Wednesday, January 27, 2021

How to Build an Environment that Supports Your Eating Disorder Recovery

Building the support for life

Building the support for your life *

If you suffer from an eating disorder and want recovery, you can build support for yourself in ways that might surprise you.  These surprises  can be powerful and sustained if you give them a chance. (See known support at end of this post.)

First, answer these questions.  Important: do not include anything at all about weight, body, appearance, food, eating, urges, cravings, what other people think of you.  Can you do it?

  1. What interests you?
  2. What kind of books do you like to read?
  3. What touches your heart?
  4. Who (man or woman) do you respect because of how they live or what they do?
  5. What would you like to learn?
  6. What places on the Earth would you like to visit and know more about?
  7. What kinds of spiritual beliefs would you like to know more about?
  8. What kind of changes would you like to see in the world?
  9. What makes you cry?
  10. What makes you laugh?
  11. What makes you proud?
  12. What makes you curious?
  13. What and whom do you love?

Feel free to add questions to this list.  I hopesupports you will in the comments.

Now, here’s the beginning of building your supportive environment.

First, see what’s in your environment now.

For at least one week or more, bring a pad and pen with you wherever you go including different rooms in your home.

  1. describe the setting and what’s in it.
  2. describe the people and animals that may be present.
  3. Write down, like a tape recorder, snatches of talk you hear. Write down bits of conversations that pass you.  Sit on a bench or at a counter or at a table or in a chair or couch in one of your usual environments and write down words, phrases and maybe whole sentences that you hear.

You are exploring what is in your environment now.

After a week, compare what you have written in your explorations with your answers to the questions about what you care about.  Is there any overlap? Was anyone talking about or referring to what interests you?  (Remember, to eliminate food, diet, appearance references.)

Now you challenge your own creativity.  What can you do to place people, tasks, books, art, classes, movies, clubs, volunteer organizations in your life that are in some way related to how you answered your questions? What you choose will be the building blocks of your recovery supportive environment.  You will place in your daily life supports for what you truly care about.

Your goal is to eventually do your notebook task of environmental exploration and discover that your settings and the people in them support what you care about in your authentic mind, heart and soul.

For example:

  • If you are interested in animal welfare, then volunteer at shelter or get involved in animal rescue organizations or neutering programs in your town.
  • If you are curious about the rain forests, find an organization or discussion group in your area or online and join in to see what people are talking about and how you might learn and get involved.
  • If you want to learn more about spirituality, visit a variety of spiritual places in your town and online.  Listen and learn. Read and participate.
  • Maybe you have an untended interest in science or politics or gardens or art or writing or business or math.

It’s time to pay attention to these interests. They give meaning to your life. When you give your energy to them you feel happy and fulfilled.  You feel like you are on the right track for you.

You can follow through on any of your interests except anything that has to do with food, appearance, body, diets, exercise … in other words, nothing that is in any way related to eating disorder triggers.

When you put in your daily life support for what you genuinely care about you give what you genuinely care about more attention. That supports your own growth and helps you find real meaning in your life.

Finding real meaning in your life is what nourishes your mind, body, heart and soul.  When you have that, your eating disorder fades from lack of attention and from failure to compete with what you genuinely care about.

Try it and write in about what you learn and discover.

Known support:

  • therapy
  • support groups (like ANAD or approriate 12-step)
  • nutritional support (registered nutritionist, class in nutrition, health care professional, etc.)
  • focussed websites like We Are the Real Deal and Eating Disorder Recovery
  • Recovery self help books: Healing Your Hungry Heart, 8 Keys to Eating Disorder Recovery, Eating in the Light of the Moon, Nice Girls Finish Fat, and many more. Do a search on or just go to the Healing Your Hungry Heart page and look at the “Customers Who Bought this Item also Bought”  listing.

Joanna Poppink, MFT

Los Angeles psychotherapist and author




OXNARD, Calif. (April 14, 2009) Ensign Kate Rosenberg, assigned to the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Stockdale (DDG-106), hammers a nail during a Habitat for Humanity volunteer project in Oxnard, Calif. The ship is anchored at Port Hueneme for commissioning on April 18. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Michael Moriatis/Released)
Date 14 April 2009
United States Department of the Navy Seal.svg This Image was released by the United States Navy with the ID 090414-N-1722M-028

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