This page offers ideas on recovery tools to use during your recovery process. One would think this information is readily available, however, it is difficult to find sources that present a variety of recovery tools to people with eating disorders.
Read through the list of tools and choose those that will help you on your path to recovery. If you have other helpful recovery tools you use not listed here, let us know about them by writing to Chris@NAMEDinc.org, so we can include your recovery tools on this list.
R E C O V E R Y T O O L S
TOOL: Get support
PURPOSE: Supporters can give you encouragement
NOTES: Supporters are people who you can confide in and give you encouragement and help. Support can come from family, friends, support groups, and counselors. If you are not in treatment, consider finding a therapist.
TOOL: Find professional help
PURPOSE: Full recovery from eating disorder
NOTES: Therapists are an excellent source of help and support. Counselors will listen to you and try to understand, they can give direction and feedback, they can encourage you to continue your recovery work, and they are there to compliment your successes in recovery.
For best results in recovery, utilize as many professionals as needed on your treatment team, such as an individual therapist, nutritionist, psychiatrist, etc. Also, consider involvement in a support or therapy group. For more information on treatment, see the "Treatment" page on this website.
TOOL: Follow a meal plan
PURPOSE: Keeps you on track to achieve your healthy weight goals
NOTES: The meal plan provides a guide for a balanced, healthy, and adequately caloric intake of food to meet your body’s daily nutritional needs. Meal plans help people learn the appropriate quantity of food/calories needed by the body as well as to accustom them to eating quality and a variety of foods. Under the guidance of a nutritionist, a good meal plan challenges clients to eat new foods, including those foods that may mistakenly be labeled as "bad" or "unsafe".
TOOL: Meal support
PURPOSE: Support from family and/or friends at meals
NOTES: Meal support refers to the support others are able to give a person with an eating disorder during a meal. The support person can be someone who the person with the eating disorder feels comfortable confiding in, should he need to talk about the negative feelings he is experiencing during meals. The support person can gently offer support and encouragement.
However, in general, others provide support just through their presence at a meal and sharing the meal together. Avoid talking about things that may cause the person with the eating disorder stress and anxiety. Keep conversation upbeat and enjoyable. The distraction of conversation will help distract the person with the eating disorder from obsessive thoughts and guilt about the food he is eating.
PURPOSE: Explore and record your feelings
: Through journaling you can put your thoughts and feelings into words. Doing this helps to organize your thoughts and feelings and explore underlying causes of your eating disorder. Re-reading entries at a later date allows you to see how you have progressed over time. Insights from journaling can help you make connections to what triggers you to restrict food, purge, or binge.
Choose daily goal to accomplish
Helps keep you focused on the work of recovery
The day before or early the morning of, consciously think or write down your goal for the day. It could be a food goal or a behavior, thought pattern or attitude change. This technique gives you a feeling of control over change, because you are freely choosing to work at achieving a self-made goal rather than being manipulated to make changes.
List pros and cons for eating disorder and recovery
Helps you make a commitment to recovery
By understanding why you do not want your eating disorder and why you want recovery, you can freely and consciously choose recovery. This helps keep you focused on and committed to your goals for recovery.
Write your eulogy
Helps you realize what is important in life to you
Writing your eulogy helps you to think about how you want others to remember you. Do you want to be remembered for your eating disorder, your discipline, your appearance, your obsessions, your accomplishments, your inner personal qualities, or what?
List your goals for 5 years, 10 years, and your retirement goals
Helps give direction to your life and a reason to recover
You will find that your eating disorder interferes with your goals and that you have to choose either your life goals or your eating disorder. A zealous pursuit of your life goals gives you the strength to fight your eating disorder and the commitment to work toward recovery.
Give your Eating Disorder (ED) the name Ed
Helps you to view your illness as separate from yourself
It helps the person with the eating disorder and their family and friends to view the eating disorder as a separate entity apart from the self. Love the person, hate the destructive disease.
Be aware of “Ed’s Voice” and the "Recovery Voice” speaking in you. Make a commitment to follow the recovery voice. This will be very challenging, because the two voices fight each other for control. Listen carefully to the recovery voice in you and be ready to silence and ignore Ed's voice.
List a “Recovery Rule” for each “Eating Disorder (ED) Rule”
Silence the “ED voice”
List all the negative statements/rules you hear from the ED voice within you when you eat an “unsafe” food, look at yourself in the mirror or other triggering events. Counter each ED Rule with a Recovery Rule. The Recovery Rule is the new, healthy, and positive perspective you will use to transform your thinking each time the ED Rule comes to mind.
For example, an ED Rule might be, “If I eat dessert, I will become fat.” The Recovery Rule might be, “I am in control and trust myself to eat dessert in moderation, so I do not have to worry about gaining weight. Besides, I deserve to treat myself to dessert.”
Helps alleviate depression, anxiety, etc.
Depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsiveness, and other physical and psychological problems can be so overwhelming or distracting that people cannot think clearly and are not motivated to work at recovery. Through alleviating mental and physical symptoms, improving mood, and helping one to think more clearly, medication can be a useful tool to the recovery process. Consult a psychiatrist for an evaluation of what medications might help you.
Thinking of food as medicine
Helps develop a commitment to a meal plan
Some people with anorexia find it helpful to view food as medicine that will restore their health. Just as medication or medicine is used to heal or alleviate physical or psychological symptoms, so too, food provides needed calories and nutrients to restore the body's health. And, just as medicine must be taken at regular intervals, so too, food needs to be consumed at regular intervals to provide the body with vitality and energy.
This tool can also be applied to a compulsive overeater who is also on a meal plan who is learning to become comfortable with eating new, healthier food choices, which may not initially have much appeal.
Use a distraction
Helps prevent you from engaging in ED behavior
The distraction should be some activity you can focus on to distract you until the urge to act on a maladaptive behavior subsides. Anorexics and bulimics often feel guilty about what they just ate, so a walk, journaling, or some other distractive activity after a meal is helpful at reducing the intensity of their emotions after eating. This technique helps bingers to prevent a binge and bulimics to refrain from purging. Distractive activities can include hobbies, exercise, reading, talking with another person, etc.
: Healthy, non-conversational outlet for self-expression
Various forms of artistic expression include: drawing, painting, writing, singing, dancing, acting, etc. Artistic expression gives you an opportunity to express yourself and be creative in a healthy, non-conversational way. Sometimes artistic expression can be used to express feelings that are difficult to communicate verbally. An art therapist, for example, might ask a client to express his feeling through drawing a picture.
Artistic activities can be used as a distraction activity when there is an urge to engage in eating disorder behaviors.
Helps you relax and reduce your anxiety
Visualization is an effective relaxation technique and can be used to help minimize anticipatory anxiety over being in certain situations. If you are using visualization as purely a relaxation technique, visualize a peaceful, tranquil, beautiful environment, such as a meadow of flowers, a beach, a forest with streams and waterfalls, etc. Imagine yourself in these places, experiencing it through all your senses - sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste.
Visualization can also be used to minimize your anxiety over something you anticipate experiencing. For example, visualize yourself eating an “unsafe” food, maybe it is ice cream. Visualize eating the ice cream, who you are with, what you are talking about, how the ice cream tastes, where you are eating it, etc.
To minimize social anxiety, visualize how your experience will be at a social gathering. Think of who you are talking with, how you feel talking with others and being in this environment, do you feel comfortable with eating, rate your level of anxiety, become aware of what each of your senses is taking in, etc. Try to be open to a positive experience in the visualization instead of focusing exclusively on your fears and the negative aspects you expect to feel.
Develop a positive mind-set
Positive affirmations are goals stated as if they were already true, achieved or believed. These self-affirming phrases and sentences are vocalized and repeated, in order to both counteract negative and limiting beliefs about yourself and to ingrain in you the reality of these self-affirming statements. As you repeat positive affirmations out loud, emotionally experience them and really believe them, so they can effectively transform your thinking, feelings, and behaviors.
Examples of positive affirmations, include:
1. I am fully committed to working toward recovery
2. I love my body and am okay with its flaws
3. I work with energy and determination toward my career goals
Experience state of peace free from distractions
Meditation can take many forms. One form is centering yourself by repeating a word, phrase or a meaningless made-up word. Concentrate exclusively on that word or phrase. If distractions come to mind, gently let them go and continue to focus on the word or phrase.
If using this tool for spiritual reasons, you may repeat a scripture verse or a spiritually significant word.
If interested in meditation, read on the subject for more ideas on how to obtain a state of inner peace.
Centering self to experience inner peace
Developed in India, yoga is a mental, physical, and spiritual discipline with a goal of attaining perfect spiritual insight and deep inner peace. Yoga involves the practice of poses or positions and exercises. Yoga can help you completely relax, become tuned into your mind and body, center yourself, free yourself from outside distractions, and improve your body’s health. This allows you to experience the “authentic you” at the very core – body, mind, soul, and spirit. The calming affect from the yoga should refresh you and energize you to become that new self.
Draw strength from your Higher Power
Prayer is a spiritual exercise that deepens one’s relationship with God, the Divine, a Higher Power, the Creator. Prayer can take various forms, including expressing yourself to your Higher Power in a conversational-style as if talking to a friend, meditation, reading scripture and religious and inspirational writings, and other forms of devotion, praise, and centering self.
Express feelings without inhibitions
Write a letter to a friend or family member in whom you have negative feelings towards or have been hurt by. Do not send this letter. Use writing this letter as a way to express your feelings and explain why you feel as you do. You are not sending it to the offender, so you do not have to worry about hurting the other person’s feelings when you write it.
