Re-Entering Eating Disorder Treatment

By Alexa Rivera

Recovery from an eating disorder is a life-long commitment. Eating disorder recovery is often a long, bumpy and winding road. Slip-ups, steps back and lapses in recovery are the rule, not the exception. 

It’s important to reflect and regularly check in on your behavior and relationship to food. If you’ve noticed that you’re taking many more steps backward than forward over time, that could be a sign you need to change your approach to recovery, which might mean meeting with your therapist or nutritionist more often, attending group therapy or support groups more regularly or even re-entering treatment. 


Re-Entering Treatment is not Shameful 

The decision to re-enter treatment can be difficult, upsetting and stressful, but the one thing re-entering treatment is not is shameful. There is no shame in re-entering eating disorder treatment. In fact, re-entering treatment when you need it is necessary and shows that you’re maintaining a commitment to your own recovery.  

For some, re-entering treatment can even be a life or death decision. If you’re experiencing severe medical complications as a result of your eating disorder, it’s important to re-enter treatment as quickly as possible. 


When Should You Consider Re-Entering Treatment? 

If you’ve noticed that you’ve lost a significant amount of weight than when you left treatment, notice a return of complications that were present before treatment or are experiencing severe medical complications related to an eating disorder that you didn’t experience before, it’s important to re-enter treatment right away. 

Some other warning signs that you might be hitting more than just a snag in your recovery are: 

  • Return toward avoiding meals or food 

  • Return toward an obsession with food, shape or weight 

  • Feelings of shame or guilt after eating that are becoming harder to cope with 

  • Making a conscious effort to eat alone   

  • Concealing information from your loved ones and treatment team 

  • An increase in stress with the inability to cope 

  • Self-isolating from friends and loved ones 

  • Increasing anxiety, depression or perfectionism 

Stress and Disordered Eating Behaviors 

Recovery can be difficult and it’s common for people to experience a return of disordered eating behaviors during particularly stressful times in their lives. These can include: 

  • Entering high school, college or a graduate program 

  • Moving to a new town or away from home 

  • Starting a new job 

  • Financial challenges 

  • Getting pregnant or experiencing infertility 

  • Birth of a child 

  • Marriage or divorce 

  • Death of a loved one 

This list isn’t exhaustive. There are many other situations and major life transitions that are stressful enough to reignite disordered eating behaviors. Hopefully eating disorder treatment and recovery has armed you with the tools to cope with stress in other, healthier ways, but if you find that you’re unable to use them effectively at any point, it might be time to consider re-entering treatment. 


What Will Re-Entering Treatment Look Like? 

Re-entering treatment will look different for everyone. Depending on what behaviors have returned, what complications you’re experiencing and what your daily life looks like, different types of programs will better serve your recovery.  

Types of Eating Disorder Treatment Programs 

  • Outpatient eating disorder treatment typically involves seeing a nutritionist, therapist and/or other eating disorder professionals anywhere between 1-3 times a week 

  • Intensive outpatient (IOP) eating disorder treatment is a more intensive program where patients receive individualized therapy, topic-focused groups, and/or family support groups, typically 3-5 times a week 

  • Residential eating disorder treatment provides live-in care at a facility where patients are expected to solely focus on physical and psychological healing 

  • Medical stabilization for eating disorders provides 24-hour medical monitoring at a hospital with supervised refeeding and treatment for severe medical complications 

ACUTE Earns Prestigious Center of Excellence Designation from Anthem
In 2018, the ACUTE Center for Eating Disorders & Severe Malnutrition at Denver Health was honored by Anthem Health as a Center of Excellence for Medical Treatment of Severe and Extreme Eating Disorders. ACUTE is the first medical unit ever to achieve this designation in the field of eating disorders. It comes after a rigorous review process.

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