Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center - Health Library

Lifestyle Changes to Manage Eating Disorders

Recovering from an eating disorder can take several months to years. Certain lifestyle changes can help you during and after your recovery.

These may include the following:

  Maintain a Healthy Weight

Work on getting yourself to a healthy weight. This will help you with a positive body image. When you feel fat, ask yourself if your life would really be changed much if you were underweight. Would you be more successful and popular, or feel more loved? The things you want from life have little to do with how much you weigh. Remember, being thin doesn't equate to being happy.

  Make Realistic Goals

Make a meal plan that gives you enough nutrients for normal health and growth. You can work toward a healthy weight by lowering your intake of high fat foods, sugar, and refined carbohydrates. You should also eat more whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and protein. A dietitian can help you with a realistic meal plan that works for you.

Regular exercise will help you keep a healthy weight. Aim for 30-60 minutes, 3-5 days a week. A trainer can help you with a plan.

  Avoid Known Triggers

Certain situations can distract you from your goals. Don't let yourself get too hungry and don't deprive yourself of foods you like. This yourself can lead to cravings and food binges. If you crave a certain high-fat, high-calorie food, it's okay to have it occasionally.

Everyone is tempted by certain foods or to overeat at some point. If you feel this way, keep these foods out of the house. Stay away from these situations as much as you can. If you tend to overeat at buffets, try to stay away from them.

Emotions can be powerful triggers for food binges. Pay attention to how you feel. If you find yourself turning to food, try to find another way to cope. Call a friend or your therapist. Some people find writing in a journal helpful.

  Get Help When You Need It

Don't feel defeated if you fall back into your old habits. This doesn't mean that you've failed. You're learning to build new habits. This will take time. If you have a relapse, call your therapist right away. You may need to fine tune your program.

  Work on Building a Meaningful, Fulfilling, and Satisfying Life

Don’t focus on food and weight to make you happy. Spend time building a meaningful life that makes you feel good. This involves boosting your self-esteem by finding and using your talents. Work on appreciating and enjoying what you can do. Don’t worry about being perfect every time. Find some hobbies and do things that are fun for you. Join some clubs and groups with people who share what you like. This helps you make healthy relationships.

  Develop Effective Coping Skills

Stressful life events can trigger eating disorders in susceptible people. They also trigger relapses in those who have recovered. You can control self-induced stress by developing a healthier self-image. Make your expectations more reasonable. This can be achieved through counseling and learning how to take charge of the things you can control.

Try different relaxation techniques such as meditation, deep breathing, progressive relaxation, yoga, and biofeedback. These will help you cope with stress. These make you aware of tension in your body and show you how to release it.

  Take Medicines as Advised

Most people with eating disorders will have to take medicines. These don't offer a cure. But, they are useful in helping your control how you eat. Medicines may ease symptoms of eating disorders by eliminating triggers. They also treat other mental health problems you may have. Medicines have to be taken as advised, even when you're feeling well.

REFERENCES:

About eating disorders. National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders website. Available at: http://www.anad.org/education-and-awareness/about-eating-disorders. Accessed September 6, 2018.

Anorexia nervosa. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114614/Anorexia-nervosa. Updated June 15, 2017. Accessed September 6, 2018.

Binge eating disorder. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T563461/Binge-eating-disorder. Updated June 15, 2017. Accessed September 6, 2018.

Bulimia nervosa. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114924/Bulimia-nervosa. Updated July 16, 2018. Accessed September 6, 2018.

Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). American Psychiatric Association; 2013.

Eating disorders: About more than food. National Institute of Mental Health website. Available at: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/eating-disorders/index.shtml. Updated 2018. Accessed September 6, 2018.

Last reviewed June 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Adrian Preda, MD  Last Updated: 9/6/2018