Two Chair Technique
Express your feelings and get other person’s perspective
Sit in one chair and make believe the person you have the grudge against, are angry with or have a conflict with is sitting in the other chair next to you. Express your thoughts and feelings to that person and ask questions. Change chairs and make believe you are now the other person responding to you, explaining how he or she thinks and feels, and answering your questions.
Anxiety Rating Scale
Helps you understand your level of anxiety
In different situations rate your anxiety on a scale of 1-10 with 1 being feeling completely relaxed and 10 being feeling such extreme anxiety that you are unable to think clearly and function normally. If your anxiety was high, ask yourself what could you do to reduce your anxiety level down to a lower number?
Hunger Rating Scale
Helps you assess your feelings of hunger and fullness
A person with an eating disorder has lost his ability to gauge his level of hunger and fullness. Following a meal plan that contains adequate calories and nutrients eaten at regular intervals helps the person learn the appropriate amount to eat and what that feels like. It is as if one’s system has to “calibrate” itself to recognize hunger and fullness cues.
The Hunger Rating Scale can be used to assess your degree of hunger and fullness. A one represents extremely hungry to the point of feeling weak and a ten represents uncomfortably full. One should stop eating at 8, comfortably full. While you are on a meal plan become aware of your hunger and fullness sensations, so you can respond to these cues when not on a meal plan.
List your positives
Helps you build your self-esteem
Look in the mirror and make a list of all the things you like about your appearance. Then, make a list of all your positive inner qualities. Keep this list, so you can regularly review it to remind yourself of all your positive traits.
List five people you admire and explain why
Helps you understand what qualities you value
Make a list of five people who you admire or like, then list the reasons why you like or admire them. What percentage of the qualities you listed about these people are internal qualities and what percentage are external qualities? If you listed more internal qualities, you must value people’s inner characteristics and worth. So, why do you so highly value your physical appearance? If you mentioned more external qualities, you must value people’s outer worth more. Why?
View things from a positive, healthy perspective
People with eating disorders do a lot of negative, critical self-talk. This negative self-talk can be further exasperated by misguided (and often well intentioned) comments from others that people with eating disorders view as negative comments.
Negative thought patterns can be changed by reframing thoughts into positive statements. For example, you may negatively initially interpret someone’s comment that you gained weight by thinking that means you look fat. You can reframe the message in a positive light by telling yourself the well intentioned comment was to say you look healthy.
Glass half full technique
Helps you be optimistic and positive
The question “is your glass half full or half empty?” asks how you view things in life. Seeing your glass as "half full” means you focus on the positive things and opportunities in your life and you are optimistic. Seeing the glass as “half empty” refers to those people who think negatively and are pessimistic. Every time you speak a negative statement, imagine only the worst, faced with a seemingly unsolvable problem, and are being pessimistic – stop yourself and think of the “half full – half empty glass” and take action by reframing your thoughts to more positive and optimistic statements.
Helps moderate the amount of time you exercise
Setting a time limit for exercising helps you set perimeters for what is a balanced, moderate, and healthy amount of time for exercising.
Also, consider variety in your exercise, such as working out at a gym, taking an exercise class, exercising with an exercise video, playing a sport, jogging, walking, bicycling, etc.
Additionally, consider an exercise buddy or getting a personal exercise trainer who can provide support, encouragement, and help. A variety of exercises and exercising with a friend helps make your exercise more enjoyable.
Pets can have a therapeutic affect on you
Pets, such as dogs and cats, can have a therapeutic affect on you. They are great companions. Pets offer you their unconditional love and trust. They depend on you for their care. The responsibility and attention required for taking care of an animal helps distract you from your day-to-day problems. You can talk to them without fear they will repeat what you say. The softness of their fur is comforting to your touch. And sometimes their playfulness just makes you laugh.
Minimize thoughts of feeling overweight
Avoid wearing tight clothes that will inevitably make you feel fat. By wearing comfortable, clean clothes in good condition and appropriate for the occasion, you will feel better about yourself.
Do not weigh yourself
Stop worrying about the number on the scale
Weighing yourself only makes you weight conscious. Additionally, your mood is apt to be determined by whether you weigh less or more than your previous weigh in. Consider trashing the scale, so you are not tempted to weigh yourself. Focus on eating when hungry, stopping when comfortably full.
Avoid media triggers
Develop a positive body image
Certain media may make you feel poorly about your body image. For example, models and advertisements in men’s and sport’s magazines may make you feel you are too overweight and not muscular enough or not fit enough or not good looking enough. If these feelings are intrusive and are negatively affecting how you feel about yourself, avoid looking at these magazines.
Do not let yourself be drawn into ads, magazines, TV shows and so on that are really selling physical beauty, sexual appeal, and success. You are apt to be left with a wounded ego. Know your triggers and avoid those sources whatever they are for you.