It takes a lot of courage, hard work, strength and support to recover from an eating disorder. Most people can’t reach this point without a few slips and minor setbacks. Relapse is when a person who is in recovery goes back to disordered eating behaviours or negative thoughts about food, weight and body size. The way to prevent a relapse is to recognize and deal with some of the things that could get in the way of recovery. There are several things a person can do to prevent relapsing.
“So the more I learned what my triggers were, what I was good at and where my vulnerabilities lied – the easier it was for me to adapt. Likewise, the more I knew what strengthened me and the support and resources I possessed, the easier it was to adapt.”
I was asked about a relapse prevention plan. Please find below relapse prevention plan. This is from mirror-Mirror.org. it was updated in 2014. I hope you’ll find it helpful in your journey to recovery and healing.
Recovering from an eating disorder takes time. You did not develop your eating disorder over night and it will not go away that quickly either. It is important to remember that no one can recover perfectly and there will be slips and relapses during the recovery process. This is normal and it is to be expected. The Relapse Prevention Plan is something that may be helpful to you in preventing a lapse from becoming a relapse.
1. Begin by making a list of the behaviors and strategies that have been useful to you in your recovery so far. Some things you might include in this list are: eating regular meals, planning meals and snacks, regular food shopping, keeping a food log, self-care activities, etc. It will be important to keep using these strategies for the near future and to return to them at the first signs of trouble.
My List of Recovery Behaviors and Strategies
2. Next make a list of high risk situations which may increase the risk for slips and relapses. Below are some things you may want to include on your list:
- Stress and/or a busy schedule which makes planning meals difficult
- Becoming overwhelmed by feelings and emotions
- Loss of a family member, friend, etc.
- Marital, social or family problems
- Change in schedule (such as going on summer break) or a move (going away to school, etc.)
- Weight gain
- Dieting or any form or food restriction
- Missing a meal or snack
- Juice cleanses and detox efforts
- Being under the influence of a diet guru or overly health conscious person
- Having friends or family who diet
- Following any form or restrictive eating plan
- Being in unfamiliar food environments and/or having unrestricted access to food (at a buffet, holiday, or potluck for example)
- Getting weighed at the doctor
- Shopping for clothes
- Others commenting on your weight
- Health problems
You may use suggestions from the list above or create your own list of high risk situations that you feel may increase your risk for a slip or relapse:
3.Become familiar with some of the early warning signs of a relapse.
Choose at least 5 of those warning signs that are relevant to you, and for each, write down at least one strategy that would help you cope with that warning sign and get you back on track:
(You may list more than on way to cope for each situation.)
In times of crisis, it can be difficult to remember healthy ways of coping. Many people in crisis do resort to familiar ways of coping. Making a plan ahead of time can be helpful. Make a list of 10 things you can do instead of reverting to eating disordered behaviors as a way to cope. After the list is completed, keep it in a place where it can be accessed when needed. (i.e. refrigerator, cupboard, etc.)
It is also important to reach out during times of crisis, when you are feeling scared, alone, out of control, etc. Talking about your feelings can help to relieve some of the anxiety that you may be having and can help to prevent a slip or relapse. Reaching out also helps to remind you that you are not alone. Below write down names of people you can reach out to. You may find it difficult to reach out, but the more you do it, the easier it will become. The person that you call will be glad that you did, will welcome the call, and be there for you the best way that they can.
During the recovery process it is not always possible to avoid slips and relapses. Many people tend to be very hard on themselves if they do have a slip or relapse. It’s important to remember that no one can recover perfectly. If you have a bad day, you can forgive yourself, put it behind you, and continue to move forward in your recovery. It is important to look back at the lapse to learn from it and at the same time, be compassionate and not beat yourself up. Lapses are a normal part of recovery and can actually be helpful in making recovery stronger.
It may be helpful to keep the graphic below in mind:
Dr. Lauren Muhlheim is Clinical Director of this website and maintains a private practice with a specialty in Eating Disorders in Los Angeles. You can contact her through her website.
Updated by Tabitha Farrar and Dr. Lauren Muhlheim – 2014 Written By Colleen Thompson – 1998