Let’s first start by recognizing that setbacks are always possible and often common in eating disorder recovery. It is rarely a straight trajectory and smooth sailing. What is most important is how you prepare for, respond to and manage any setbacks.
Setbacks can occur for all kinds of reasons. For Example, stress, illness, or circumstances such as fasting for an operation, relationship changes, moving away from familiar routine, or activities/formalities that may have a focus on appearance e.g., wedding.
What can I look out for?
Setbacks are not always noticeable, and thus it is important to regularly check in with yourself, especially in the early days of being in recovery. This may involve a check-in with your Dietitian or Therapist every 3,6,12 months or so. Some signs could be (but are not limited to):
- Thoughts around food becoming less calm and more anxiety-provoking
- Engaging in secretive behaviors (weighing, exercise, purging, restriction, bingeing)
- Negative thoughts about appearance, comparison making, body checking (pinching, mirrors, measuring, weighing)
- Making excuses as to why missing a meal or exercising more, for example, is ok. If you are unwell or traveling and your intake decreases due to circumstances, be mindful that the ED does not convince you, that your intake is fine. This can be a slippery slope.
If you feel yourself slipping back into unhelpful habits, it may be helpful to consider the following:
- Reaching out to your support person, whether that is a family member or friend & discussing what you have noticed
- Re-connecting with your treatment team for a ‘check-in’ appointment. Email us at [email protected] or call 4362 3443 to re-book
- Getting back in with your GP for a review appointment
What can I implement in between appointments?
If you are waiting to see a health professional and want to take active steps now, start by re-introducing some of the foundation steps from when you were engaged in treatment. It may be helpful to ask yourself: ‘What strategies have I used in the past and found helpful, that I can re-introduce or check in on?’.
Sometimes taking it back to basics is necessary.
- Am I eating regularly?
- Am I eating enough? (from the food groups + fun foods)
- Am I staying connected with others or am I gravitating towards more isolating activities?
- Am I allowing myself to rest and recover? What does this look like?
- Am I taking time to reflect on mealtimes and ask myself, does this decision align with my values or my eating disorders?
Setbacks are not always negative
You can utilize your setbacks as stepping stones and an opportunity for growth. Setbacks allow you to learn more about your triggers and more helpful ways to respond, without engaging in eating disorder behaviors. Putting together an in-depth relapse prevention plan with your Clinician is a necessary tool when reducing the intensity of treatment and reducing vulnerability at challenging times.
Maintaining recovery takes daily and ongoing work. It is not a destination, but a journey that you will continue to learn and grow from.
We are always here to support you. Call us on 02 4362 3443.