I think it’s very important to start recovery before you think you are “ready”, and before you think you know everything. Because in reality, you can’t know everything before you go through it and learn as you go.
So don’t worry about doing recovery “perfectly”, it’s more important that you just do it and start.
BUT definitely learn from your mistakes, or from the mistakes of others to save some time.
In today’s post, I have put together 8 most common traps people fall into in eating disorder recovery. I fell into many of them myself so I’m not perfect either (but I still recovered!) 🙂
I hope this post helps you save some time on your recovery path and avoid… or at least shorten these detours.
So what are the most common recovery traps?
1. Tip-Toeing Through Recovery Trap
What I mean here is that very often we are too slow or too “careful” in recovery.
We don’t want to get too uncomfortable, we try to avoid big challenges, we hold back a lot when it comes to taking action. It’s all very understandable because we don’t want to deal with all the fear, shame, and guilt that may come when we truly challenge ourselves in a big and bold way.
But the reality is that this way you really risk recovery burnout. Because doing little challenges here and there is of course better than nothing, but it’s still scary, it’s still uncomfortable. And if you start from the little ones and take it very slowly from the start it means in time the challenges get bigger and even scarier. So if doing little challenges is scary, then it will only get worse over time. This way of doing recovery is exhausting. I call it doing the recovery in a “slow torture way” because it can truly feel like a slow torture that never ends.
But if you do big and bold challenges from the start, you go “all in”, then over time the challenges will start to get easier, they start to feel less scary, less uncomfortable.
2. Caloric Minimums Trap
Maybe you know the recovery caloric guidelines that say to eat a minimum of 2500-3500 calories per day?
But here so many people take these caloric guidelines as maximums, not minimums.
In reality, those guidelines are just a starting point, they are not the limit. Minimums mean that you can and should go over them. You will not recover unless you respond to your full hunger. Full physical and mental hunger.
Many people get into the trap of thinking that if they eat at least the minimum guideline amounts they will recovery, but if they are truly hungry for more, it can become just like another diet, another rule and restriction to follow.
3. Half-Assing Trap
This means that we do only some parts of recovery but ignore the other parts, or maybe we just don’t want to face them.
For example, you are maybe doing lots of food challenges, facing your fear foods, including them in regularly…BUT at the same time you are still not eating enough calories. Food challenges are not gonna recovery you if you also don’t eat enough calories.
Or another example, maybe you are eating enough calories but you are still overexercising. You are still using exercise to compensate. You are eating more, yes, but you are also burning those calories with exercise and you are not giving your body rest.
Or, let say you are resting, you are eating more, also doing the food challenges, but you are maybe still not eating regularly, all throughout the day. It’s very common that people eat the most of their calories during the evening but at the daytime they still restrict and hold back.
4. Neglect trap
This trap is a bit similar to the one before but here you are ignoring or neglecting other important aspects of recovery.
The big one is mental recovery, working on your body image, working on your thoughts, limiting beliefs, self-talk, self-care, and so on.
There is more to recovery than just the eating part. I have a whole playlist full of videos about mental recovery that you can check out HERE.
5. React And Act Trap
Whenever you feel triggered, have negative thoughts, or any uncomfortable feelings you automatically react to it and act on it.
You haven’t taken the time to develop some important stills in recovery, such as practicing awareness of your thoughts, and also being able to sit with uncomfortable feelings.
If you keep on reacting to negative thoughts with more negative thoughts, self-judgment, and criticism you will not make a lot of progress. This is where things like practicing awareness and mindfulness are important so you can pause and then choose a different and more helpful reaction and focus.
6. Hunger And Fullness Trap
You overthink your hunger, try to not “binge” at all costs. It can become the “don’t binge eat diet”.
This is a very common trap and especially with people who try to practice “intuitive eating”. They make intuitive eating mostly about judging their hunger by the “hunger scale” and they get very obsessed with only eating when hungry and are very careful to stop when full, making sure they don’t, at any cost, overeat. But this can just be another form of restriction, the “hunger, and fullness diet” where you obsess about eating perfectly. But recovery hunger is not perfect, normal eating is not perfect.
7. “Healthy and Fit” Trap
This is a common trap, something people get trapped by after recovery as well – when before they obsessed over eating very little and losing weight, then now they become obsessed over eating very “healthy” and becoming “fit”.
Eating nutritious food by itself is not a problem, but if someone is scared to eat other foods, still labels foods “bad and unhealthy” it becomes a problem.
Also, exercising and moving your body the way you enjoy is not a problem, but it becomes a problem if it’s another way to control our body and weight, as exercise is often socially accepted form of compensation and it’s unhealthy when we have an unhealthy mindset with it.
So here you have to just be very honest with yourself of your mindset with food and exercise.
8. Distraction From Action Trap
What this means is that very often we seek endless reassurance with watching all the videos about recovery, listening to all the podcasts and reading all the books…we get trapped in doing the endless “research” and trying to “get it right” BEFORE we start taking consistent action.
The endless research and reassurance-seeking can be a way to distract yourself from taking action. Recovery won’t be perfect and you will learn a lot as you go through it, but you learn even more as you start to take action and learn as you go.
No amount of watching, listening, and reading is going to get you any results if you also don’t start taking consistent pro-recovery action.
If you want to learn more about recovery and how to do it step by step then please read my book “BrainwashED”
You can check out my recovery online courses HERE.
If you wish to work with me one on one, then I offer Recovery Coaching where I can help you go through your recovery step by step and offer support and accountability. Read more and apply HERE.
Or you can book a one-off coaching call with me HERE.
4 thoughts on “8 Common RECOVERY TRAPS We Fall Into”
Hi, I’m a teen in recovery and I have been struggling with my thoughts around exercise and food. Even in recovery I have found exercise as a justification for me eating and never really put in the effort to fix my relationship with fitness. My sister recommended me this article and it has helped change my perspective when it comes to negative thoughts. I want to thank you for reflecting over the common overlooked habits and ways that ed’s continue to live in our lives. (Even whilst in recovery). This has inspired me to work on my relationship with exercise and food and I wish you a great happy July :)!
thank you! 🙂
Hi! You mentioned how calorie restriction can still play a part in slowing down recovery, mainly because we are eating the very minimum recommended calories. I have hypothalamic amenorrhea and have bumped my calories up to 2300 and completely stopped exercising. The recommendations from the “recovery caloric guidelines” article recommend I eat 3500 for my age and height. Do you think this is still applicable to me even if I am not exercising, or should my intake be a bit less? I would love your advise!
yes I think it’s best to eat the caloric minimums at least, and remember they are just *minimums* meaning you could eat even more, especially when extreme hunger hits. most often we underestimate the fuel our bodies actually need for proper recovery because we are so afraid of weight gain. and not exercising goes along with recovery anyway, especially with hypothalamic amenorrhea. but you can always seek more individual help or recommendations for your recovery from a recovery specialist, doctor, nutritionist who can assess your whole health and situation.