Text Link

Learn more about the results we get at Within

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

Learn more about the results we get at Within

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

10 ways to be gentle with yourself during eating disorder recovery

Eating disorder behaviors are often characterized by profound shame, guilt, and isolation. Eating disorder recovery involves healing from these feelings and finding a loving community while being gentle and patient with yourself during this challenging time. No matter where you are in your journey, you can follow these tips for eating disorder self-care, which will teach you to be gentle with yourself during eating disorder recovery.

 minutes read
Last updated on 
September 8, 2023
Eating disorder recovery
In this article

1. Write and use positive affirmations

Positive affirmations are powerful tools for those in eating disorder recovery. Using them regularly can help you overcome negative thoughts and feelings and build self-compassion and self-love.

First, you’ll want to write down a list of positive affirmations that resonate with you. Then, hang them up somewhere you’ll see them daily, such as next to your bed or over your desk, and integrate them into your daily routine. 

For some people, that looks like reading them out loud each morning when they wake up and repeating them at night before bed. Others may return to them throughout the day, especially when unwanted thoughts or feelings arise. Regardless of how you want to approach it, you should use these positive affirmations daily as part of a gentleness practice.

A few examples of positive affirmations for eating disorder recovery include:

  • My eating patterns don’t influence my self-esteem.
  • My value doesn’t depend on my weight, shape, or size.
  • I am worthy of love, compassion, and kindness.
  • I deserve to treat my body with respect.
  • I deserve to eat food I like.

Research has shown that self-affirmation has the potential to improve relationships and health outcomes, which can persist for months and years.1 Furthermore, evidence suggests that self-affirmation can help a person cope with stressors, improve self-esteem, and reduce the generation of self-threatening thoughts.2

Eating disorder recovery

2. Practice and embrace self-compassion

Self-compassion, which involves treating yourself with the same kindness you might a friend or family member, is an essential part of eating disorder recovery. When you practice self-compassion, you avoid blaming, shaming, or judging yourself for your behaviors, feelings, or thoughts. Instead, you recognize and make space for your pain and challenges. 

Self-compassion is the antithesis of self-punishing and perfectionist attitudes. You are gentle and patient with yourself when you slip up and engage in self-care practices you know are helpful and nourishing for you. Those could involve meditation, creating art, taking a bubble bath, or listening to music. 

Here are some ways to get started with self-compassion:

  • Process difficult emotions by journaling
  • Replace a goal-oriented approach to life with a mindful approach
  • “Choose the loving behavior,” which involves deciding to treat yourself with love and respect, even if you are struggling
  • Let go of things you cannot control and focus on what you can, such as your response to your mistakes
  • Practice mindfulness by acknowledging your feelings and thoughts without judgment
  • Affirm that your past behaviors do not judge your worth

Research has highlighted the benefits of self-compassion. Those who demonstrate self-compassion have greater emotional resilience and stability by providing a kind way of relating to oneself, even in moments of perceived inadequacy and imperfection.3

3. Give yourself permission to be imperfect

There is a strong link between perfectionism and eating disorders.4 Being perfectionistic can increase the risk of developing an eating disorder and relapse, which is why committing to letting go of perfectionism in recovery is important. 

Give yourself permission to make mistakes and slip up. You are a complex, imperfect human like everyone else. We weren’t meant to be perfect people who chase down unobtainable, unrealistic goals. We are here to experience the richness of life and to connect to others. And when letting go of perfectionism, also make sure to apply that to eating disorder self-care. Your self-care practice doesn’t have to be structured and rigid. Allow for flexibility and a casual relationship with self-care.

4. Embrace relaxing and soothing music

Listening to music can have incredible benefits on our well-being and mood.5 It can also help us feel less alone when experiencing difficult emotions. 

One way of being gentle with yourself in eating disorder recovery is to create a healing and soothing playlist you can turn to in times of need. Then, you can listen to it in the bath while doing dishes, stretching, homework, working, or driving. 

5. Practice self-care that works best for you

Take the time to explore various types of self-care so you can find methods and practices that are most effective and soothing for you. While journaling may work for one person, you may find that meditating is more helpful. Spend time doing these activities and checking in with yourself to see how you feel.

6. Lean on your support system

Eating disorders are typically characterized by withdrawal and isolation. But eating disorder recovery is just the opposite. Surround yourself with a strong support system you can rely on in times of need. 

Don’t be afraid to seek help; lean on people for support, encouragement, and compassion. You aren’t a nuisance or a bother. Your family and friends love you and want to help however they can.

Get a personalized eating disorder treatment plan and care team at Within.
Learn more >

7. Practice distraction when feeling triggered

When you are feeling stressed and triggered, one strategy for being gentle with yourself is to make a point to engage in a healthy distraction, such as watching a favorite TV show, reading a book, coloring in an adult coloring book, or listening to music.

Take a social media break if posts showing up on your newsfeed promote diet culture or body shaming.

8. Don’t punish yourself for negative body image or self-esteem

Regardless of your recovery journey, thoughts related to negative self-esteem or self-image can pop up. This is normal and doesn’t mean you aren’t “doing” recovery “right.” There is no right way to recover from something as complicated and severe as an eating disorder. 

