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Emotionally Getting Through Your Refeeding Process: A Guide

So today I want to talk about the Refeeding Process. For those of you new to the Refeeding Process, it is a treatment method and part of weight restoration for those suffering from an eating disorder. It is a medically necessary part of treatment in order for one to restore their pre- eating disorder weight or a weight discussed between patient and provider.

The logistics of the Refeeding Process differ for everyone depending on your current medical state, nutritional plan, and level of treatment, etc. For me, my parents were given a calorie amount by my treatment team that I had to reach everyday. In addition, my treatment included Family Based Treatment (FBT) or also known as the Maudsley Method. My parents were in full control of my meals, the kitchen, my movement/exercise, when I ate, etc. This is quite typical for those in FBT, but again may differ depending on the situation and recommendations of the treatment team.

But today I don’t want to get into the nitty gritty of what the Refeeding Process means- I want to talk about how to get through the Refeeding Process emotionally. It is a very transformational time. You’re entering into a new unknown and your mind is going in a million different directions. It can be really scary to know what’s on the other side. So while this time is about fueling your body, it’s also important to fuel your mind.

If you are going through this now or you have a loved one experiencing treatment/refeeding, know you/they are not alone.

Please remember I am not a doctor and am only sharing information based on experience. If you have questions or concerns consult a professional or conduct your own research. I did not want to include specific links and articles because of the understanding that one’s Refeeding Process may be completely different and do not want to put information out there that is not inclusive of what a professional may have advised. I am solely giving emotional advice and support.

Without further ado, A Guide to the Refeeding Process:

Find A Hobby/Create a Goal Board

The Refeeding Process involves a temporary sedentary lifestyle in some cases so finding a new hobby or picking up an old one can be life changing. Things like scrapbooking, journaling, reading a book series, learning about astrology, taking an online course, or building a small garden can be ways to keep your focus away from food, calories, body image and weight and start to find new ways to enjoy life and bring in happiness. It can be as simple as making a to-do list, writing down non eating disorder related goals, or gratitude lists. Envisioning and planning your day/goals without your eating disorder can set you up to have more days without your eating disorder in the future. Creating hobbies also allows you to ignite passions and fulfillment that doesn’t involve things that fuel your eating disorder.

Wear Leggings and Sweats

The Refeeding Process can be an uncomfortable and dynamic time. If it’s your first time in the Refeeding Process, it’s a whole new ball park and nothing like you’ve experienced before (just like this quarantine!) It’s brand new and confusing to navigate- totally normal! With refeeding comes a changing body. Remove the anxiety of shopping and dealing with clothes that fit/don’t fit and process that arena when your recovery is further along. During the Refeeding Process, I promise you, wearing leggings and sweatpants (that will feel the same no matter what) will help you focus on treatment and recovery- there’s no need to think about size and numbers at this stage, but it’s important to remind yourself that size and numbers don’t matter. This is important to repeat to yourself and know that a number and size does not define your worth.

Find Your Mantra

For me, my mantras included “food is fuel,” “food is medicine” and “your worst day in recovery is far better than your best day with your eating disorder.” I discussed my mantras early on with my family and things I needed to tell myself and hear on a daily basis. Mantras should not be about appearance, numbers, weight, etc. but rather be uplifting and positive and mantras you can use in any stage of recovery. Have open communication with your loved ones on mantras and sayings you know will be beneficial and detrimental to your recovery. Set the tone for each day with your mantra and know you’re stronger than your eating disorder.

Learn New Breathing Techniques

Meditation is the new thing, really. But treatment, recovery and the Refeeding Process is going to include a matrid of challenging times. Sometimes, the best thing you can do is breathe through it. Much of this process, it’s going to feel like you’re out of control. In reality, it’s your eating disorder that’s losing control and your true self gaining it back. Feeling out of control, for anyone, is not a good feeling, so it’s so important to stop and breathe for a few minutes and remind yourself you’re actually in control.

Ditch Social Media

Social media has a lot of good out there. From body positive and mental health advocate accounts, you can create social media to be a positive place. Sometimes it’s not that easy and you can get swept up in finding accounts detrimental to your treatment. If you decide to stick with social media during this time, remove all the accounts that you find are not serving you at this moment. Doesn’t mean you can’t follow the person back after a while and even if their feed isn’t about mental health, food, body image, etc. you could still find yourself stuck in a negative mindset of comparing yourself to them, which you don’t need right now. Staying on social media means finding accounts that lift you up and support your treatment and recovery. If you feel like this is a better time for a social media hiatus- then by all means disable the accounts until you feel ready. Social media will be there when you get back! You and your mental health come first.

Hopefully this was of some help if you or a loved one is going through treatment or the Refeeding Process. Again, please consult with a registered dietitian, psychiatrist, physician, your treatment team to discuss what’s best for you

If you need assistance, please contact the National Eating Disorders Association’s Helpline at (800)-931-2237 or text “NEDA” to 741741 to be connected to a trained volunteer at Crisis Text Line.



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