The Beginning Stages of an Eating Disorder

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Eating disorders are dangerous mental health disorders that can seemingly sneak up on a person. However, there are warning signs that indicate someone has entered the beginning stages of an eating disorder. When this happens, it’s important to get help immediately. Trellis Recovery Centers offers a highly effective residential program that uses a transdiagnostic approach that works for a diverse group of women. With our help, someone who is sick can enter the beginning stages of eating disorder recovery.

What are the Beginning Stages of an Eating Disorder? 

Not everyone follows the same path when they develop an eating disorder, but many commonalities occur. The beginning stages of an eating disorder usually include the following:

Stage 1

The person begins to engage in behaviors like dieting and exercising or increasing their caloric intake. The person believes they are taking reasonable steps to achieve a certain look or to cope with stress in their lives. Additionally, the person begins to rely on their eating disorder as a coping skill and medical damage can begin this soon.

Stage 2

The behavior has become ritualistic now, and the person regularly engages in actions like restricting food, purging, binge eating, and compulsive exercising. The individual now meets the criteria established in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders for having an eating disorder. Health risks have begun at this point, and the person has trouble letting go of their compulsive need to use behaviors. They do not grasp the negative consequences of their disease or even that they are ill. 

Stage 3

The person’s eating disorder has now become their identity. They rely on regular use of behaviors and negative self-talk, and the thought of entering treatment feels threatening. The individual attempts to engage in deceptive acts to try to hide their behaviors. If they are underage, their parents may have to attempt to force them into treatment. Once a person reaches stage 3, it is imperative they receive professional treatment at an eating disorder facility as fast as possible. 

What are the Best Ways to Prevent Eating Disorders? 

Eating disorders develop over time, usually with input from both negative internal dialogue and messaging from the advertising and entertainment world. Children brought up in families that focus on being thin and controlling their eating can also send a message that turns into deadly behaviors. Ways to help prevent eating disorders both in one’s self and  loved ones include:

  • Do not focus on numbers, such as weight, clothing sizes, and calories. 
  • Do not assign labels to food such as “good” and “bad”.
  • Do not equate achieving a certain weight or clothing size with how to be happy. Good self-esteem and success can come at any size.
  • Eat a healthy mix of food groups in moderation.
  • Do not apologize for eating certain foods or act as if it’s wrong or “cheating” to have something like a piece of cake
  • Understand social media and advertisement images are heavily edited and not representative of how people actually look.
  • Develop a healthy internal dialogue.
  • Attend therapy sessions if warning signs of an eating disorder happen.
  • Be open to talking to someone if you need support or you suspect they need it.

What are the Beginning Stages of Eating Disorder Recovery? 

When someone enters recovery, it’s not a one-step process. In fact, there are five beginning stages of eating disorder recovery. Each one builds on the previous one, and having supervision from eating disorder-trained professionals throughout the stages helps the person stay focused. The stages are:

Precontemplation Stage

The person does not yet understand they have an illness. Loved ones can see signs that the person makes excuses for and is in denial about. It’s important for family and friends to avoid the temptation to excuse eating disorder behaviors as not a problem. They should share their concerns as they attempt to guide the person into understanding they are sick.

Contemplation Stage

The person has begun to admit they are not well and have become open to the idea of getting help. Having a therapist can help the individual deal with their fears about going to treatment and explore what purpose having an eating disorder has served in their lives. Loved ones should provide a willing ear and support the person in moving toward real action. Joining a support group can benefit family and friends at this point. 

Preparation Stage

The person accepts that they need help and begins to prepare for entering treatment. They begin to picture how accepting help will look and feel. It works best when they are already under the care of a therapist who can teach them some initial coping skills and other things that prepare them for entering a formal treatment program. Family and close friends can be included in this stage by meeting with the therapist as part of a family therapy session.

Action Stage

The person actively begins treatment and confronts the reality of how their eating disorder mindset and behaviors have impacted their lives. They start to put healthy coping mechanisms into play and establish trust with their treatment team. Loved ones can engage in conversations and actions with recommendations from the therapist and offer positive reinforcement as the person takes positive steps forward. 

Maintenance Stage

This stage happens when the person has actively sustained the Action Stage for six months or more. They have learned how to change their relationships with food and their bodies and have developed new habits of making smart choices. They adapt so they have ways of avoiding triggers and start to become accustomed to living with healthier thoughts and behaviors. Family and friends should champion the progress their loved ones make, including both big and small steps. They should also be on the lookout for signs of a potential relapse on the horizon.

Begin Eating Disorder Recovery at Trellis Recovery Centers

Whether you are in the beginning stages of an eating disorder or you have had one for a long time, you deserve help. Trellis Recovery Centers in Los Angeles, California offers a modern, multi-disciplinary approach to treating a variety of eating disorders. Our residential program uses several types of evidence-based therapy to help empower women to regain their health. Our eating disorder-trained clinicians provide the medical and psychological support necessary to make real changes. With our help, you learn to develop new relationships with your body and food. 

Would you like to get more information about how we can help you enter the beginning stages of eating disorder recovery? Contact us today and let our admissions staff help you get started on healing now.