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Feature Articles: Eating Disorders

Individuals with serious eating disorders usually benefit from professional counseling.Recovering from an eating disorder

Greta Hopke, RD, and Candance Gabel, MS, RD, LD, associate state nutrition specialist, University of Missouri Extension


The first step in recovering from an eating disorder is recognizing that a problem exists and that the behaviors that led to and created the eating disorder were not normal or right. It is also very important to realize that overcoming an eating disorder will take a lot of time and effort. Try to start simple, an eating disorder does not happen overnight, and neither will recovery. Set realistic goals so you can track your progress. Allow other people to help; friends, family, and professionals can all be important in the recovery process and offer different types of support.

Individuals with serious eating disorders usually benefit from professional counseling. A professional counselor or psychiatrist can help the individual uncover the real problem or issue that triggered the eating disorder and create steps to help them overcome the eating disorder and gain control of eating without fear. Nutrition counseling can also be important in helping the individual learn how to re-introduce forbidden foods back into their diet while promoting a healthy diet for weight gain (in the case of anorexic patients) or maintenance of a healthy weight (in the case of bulimic or binge eating patients).

Ways to make you more effective in helping others overcome an eating disorder:


  • Educate yourself. Without knowledge about eating disorders, your advice or assistance may be rejected or unhelpful to the individual.
  • Do not make assumptions. Make sure there is a real problem by talking to the individual first.
  • Make sure you are helping for the right reason. Be sure your motivation to help is to truly help the other person and not to benefit you or your own situation.
  • The individual with the eating disorder must want and be ready for help before you can make a positive difference.
  • Understand that even though you have good intentions and knowledge, you may still be rejected.
  • Avoid blame. Communicate in a way that does not lay blame on anyone and that is open to their needs and expectations. (Kolodny, 2004)


For more information, see the other Food, Fitness and Eating Disorders feature articles or visit the following websites:



Kolodny, N. (2004). The beginner's guide to eating disorder recovery. Carlsbad, CA: Gürze Books.


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