How to Get Started with Eating Disorder Recovery

If you have ever been concerned about your relationship with food or exercise, or the possibility that you have an eating disorder, it can be overwhelming to know where to begin the journey to recovery. These are a few steps for how to get started with eating disorder recovery:

1. get in touch with either a primary care physician (PCP) or a therapist trained in the treatment of eating disorders

Finding a therapist can be a challenge. It is important that they accept your insurance, are a good match therapeutically, and have availability that matches your schedule. Once you are meeting with a therapist, they can recommend a PCP to determine the level of risk if needed.

If it takes a substantial amount of time to see a therapist, visiting a PCP is another great option. A PCP will be able to assess if there is a medical concern, and therefore make treatment recommendations. Whichever comes first, the therapist or the PCP, can get the path to recovery off to a good start by connecting you with a professional who will provide support. 

2. be open, honest, and vulnerable with the therapist regarding all aspects of the eating disorder symptoms

This information is for the therapist to accurately assess what treatment is needed. Some options would include outpatient therapy, dietitian services, psychiatric services, outpatient support groups or a higher level of care which could include an intensive outpatient program, partial hospitalization program, residential program, or inpatient hospitalization. The goal is to make sure your treatment is accurately matched with the symptoms you are experiencing.

3. following up on referrals and Recommendations

If you are heading to a treatment center, it is important to complete all necessary paperwork. These assessments provide information that they will need to best serve you. If you are creating an outpatient treatment team (made up of a dietitian, psychiatrist, support group etc), it is important to connect, make initial appointments and keep your therapist in the loop the whole time. 

4. surrender to the process

Once connected to professionals and have landed in the appropriate level of care that matches your symptoms, the fourth step is to surrender to the process. Keep in mind that all members of your treatment team have the same goal of supporting your health and wellness. The process will be challenging and will require a great degree of trust in yourself, your team and your recovery. Being very clear on your motivation to seek recovery will be very helpful during especially challenging times. 

If you find yourself consistently resistant to treatment recommendations it is worth asking why. Why is it that you are not willing to follow a recommendation thoughtfully provided by a trusted member of your treatment team? 

There will be moments when you need to advocate for yourself, and guide your treatment to meet your specific needs. For example, if you are medically stable and love to do yoga, it is appropriate to ask your team what frequency and intensity of yoga would be recommended. Sometimes your eating disorder is sneaky so you may need to decipher if you are advocating for your unique needs. You can do this by reflecting on how you will react if your request is denied. If you imagine becoming angry or defiant there is a good chance your eating disorder is at play. Being disappointed but willing to move forward, shows a good chance you are coming from an authentic and recovery-focused place.

Seeking recovery from your eating disorder is the most courageous choice you can make. It involves being uncomfortable, vulnerable, honest, patient, and persistent. These four steps are just the beginning. Yet, they are the most critical part of the journey because they will set you up for success and provide comfort knowing that your needs in recovery are being met.

Article written by Nicole Bentley, LCSW a licensed Chicago therapist who specializes in treating a variety of mental health disorders with evidence based treatments. To schedule an appointment with her or one of our other therapists, contact

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