 Part of being gentle with yourself is not judging or punishing yourself for warped body-image days. These are the days you need the most self-compassion and kindness. Meet yourself where you’re at and empathize with how difficult it can be to treat your body with respect in a society dominated by diet culture, fatphobia, and healthism. 

9. Practice positive self-talk

Negative self-talk and self-criticism are significant drivers of disordered eating.6 On the other hand, positive self-talk can help promote healing during eating disorder recovery.

Positive self-talk involves reframing negative thoughts, feelings, and ideas about yourself to be hopeful, empowering, and affirming. This inner monologue can significantly impact your thoughts, feelings, behaviors, self-esteem, and mental health. 

It can be hard to do at first because you’re probably used to constantly beating yourself up. And it will take practice, like anything new and unfamiliar to you. You can start by recognizing when you engage in negative self-talk, such as blaming yourself, focusing on the negatives of a situation, catastrophizing an event, or viewing things as good or bad. Then, try to stop yourself and turn that negative into a positive.

Here are a few examples of reframing self-talk from negative to positive:

  • Negative: I am a failure.
  • Positive: This is a great opportunity to learn and grow.
  • Negative: I’m not good at this.
  • Positive: I’m strong, intelligent, and capable of learning new things.

It will get easier and feel more comfortable to you the more you do it.

10. Accept that your recovery will move at your own pace

Everyone’s recovery timeline and process is radically different. Treating yourself with kindness means avoiding comparing your eating disorder recovery to someone else’s because, with comparison, often comes envy, insecurity, and feelings of failure. Instead, focus on being present with your recovery and giving yourself the support and care you need.

The importance of having a compassionate support system

While it’s incredibly important to be kind and gentle with yourself during eating disorder recovery, it’s also essential to surround yourself with a support system where trusted loved ones practice that kindness for you—especially when you are unable to. 

When building your compassionate support system, you’ll want to write down ways your loved one can support you so they have a starting place. Your support system can show their patience and gentleness in many ways, depending on how you prefer to receive it. Some examples may include:

  • Coming over to make you a snack or meal
  • Picking you up to take you for coffee or tea
  • Going on a walk with you
  • Suggesting a movie night so you don’t have to be alone
  • Reciting your go-to affirmations to you
  • Being a support partner for grocery shopping or clothes shopping
  • Attending a support group meeting with you

People who can provide this kind of support for you are invaluable during recovery–and throughout our lives for any difficult time. But it’s important to choose these people wisely. Letting the right people in can be healing, life-giving, and rejuvenating, while having the wrong support individuals in your life at this tenuous time can harm the healing process. If you’re doubting yourself, it may be helpful to talk this over with your therapist, another treatment team member, or someone in your eating disorder support group.

Disclaimer about "overeating": Within Health hesitatingly uses the word "overeating" because it is the term currently associated with this condition in society, however, we believe it inherently overlooks the various psychological aspects of this condition which are often interconnected with internalized diet culture, and a restrictive mindset about food. For the remainder of this piece, we will therefore be putting "overeating" in quotations to recognize that the diagnosis itself pathologizes behavior that is potentially hardwired and adaptive to a restrictive mindset.

Disclaimer about weight loss drugs: Within does not endorse the use of any weight loss drug or behavior and seeks to provide education on the insidious nature of diet culture. We understand the complex nature of disordered eating and eating disorders and strongly encourage anyone engaging in these behaviors to reach out for help as soon as possible. No statement should be taken as healthcare advice. All healthcare decisions should be made with your individual healthcare provider.


  1. Cohen, G. L., & Sherman, D. K. (2014). The psychology of change: Self-affirmation and social psychological intervention. Annual review of psychology, 65, 333-371. 
  2. Brady, S. T., Reeves, S. L., Garcia, J., Purdie-Vaughns, V., Cook, J. E., Taborsky-Barba, S., Tomasetti, S., Davis, E. M., & Cohen, G. L. (2016). The psychology of the affirmed learner: Spontaneous self-affirmation in the face of stress. Journal of Educational Psychology, 108(3), 353–373. 
  3. Neff, K. D. (2011). Self-Compassion, Self-Esteem, and Well-Being. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 5(1), 1-12. 
  4. Wade, T., O’Shea, A., Shafran, R. (2016). Perfectionism and Eating Disorders. In: Sirois, F., Molnar, D. (eds) Perfectionism, Health, and Well-Being. Springer, Cham. 
  5. Rebecchini, L. (2021). Music, mental health, and immunity. Brain, Behavior, & Immunity - Health, 18, 100374. 
  6. Scott, N., Hanstock, T.L. & Thornton, C.(2014). Dysfunctional self-talk associated with eating disorder severity and symptomatology. Journal of Eating Disorders, 2, 14.


Further reading

Binge eating recovery

Binge eating disorder (BED) is the most common eating disorder in the United States, characterized by...

ARFID treatment at home

Avoidant restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID) is a common eating disorder, though not widely understood...

