How to Love Yourself Through an Eating Disorder Relapse

April 30, 2019 Mary-Elizabeth Schurrer

Loving yourself through an eating disorder relapse is important because, if you have experience with an eating disorder, then you know firsthand that the recovery process is not a linear route. Instead, it's full of detours and obstacles, forward motions and backward stumbles. Sometimes there are victories, but other times, a relapse can occur—and when it almost inevitably does, the question then becomes: How do you love yourself through that eating disorder relapse?

Eating Disorder Relapses Can Occur at Any Time, Loving Yourself Is Imperative

No matter how long you have been in eating disorder recovery or how successful your track-record appears, the behaviors of a relapse can manifest any time. This happens when you slide back into the obsessive thought patterns, exercise or food rituals, body image distortions, and other tendencies that are consistent with your eating disorder history. But while it can seem like a step in the wrong direction, in actuality, a relapse incident is a normal, predictable, and even fundamental part of recovery.

So what matters in the long-term is not whether you manage to avoid relapse—it's how you choose to take action in the aftermath of the relapse. You might feel stressed, ashamed, frustrated, embarrassed, or discouraged, and those emotions are natural to cycle into and out of. But if you also commit to loving yourself through the fear, pain, and tension of an eating disorder relapse, then your chances of being able to sustain a recovery mindset will increase. It's important to understand that relapse is common, so you deserve grace, kindness, patience, and compassion in the midst of your efforts to navigate it.

How to Practice Self-Love During an Eating Disorder Relapse

Rather than criticizing or berating yourself for a relapse, you need to have some therapeutic, restorative coping mechanisms in place to care for your mental, emotional, and physical wellness from a holistic standpoint. These practices can be remarkably beneficial as you learn how to love yourself through an eating disorder relapse.

  1. Surround yourself with positive mantras. Quotes that empower, motivate, and affirm your worth as an individual are healing reminders to uplift your confidence when you feel insecure or demoralized from a relapse. So find positive mantras that deeply resonate with you, write them down on index cards, and leave them in noticeable areas like on your nightstand, car dashboard, or bathroom mirror.
  2. Nurture and connect with your five senses. Activities that rouse the senses can help you to remain grounded in your own body—instead of dissociated from it—which, in turn, can reduce your levels of anxiety. So choose pursuits that require hands-on or sensory awareness like journaling, meditating, listening to music, creating artwork, upcycling furniture, hiking in nature, and practicing yoga. 
  3. Confide in a trusted network for support. Since, in most eating disorder cases, a relapse is to be expected, there is no reason to treat it with shame or secrecy. In fact, you need to communicate the relapse to someone you trust as soon as you notice "red flag" behaviors. This person can be a close friend, relative, therapist, mentor, teacher, or anyone else who knows your background and is either qualified to intervene or can point you in the direction of treatment resources.

APA Reference
Schurrer, M. (2019, April 30). How to Love Yourself Through an Eating Disorder Relapse, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 21 from

Author: Mary-Elizabeth Schurrer

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