by Pam Minichiello, LMHC
Here’s 8 Tips For Creating a Solid Recovery Plan
- Find a Solid Team.
A good foundation for a stable stool is three or four legs. Similarly, an outpatient recovery team is typically made up of a psychotherapist, a nutritionist, a medical doctor (usually your PCP), and a psychopharmacologist, if applicable. Most practitioners in the field recommend strongly that you choose a therapist and nutritionist who specialize in the treatment of eating disorders. Talk with your doctor or your team if you think you might want or need a physician specialist. Know that a good team will be one that communicates regularly with each other, providing you with the most comprehensive treatment possible.
At the start of treatment, weekly appointments with your therapist and nutritionist are strongly recommended. Your medical status will determine how often you’ll need to see your doctor. Consistent and regular sessions with your providers are important in helping you keep on track. Treatment approaches and styles vary, so it’s important for you to find a good fit. Your treatment will serve to help you to reduce and then eliminate symptoms, improve self-understanding of underlying issues, learn and use healthy coping strategies, and repair your relationship with food and your body.
- Use Whatever Motivation Exists for You Right Now.
If for example you are working to recover only for a family member or so that you can return to school, that is OK. Motivation for yourself will come along. Both hope and motivation will likely vacillate and they are inherently linked. If you are depressed or beginning to feel low, hope will suffer and your motivation will follow.
Remind yourself that recovery is challenging and you are not a failure for feeling ambivalent – it is very common. And people can still make steps towards recovery, even when ambivalence is strong. You will have times when you are lonely. You will have times when you disconnected from the world. Sometimes it will seem like no one truly knows how you feel. Reach out to your team. Reach out to your tribe – not to your eating disorder. And if you feel you have no one to reach out to, your team can help you find a support group.
Note that if you are feeling depressed, get help right away – depression is serious and warrants yours and your team’s full attention. And of course, if you are having thoughts of death or suicide, tell someone close to you or your provider immediately.
- Be Honest.
Be honest with all members of your team – and your loved ones. And just because no one asks you that specific question, doesn’t make your omission a truth. Keeping things to yourself will not make you feel any better. You might be embarrassed, feel ashamed, feel ambivalent. However, you can, muster up your “brave” and tell them whatever’s going on. To quote from AA: “Secrets keep you sick”. Others can’t help if you don’t let them know your struggles.
- Follow Your Team’s Advice.
Yes, no one is ever right 100% of the time, but your team are specialists who want you to succeed and to be free of your eating disorder. They are on your side, even when they recommend you to take some difficult and challenging steps. If you struggle to follow their advice, let them know that’s happening for you.
- Keep Your Recovery Priority.
This is hard. As part of your treatment, try making a recovery goal for the week with your therapist and nutritionist. This will help you hold yourself accountable. Also, know that the goal could stay the same over and over, and that’s OK. Remember that you learned to walk and this took hundreds of stumbles, falling down and getting back up, and even tears. But now, if you are able-bodied, walking happens virtually without a thought. This is not a race – this is your life. Sometimes when you are having a tough time, you might be tempted to withdraw and to skip therapy. During these times, you need to practice “opposite to emotion action.” Text, call, or visit your supports. Attend your appointments. While you may feel a strong pull to cancel, this is the time when you need your team the most.
- Practice Patience with the Process, Including Body Image.
If negative body image concerns are part of your eating disorder, it’s likely you’ve heard that relief from these negative beliefs takes place during the latter part of the recovery process. Sadly, this is true for most. No one is really sure why this is the case, but a possible guess is that healing of the brain’s interoceptive abilities may lag behind our behavioral, emotional, and physical healing. Another contribution may come from our society at large. It’s nearly impossible to avoid negative body messages as you navigate the diet-culture world we live in. Hopefully, this culture is changing, but in the meantime remain mindful that these messages are not directed toward you – rather – they are directed at your wallet. Know also that however you feel about your body, it does get better. Your team will help you. Patience and self-compassion are key, as is not letting your body image dictate today’s food or exercise choices.
- Do *Not* Weigh Yourself.
One eating disorder study (Monte Nido, 2007) has shown that returning to weighing oneself during recovery is correlated strongly with increased rates of relapse. Often people in recovery continue to feel the scale will help reduce their anxiety. But I have found over the years that it does exactly the opposite. Even if someone feels a brief temporary relief after weighing, his/her preoccupation with the number and with food and body begins to increase sharply in intensity and frequency. When humans were living in caves, did they need scales? No, of course not! And neither do we! The scale is not your friend. Do find human friends instead, who can reassure you of your intrinsic value.
- Be Gentle with Yourself When You Stumble.
Recovery is not a straight line up. It’s bumpy. You may have a slip, you may have a relapse, or even, several. That is, unfortunately, the nature of many recoveries. Keep reminding yourself during these times, that people do recover all the time and you can recover too.
Make a New Rule: Never Give Up!
Over more than a decade of doing this work, what keeps me going is my conviction that every single one of us deserves to live happy and free. You deserve to recover.
Forget any ideas you might have that it’s not so bad, that others are sicker and deserve it more, that they can do it but you just can’t. Your team can help you move to knowing your intrinsic value and that you are both loveable and important, always. While you might not yet *feel* worthy, indeed you are. What’s more, you will find this to be true in the future. I promise. And don’t forget to keep following New Rule #8.
Multiservice Eating Disorder Association (MEDA), Newton, MA; Website: https://www.medainc.org/
National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA); Website: https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/
Binge Eating Disorder Association (NEDA); Website: https://bedaonline.com/
Eating Disorder Hope; Website: https://www.eatingdisorderhope.com/
Monte Nido Study: http://www.montenido.com/pdf/OutcomeReport_Complete.pdf