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Slip-ups in Eating Disorder Recovery: 5 Steps to Getting Back on Track

By Linday Gooze,  LMFT

Slip-ups are a part of recovery. When I say this to clients, they often shudder and say, “Maybe for other people, but I want to do this perfectly.” Well, this makes sense. Many people struggling with eating disorders also struggle with perfectionism, rigidity, and black and white thinking. These qualities drive the eating disorder, but they cannot drive recovery.

It can be a set-up for relapse to think that perfection is required in recovery. If one slip-up is viewed as a “failure,” it can trigger shame and hopelessness. These feeling are likely to lead to more eating disorder behaviors and negative thoughts about yourself. 

Slip-ups are a normal part of the recovery process and do not have to result in a full-blown relapse. Here are 5 steps to getting back on track after a slip-up.

  1. Tell someone. After a slip-up, you need support, accountability, and compassion from others. You may be scared that telling your supports will make them worried or disappointed in you. However, not being honest with them about eating disorder behaviors will lead to lack of trust and damage to the relationship. Your support people will likely be proud of you for telling them and glad that they can help you move forward in your recovery.
  2. Ask yourself, what is the next right thing? Instead of dwelling on the slip-up, which is in the past, or becoming overwhelmed by the future, think about the present. What is the next small step you can take toward recovery? Maybe it is stopping the behavior midway, stepping outside, calling a friend, or eating a meal.
  3. Give yourself compassion. Recovery is hard. Slip-ups are part of recovery. There is no reason to be mean to yourself for this. Practice self-compassion by challenging negative thoughts with self-compassionate statements. Engage in self-care acts to remind yourself you are still worthy of it.
  4. Learn something from it. What triggered your slip-up? In what situations do you need more support? How have you been successful in navigating similar situations without using behaviors? Slip-ups can actually be a very helpful part of recovery when you are able to learn from them.
  5. Make a plan to get back on track. You may be feeling a little shakier in your recovery. Lean on your support people and utilize the information that you learned from this slip-up. You can plan to eat with support for your most difficult meals, have an additional therapist or RD session, or get back to journaling daily. Remind yourself it is ok to need more support now.

Slip-ups are not always a sign that you are taking steps backward in recovery. When you are able to handle slip-ups with self-compassion, support, and accountability, you are actually taking steps forward in your recovery.

My name is Lindsay Gooze, LMFT. I specialize in working with women with eating disorders, anxiety, or depression, helping them find inner peace, confidence, and self-acceptance. I have worked with eating disorders, anxiety, and depression since 2011. I believe full recovery is possible for you because it was possible for dozens of people I have worked with, and it was possible for me. For more information about my practice, visit www.LindsayGooze.com.