How to treat eating disorders at home

Eating disorders are serious mental health conditions that affect millions of people around the world. In...

Bulimia treatment at home

Bulimia nervosa (BN) is an eating disorder characterized by cycles of binge eating and purging, with these...

Anorexia home treatment

Treating anorexia nervosa (AN) is often a tricky prospect. While weight restoration and recovery from this...

Eating disorder support groups: Finding healing in community

Eating disorders like binge eating disorder (BED), anorexia nervosa (AN), and bulimia nervosa (BN), can be...

Comparing the different levels of care in eating disorder treatment

While all eating disorders are serious mental health conditions, eating disorder symptoms may present at...

Bulimia self-help recovery

Like other eating disorders, bulimia nervosa (BN) has the power to significantly affect a person’s life and...

10 ways to be gentle with yourself during eating disorder recovery

Eating disorder behaviors are often characterized by profound shame, guilt, and isolation. Eating disorder...

Overcoming food aversion

Food aversion is an intense dislike of a particular food. People may experience this emotion with foods...

How to choose the best eating disorder treatment program for your needs

When it comes to choosing an eating disorder treatment program, people’s specific needs may vary. A program...

Practicing mindfulness and mindful eating

The practice of mindfulness originated through Buddhist meditation, but its introduction into Western...

The health benefits of pet ownership

Coming home to a fur baby or animal companion can feel like coming home to unconditional love. And the...

How chanting helps with meaningful living

Chanting is a type of meditation that has been part of human behavior for thousands of years, practiced by...

Meditation and eating disorder recovery

Practicing meditation can help with internal healing by offering the opportunity to bring mind, body, and...

How yoga can improve mental health & help with eating disorder recovery

Practiced for thousands of years, yoga has long been heralded for its potential to improve mental, physical...

Eating disorder recovery and meaningful living

Eating disorder recovery is an incredibly personal and vulnerable journey, and everyone’s process may look...

The importance of intersectionality in eating disorder treatment and research

Eating disorders affect people of all genders, sexual orientations, races, cultures, weights, sizes, and...

Therapy for eating disorders

Overcoming an eating disorder can be a long and challenging journey. But there are many types of therapy...

Learn about eating disorder treatment

Eating disorders are serious mental health conditions that can impact all aspects of someone's physical...

Aftercare for eating disorders

When you approach the end of your residential or partial hospital program...

How to find a therapist for eating disorders

Eating disorders like anorexia nervosa (AN), bulimia nervosa (BN), and binge eating disorder (BED) are...

Helpful interventions for eating disorders

If you suspect your loved one is suffering from an eating disorder, it can...

Trauma-informed care for eating disorders

There is a strong link between eating disorders, like anorexia nervosa...

Benefits of group therapy for eating disorders

Group therapy, sometimes called group psychotherapy, is not a specific type of therapy but rather a term to...

What to look for in a quality eating disorder treatment program

With so many eating disorder treatment programs available today, both...

Exercise addiction treatment & recovery

Exercise addiction is an eating disorder that can do serious damage to the body, with up...

Night eating syndrome treatment

Night eating syndrome (NES) may not be as well-known as other eating disorders like anorexia nervosa and...

Treatment of pregorexia, pregnancy-related eating disorders

Pregnancy-related eating disorders, also called pregorexia, encompass any eating disorders...

Orthorexia treatment plan

Orthorexia nervosa (ON) is a serious eating disorder that can be very tricky to detect, as...

Diabulimia treatment & recovery

Diabulimia is a complex eating disorder that involves the deliberate underuse or restriction of insulin in...

Anorexia nervosa treatment therapy options with proven results

Anorexia nervosa (AN) is a serious mental health condition that manifests in a number of physical, mental...

Bulimia treatment therapy plans with proven results

Bulimia nervosa (BN) is a dangerous and potentially deadly disorder, affecting someone’s mental, physical...

How to find a binge eating disorder treatment plan

Treatment plans for binge eating disorder (BED)—or other eating disorders and mental health conditions—are...

ARFID treatment: avoidant restrictive food intake disorder

Avoidant restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID) is an eating disorder that involves a severely limited...

Self-help and eating disorder treatment

Human resolve can be a formidable force in any endeavor. Recovering from an...

Partial hospitalization programs for eating disorders

Partial hospitalization programs (PHPs) are highly-structured day therapy programs that can be used for...

Intensive outpatient treatment for eating disorders

While all eating disorders are serious mental health conditions, symptoms span a spectrum of severity. To...

Inpatient care for eating disorders

Mental health conditions of all types, including eating disorders, occur on a spectrum of severity...

The essentials of exercise bulimia recovery

Exercise bulimia is not as frequently talked about or as well understood as other eating disorders. But...

Group therapy for eating disorder treatment

Eating disorders are complex mental health conditions that have deep impacts on many people. By some...

The role of the care partner in ED recovery

Struggling with an eating disorder can be a lonely and isolating experience...

The importance of community during eating disorder recovery

Often, stories of eating disorder recovery focus on the individual, what they...

Further reading

No items found.