Tips for Preventing Eating Disorder Relapse

Tips for Preventing Eating Disorder Relapse by Timberline Knolls Staff

Recovering from an eating disorder, such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, or binge-eating disorder, is often a process that can take a significant amount of time. The recovery process is different for each person, and for many people, relapse might be a part of that journey. However, there are measures you can take to help decrease your chances of experiencing relapse as you progress through your recovery journey.

Understanding Eating Disorder Relapse

Even after someone has participated in treatment for an eating disorder, they may still be at risk for relapse of some of the symptoms they struggled with previously. In fact, according to a 2016 study in the journal BMC Psychiatry, studies on relapse prevention have found that up to 41% of patients in recovery from anorexia nervosa experience relapse within 18 months.

Many different influences can trigger the compulsion to engage in disordered eating behaviors after treatment, including:

  • Experiencing extreme stress or trauma
  • Becoming pregnant or having a baby
  • Being around someone who is on a restrictive diet
  • Starting a new relationship or going through a breakup
  • Experiencing an injury that keeps you from exercising
  • Any weight gain, whether age or health-related

Eating disorders are complex illnesses that no two people experience the same way, so each person has their own personal triggers that may make them more vulnerable to relapse. What might be a trigger for one person might not be a trigger for another.

Eating Disorder Relapse Prevention Tips
Viewing recovery from an eating disorder as a journey rather than a destination is the first step toward preventing relapse. This requires a firm understanding that the healing process may take years depending on your unique situation. Your journey might be shorter — or longer — than others’, but the key is to prepare for the process. These are some of the most beneficial relapse prevention tools to add to your recovery toolkit:

  • Identify your triggers: Understanding what situations and emotions trigger the urge to engage in disordered eating behaviors can help you anticipate these influences before they become triggers. Identifying your triggers can also help you understand why you might be struggling to cope with specific situations.

  • Turn to your support system: Two major factors of eating disorders are secrecy and isolation. To prevent these influences from creeping back in, turn to a trusted friend or family member when you’re feeling triggered and let them know you’re struggling. If the symptoms you’re experiencing start to become overwhelming, ask your support network for help.

If you do experience a relapse, it does not mean you have failed. There is hope for recovery no matter where you are in your wellness journey. With some preparation and self-awareness, you can minimize your risk for experiencing a relapse.

Re-framing the New Year

Re-framing the New Year

Written by Meagan Mullen, MA, MHC, Clinician & Community Outreach Specialist

The start of a New Year is often associated with self-improvement, and we ALL know that this often takes the form of diets, “lifestyle changes,” and other ways to control your body.

It can be hard to ignore the messages that seem even more prevalent this time of year, but we’re here to remind you that changes you make in your life don’t have to be external or physical!

We compiled a list of ways you can take care of yourself in the New Year without sacrificing your recovery, your health, or your sanity!

  1. Work on self-compassion. It’s easy to be your own worst enemy or critique yourself. This year, try to remember that you’re doing the best you can. Find some mantras that will help you shift negative self-talk or negative patterns of thinking. We love these ones!

  2. Remember that your time is precious. It’s so important to be mindful of how we spend our time. If you’re someone who needs alone time, make sure you get some, and don’t feel guilty! If you feel reenergized by spending time with friends, schedule that in! There is plenty to do in this day and age to keep ourselves busy, but say “no” to things you don’t have (or want) to do, and remember that you deserve to feel good and enjoy yourself!

  3. Work on your relationships if needed. Do you have a friend you’ve fallen out of touch with or a family member who you’d like to feel closer to? Take time to reach out to people you want to connect with! On the other hand, practice setting boundaries in relationships that feel toxic.

  4. Find a new hobby. You are a multidimensional human! You are not just an employee, a parent, a child, a student. Find things that make you smile and take your brain off of diet culture or your eating disorder. Try to find that inner joy and be gentle with yourself as you do!

  5. Find other ways to focus on your health. Health is more than your weight, shape, or the physical aspects that are so often focused on! Take care of your mental health, emotional health, spiritual health. Reach out when you need support, find ways to rest. If you feel inclined to consider your physical health this year, read more about intuitive eating or joyful movement.

Need more support this year? MEDA is here to help! Call us at (617)558-1881 or email us at