Can you Recover from an Eating Disorder?

Kristine Vazzano, PhD

“Will I ever get better?” and “Can I really recover?” are some of the most common questions clients ask when they first seek help for their eating disorder. These are understandable questions. When you are sick with an eating disorder, or your loved one is struggling, it can be really hard to imagine things will improve. Eating disorders are powerful and complicated, but they do not have to be a life sentence.

True recovery from an eating disorder is possible.

Here are some important facts about eating disorder recovery:

  • The sooner someone gets help, the better. Treatment outcomes improve the sooner someone gets the appropriate level of care.
  • An eating disorder requires a professional team approach (therapist, registered dietitian, medical doctor and often a psychiatrist) as well as support from loved ones such as family members and friends.
  • Re-learning normal eating habits and learning new coping skills is essential to recovery.
  • Recovery from an eating disorder requires progress in three areas: physical recovery (returning to a physically healthy body), behavioral recovery (returning to a healthy relationship with food) and emotional recovery (improving disordered thoughts about food and moving toward body acceptance).
  • Recovery is messy! Ups and downs, slips, and even relapses are very common in recovery. Recovery from an eating disorder often looks like a rollercoaster ride. 
  • Recovery can look different for everyone. It may be helpful to define recovery for yourself. What does recovery look like for you? It may mean going out for ice cream with friends guilt free, or it may mean abstaining from any eating disorder behaviors. Develop your recovery definition to help guide your path.

Recovery is never a perfect or linear process. Because we cannot abstain from food, recovery means relearning and developing a healthy relationship with food while navigating new ways of coping and relating with oneself and others. This takes time and practice. Take it one small step at a time, finding ways to keep moving forward!