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The recovery process is never linear and can take several years

No matter how long it takes, it is vital to keep working towards a full recovery. 

Many people with eating disorders have had multiple attempts at seeking help and attempting recovery. 

Research suggests that eating disorders last 5 to 6 years, on average. Some people recover in less than a year and others have a severe and enduring course of illness. 

Ongoing, routine appointments with people in recovery are an essential part of eating disorder treatment and relapse prevention.

Although recovery periods can be protracted, recovery is possible with the right treatment and support. 

We need to ensure that there is hope, because patients do get better after many, many years. I have seen patients who have been ill for 20 years make a full recovery.Professor Stephen Touyz

Stages of recovery 

Recovery occurs in stages. Restoring nutrition and body weight is only the beginning of the road to recovery.   

Stage 1: Physical recovery 

Restoration of nutrition and normal body weight. 

Stage 2: Psychological recovery 

Psychological recovery occurs during and following on from physical recovery. 

Psychological recovery generally takes longer than physical recovery and is unlikely to occur unless the body and brain are adequately and consistently nourished. 


When a person starts making positive behavioural changes that challenge the eating disorder, it is common for their psychological symptoms to ramp up (i.e. thoughts, urges, difficult emotions). 

Continue to provide support and check-in with the person, even as their behaviour or physical health appears to be improving. 

GP Dr Jan Orman explores the importance of considering both psychological and physical wellbeing during ongoing monitoring.

What does recovery look like? 

Being recovered is when the person can accept his or her natural body size and shape and no longer has a self-destructive or unnatural relationship with food or exercise. When you are recovered, food and weight take a proper perspective in your life and what you weigh is not more important than who you are, in fact, actual numbers are of little or no importance at all. When recovered, you will not compromise your health or betray your soul to look a certain way, wear a certain size or reach a certain number on a scale. When you are recovered, you do not use eating disorder behaviours to deal with, distract from, or cope with other problems.Carolyn Costin, '8 Keys To Recovery From an Eating Disorder'