Photo of a food diary and pen next to a healthy apple

This article, ‘Self-Help Tips for Eating Disorders’, was printed in Understanding Eating Disorders – (Issues), an educational resource used in GCSE, A-level and further education courses, and Eating Disorders – (Issues Today Series), an educational resource aimed at Key Stage 3 students, published by Independence Educational Publishers Ltd.

Self-Help Tips for Eating Disorders

If you or someone you know is living with an eating disorder, there is no substitute for professional help. Eating disorders that go on for many months should be treated by a qualified health professional.

However, there are things people who suffer from eating disorders can do to help themselves.

Developing healthy relationships with food, exercise and your own body is an essential part of the recovery/prevention process of any pattern of disordered eating, so here are some basic self-help tips.

Eat Regular Meals

Eating three meals a day including breakfast, lunch and dinner is a good place to start. Some people prefer to eat five or six smaller meals each day; this is fine, but remember it is your overall calorie intake each day that is important (2,500 kcal for men and 2,000 kcal for women).

Try to avoid skipping meals and do not wait until you are starving, as you are more likely to overeat at your next meal.

Choose healthy snacks such as fruit, nuts, and yoghurt in between meals if you are hungry.

Eat Meals With Family or Friends

A person who is anxious about eating will feel more comfortable doing so among other people they trust, such as family or friends. This may mean planning to ensure meals are served at times when everyone can be present.

Try to keep the topic of conversation positive throughout each meal, and avoid talking about food, particularly calories and fat content.

Meal times are a good opportunity for a person with an eating disorder to learn to associate eating with a pleasant environment.

Eat Healthy Foods

The types of foods we eat are important. We all like to indulge in our favourite foods every once in a while, but we should also eat as wide a variety of healthy, nutritious foods as possible.

General nutrition guidelines include:

  • Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables.
  • Choosing complex carbohydrates such as bread, rice and pasta (whole grain if possible) rather than processed sugars.
  • Eating protein in the form of lean meats, fish, poultry, legumes and nuts.
  • Drinking water regularly.

Avoid Weighing Yourself and Looking in the Mirror

If you can bring yourself to do it, throw the scales away, or weigh yourself no more than once a week. What the scales say is not an indication of how good a person you are, and you do not need their approval.

Continual weighing and scrutinising yourself in the mirror is not going to help you free yourself from your insecurities about your weight and body image.

There are matters more worthy of your attention, such as family, friends and other things you have going on in your life.

Keep a Food Diary

Keep a food diary of what you eat and when you eat it to help you focus on eating regularly. Also record any episodes of going without food for long periods, bingeing or purging and the thoughts and emotions you have about them.

If you can learn to recognise the situations and feelings that lead you to engage in unhealthy eating behaviours it will help you to figure out ways of dealing with them. The things you find out about yourself may surprise you.

Take Regular Exercise

Studies have shown exercise to have a positive effect on low self-esteem and poor body image, which are widely cited as being contributory factors in the onset of eating disorders.

Remember exercise is good for us, but too much can have a detrimental effect and place unnecessary stress on our bodies.

People with anorexia often have a compulsion to exercise excessively and this needs to be addressed. A healthy amount is 30 minutes of physical activity on five days of the week.

Be Patient

Unhealthy relationships with food do not develop overnight, and it can take many months and even years to regain full control over your eating habits. The road to recovery is a long one along which you must be prepared to take small steps, but you have every chance of making it.

Remember, if you have acknowledged you have a problem and have resolved yourself to do something about it, you are already halfway there.

Kirby, S. (2010). Self-help tips. Understanding Eating Disorders – (Issues; Volume 184), 32.

Kirby, S. (2010). Self-help tips. Eating Disorders – (Issues Today Series; Issue 39), 23-24.

This article was originally published on It was reprinted in Issues and Issues Today with my permission.

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Self Help Tips for Eating Disorders

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