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Top 10 tips for taking the first steps in recovery from Anorexia

I will tell you now, straight up, recovery is not a grand revelation of hope, health and happiness, it is the hardest thing any person will ever have to face in their life. The fact that many people do not make it through recovery and thus lose their lives to this vicious disorder should not even be a reality. But, unfortunately, it is. This is why it is so important to open up about the truth behind mental health and eating disorders. With knowledge, we can slowly start to overpower the grasp that Anorexia holds over its victims, meaning more and more people will survive this heartless disease.

Here are my top 10 tips for someone taking their first steps in recovery…



It’s common to hear someone in recovery say that they take it one day at a time. Really, this isn’t the case. In recovery your mood and you body image can fluctuate multiple times a day. Just because you wake up one day, positive and eager to recover, doesn’t mean that it will stay that way for the rest of the day. In fact in almost certainly won’t! It is very likely that by the end of the day you are regretting your decision to recover altogether. Now I am aware that this is not the most hopeful and uplifting prospect and it’s certainly not what you want to hear when you’re first starting to recovery but it is perhaps the most important thing you need to be aware of, otherwise it will be far more tempting to give up when the going gets tough.

But do remember this one thing; it also works the other way around!!! Just because you wake up in a terribly low state of mind does not mean that this cannot change throughout the day! I have had many days where my mood has done a complete 180 flip between morning and afternoon, and I’ve gone from clawing at my body in disgust to calmly eating a bowl of pasta without wanting to cry. Sometimes this change has happened 3 or 4 times a day! Sure it’s never gotten to the point where I’ve been able to look in the mirror and say ‘I love my body’ but you can’t expect to. Remember anorexia is a life long disease; it never truly goes away and ‘loving yourself’ is actually the ultimate goal, not the starting point. If you learnt to love yourself at the start of recovery then there’d be no need to recover. I am 2 and a half years into recovery and I still hate the way I look, just slightly less than I did before is all. It is absolutely 100% possible to accept who you are but, instead of taking it one day at a time, you have to look at recovery as 1,000,000 milestones to take up 1 mighty mountain.


Something I found particularly useful, whenever I was doubting my reasons for recovery, was to break out the pad and pens and make a ‘why I recover’ poster- that’s basically a pretty picture with the words ‘why I recover’ plastered in the middle in great bold letters and reason upon reason crammed onto that page in a hundred different colours. No matter how big and meaningful or small in insignificant you think the reason may be, it’s still a reason to recover and it’s still worth recognising! Once you start to see that page fill up with colour it’ll remind you of why you started recovery in the first place. Below is the first example of these colourful coping tools I discovered early on in my recovery that I have referred back to every time I’ve doubted my progress…


For anyone who is unaware, a fear food is basically foods that are just too daunting for the person to eat, even in recovery. For an anorexic you may think that all food is off limits. However, once a person has taken that first step into recovery and accepted that they need to eat in order to get better, they quickly separate all foods into 2 different categories; ‘safe foods’ and ‘fear foods’. While there are some foods that often become common safe foods for most recovering anorexics (eg porridge, cinnamon, apples, bananas etc), fear foods are often entirely unique to the individual- for example, whereas many high calorie treats such as cakes and full fat cream became very safe for me, I knew many others for whom this was their worst nightmare. Fear food lists can be incredibly long and leave an eating disorder sufferer with very little choice of what they are able to eat. This is why it is important to know your fear foods well so that you can control what you eat and, on days where you feel extra capable, you can challenge those fear foods and slowly tick them off your list one by one. Still to this day, 2 and a half years into my own recovery, there are still things that I cannot eat. For me these are sweets, many biscuits, forms of potato and dry meals mainly. While these restrictions don’t massively affect my life, the fact that I still can’t bring myself to eat them does dishearten me. But again, this is just another incentive to keep recovering, to slowly cross these off my list as well till the day when, even if I choose not to eat them, I know that I can!

Throughout my illness my avoided foods have varied. The foods I tended to avoid were for different reasons depending on where I was in recovery. Fear foods often change unexpectedly and for no given reason- one day you may eat a bowl of cereal without a shred of guilt, the very next day you can barely get the spoon to pass your lips. But if you keep your list of fear foods updated then you will always feel more in control and able to eat least find something you feel comfortable eating.

Below is an example of a fear food list I made just a few months into my recovery…

POTATO!!! Sliced cheese/meats Dry foods/meals Butter and Oils

Corn on the cob Porridge Vegetables- particularly broccoli and green beans

Salad A whole banana Small food snacks eg fudge or brownie bites etc

More than 2 slices of pizza White bread Chocolate Meat fats

Liquid calories Muffins Fast food Crisps Apples, pears and other fruits

Gum Ready meals Sweets Dips Bacon Wraps

Most cereals particularly Weetabix Full fat Philadelphia Biscuits Breakfast bars

A whole sandwich Salt Popcorn Unweighed/Unmeasured foods

Meals I haven’t cooked myself Waffles/Crepes Rolls Restaurant/Cafe foods