During any kind of recovery journey there will be good days and bad days. Recovery takes a lot of hard work, commitment, and time. This is why it’s so important to be aware of the possibility of a relapse, and to know what the warning signs are. Relapses are very common and can be opportunities to test your strength by revealing where weak points are in your recovery. A relapse is also a time when you can turn to a support system. You realize just how important having one is when you’re going through a relapse.
For someone in eating disorder recovery, it’s a good idea to share the warning signs of a relapse with a parent, caretaker, or friend who is supporting you during recovery. Because eating disorder behaviors can easily escape the attention of others, a relapse can sometimes occur without family, caretakers, or others even noticing. The following are some of the most common warning signs of an eating disorder relapse:
Sudden changes to established eating routine.
One of the most important parts of eating disorder recovery is creating a healthy, balanced eating routine and making sure to adhere to it every day. Sometimes a person will begin skipping meals again, or binging on junk foods. This can be a sign that they’re in danger of a relapse.
Starting a new, restrictive diet.
There are always a lot of fad diets out there that are quite restrictive. These are often disguised as healthy eating, when in fact they don’t provide sufficient nutrition. For someone in recovery, going on one of these fad diets can eventually lead to a relapse. It is very risky to embark on a diet such as low fat, low carb, or others when recovering from an eating disorder.
Someone with a history of eating disorders should be aware of the signs of depression as well. Experiencing sudden depression can mean the body is not getting enough nutrients and is not able to produce the energy it needs to run efficiently. On the other hand, falling into a depression can lead to an eating disorder relapse simply because the person is feeling lost, hopeless, and sad.
Avoiding a specific food or ingredient.
This sign can be hard to recognize, as someone’s eating disorder will often crop up in unexpected ways just as things seem to be getting better. If a person who has been consistently expanding the range of their diet suddenly develops a fear of a certain food or ingredient, this can be a warning sign of a relapse.
Other strict patterns and behaviors.
Any kind of rigid schedule, rituals, or other patterns of behavior surrounding mealtime or food should be seen as a potential sign of a relapse. Examples include eating at certain times of the day, only eating with certain cutlery, measuring food, or eating in specific locations.
Other warning signs that are a bit easier to detect include:
-binging and pingurge
-lying about behavior or diet with those who support recovery
-a need to always be in control
-obsessive thinking about weight and food
-constantly weighing oneself, pinching fat, or measuring parts of the body
-wearing loose, too big clothing
-expressing disgust after eating
-believing that happiness is only possible when you are thin
-insisting that you are fat even when others say you aren’t
-dramatic weight loss or gain