you choose to eat, you can reassure yourself this was part of the plan. It is also a great way to express control over your eating habits, which can be great for those who turn to their eating disorder for a sense of control.

Aim for at least three meals a day with snacks in between, but your nutritionist or therapist can help you come up with a plan that feels right for you.

Transform Your Life – Get Help for an Eating Disorder Relapse

Increase Therapy for Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, or Binge Eating Disorder

When you experience a relapse, it might be tempting to think about leaving treatment altogether. You know that a team of professionals will notice your weight loss and behaviors surrounding food. It can be tempting to shut them out and pretend that you have entered into full recovery.

Abandon this temptation and increase your therapy sessions. This might mean going back to inpatient treatment where you can receive around-the-clock care, help, and accountability for your eating. It also allows you the opportunity for more intensive therapy both individually and among your peers.

If you are determined to see it through on an outpatient basis, make sure you have a therapist in your support network. They can help you prevent relapse early when you start to notice your self-esteem dropping or self-criticism popping up. With your weight restored, you don’t want to take chances on losing weight and veering into the danger zone again for your physical health.

Reward Yourself When Possible

Reading Book - Motivation for Eating Disorder Relapse

The signs of an eating disorder relapse might be apparent to you, but what can you do to motivate yourself to stick to the straight line of recovery? One of the best things you can do is find ways to motivate yourself to eat regularly and without disordered habits. After you have a meal or a snack according to your meal plan, engage in something that makes you feel better.

This might mean something as simple as lighting a candle and meditating for a few minutes. It could mean taking a bubble bath after dinner, practicing breathwork and mindfulness, going for a gentle walk, or reading for a little while before bed.

A Few Possible Healthy Ways to Relax and Celebrate

Other ideas for self-care include:

  • Listening to upbeat music and having a dance party
  • Journaling about your feelings
  • Drawing or painting
  • Practicing yoga
  • Having a spa day

Get creative with what feels motivating to you to keep up with your eating habits. When you have something to look forward to, you will feel more motivated to complete your eating goals for the day without restricting, binging, or purging.

Always reward yourself for any signs of forward progress instead of withholding good things from yourself because you don’t feel you “deserve” them.

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Lean into Your Coping Skills When Eating Disorder Symptoms Come Up

Chances are you have already learned about coping skills during your treatment for your eating disorder. These are the tools you have in your back pocket for when your eating disorder starts to lie to you about what you should do regarding food, exercise, and your body image.

This can be very similar to self-care and rewarding yourself, but it is something you should engage in proactively. Any time you have disordered eating behaviors pop up, you should engage them with a coping skill that makes it possible for you to eat in a way that is healthier.

Sit down with your therapist and create a list of all the activities you do that prevent you from thinking about your eating habits. If something has worked for you in the past, make sure to add it to the list. Maybe meditation helps you to be more mindful around meals. Perhaps you can call an encouraging friend who understands your behaviors.

Take note of anything at all that could potentially be helpful for you to stop engaging with your eating disorder. Alternatively, it could simply take the focus off of the problematic thoughts long enough for you to eat your meal or snack.

Don’t Focus on the Setbacks to Define Your Self-Worth

Engaging in a Hobby - Eating Disorder Relapse Prevention

Your self-image plays a vital role in your recovery journey. Don’t allow a recurrence of symptoms to negatively impact your sense of worth. It is a natural part of the process for you to have days, weeks, or even months that feel harder than others. As long as you are sticking with your treatment, you can get a relapse prevention plan in place quickly.

Do what you can to improve your self-esteem, whether that looks like volunteering, engaging in a hobby you happen to be great at, or spending time with uplifting people. Remember that your support network plays a vital role in treatment (and recovery).

The catch is that you do not want to overdo it in an attempt to run away from your problems. Do all things in moderation. In other words, you do not want to be too harsh or demanding with yourself when you are also struggling with an eating disorder relapse that requires your time, focus, and attention.

Overcome Eating Disorder Relapse with Our Help – Reach Out Now!

Allow Catalina Behavioral Health to Support Your Recovery

Whether you are just entering treatment for the first time or need assistance with a relapse of your eating disorder, Catalina Behavioral Health is here to offer the support you need. From inpatient treatment to outpatient services to support groups, we offer a robust and evidence-based treatment program to help you make progress.

Don’t wait another day to start fighting back on an eating disorder relapse. Our Admissions team is ready and waiting to help you find hope, healing, and a brighter future without your eating disorder.

Reach out to us today to learn more about how we can help you through a relapse!

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