For those living with an eating disorder, maybe 2020 can be the year you start to work toward recovery. No matter how long you’ve struggled, know that you can find health and wholeness. If entering a treatment program or fully committing to recovery seems intimidating, here are eight small steps you can take right now.
1. Confide in a Trusted Person
If you don’t feel ready to take a major step like seeking treatment for your eating disorder, don’t put pressure on yourself to do so. Instead, start small by telling a trusted friend, relative, mentor, spiritual director, or another person you feel safe talking to about what you’re experiencing.
Eating disorders often cause individuals to isolate themselves from family and friends. Telling someone can be a positive first step to regain control of your life.
2. Find an Online Support Community
The internet connects us in so many ways, and it can connect you to a support community as well. There are many recovery forums and websites that offer first-person accounts of eating disorder recovery, such as The Mighty and The Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness blog.
3. Take a Self-Assessment
If you’re unsure whether or not you have an eating disorder, a self-assessment is a good starting point. You can find these tools for free online. They are not the same as a formal diagnosis and can’t take the place of a medical professional’s assessment, however, they can give you an idea of whether you might have an eating disorder.
There is no pressure with a self-assessment. You don’t have to share the results with anyone. Then if you do choose to seek help, you can show the self-assessment results to your doctor or mental health care provider so you have a starting point to begin the treatment discussion.
4. Seek Out Self-Help Resources
If you’re not ready to commit to formal treatment, you can start out with self-help resources. There are various workbooks, apps, and articles that discuss eating disorder recovery and treatment techniques. Purchasing or downloading one of these tools can be a good starting place for you, but be careful! Some apps can be counterproductive to recovery.
5. Find a Recovery Mentor
Find someone who is in recovery for an eating disorder and would be willing to mentor you on your own journey. Peer support can be very powerful. A good place to start is to attend eating disorder support groups in your community or an online support group. Even if your mentor is across the country, you can still keep in touch via text, phone, or online chat.
6. Practice Self-Care
Self-care is a large component of ongoing recovery. When you nurture your mind, body, and spirit, you will be better able to manage triggers. Self-care doesn’t have to be complicated. It could be as simple as journaling, meditation, or reading a book. If you’re currently in therapy, work with your counselor to create a list of self-care activities you can use each day.
7. Cut Back on Media Consumption
Our culture tends to place a high emphasis on weight and appearance. Seeing images of thin or muscular celebrities can trigger negative thoughts and feelings. These images can be extremely misleading, because photo editing techniques are often used. Try to limit your exposure to this type of media.
8. Talk to Your Doctor or a Mental Health Professional
If you’ve never sought formal treatment for your eating disorder, perhaps now is the right time to do so. These are complex disorders that may require several different treatment methods. Talking to your primary care provider or your therapist is a great first step if entering treatment seems intimidating.
Make 2020 a year of health and well-being. Try taking one of the above steps in the coming months and create a plan to continue working towards recovery throughout the year. If you feel comfortable doing so, maybe it’s time to speak to a trusted individual and ask for help on your recovery journey.
Jodi Jaspan is a Licensed Professional Counselor and serves as the Director of Business Development for Seeds of Hope, an eating disorder treatment program in Pennsylvania. Seeds of Hope treats adults and adolescents of all genders in its outpatient programs, and adult women in its residential treatment program.