Eating Disorder Recovery Tips for Everyone Concerned


Here is the handout I gave part of the all day NAMI The National Alliance on Mental Illness conference in Los Angeles where I presented a workshop to women with eating disorders and to people who want to help a person with an eating disorder recover.  In attendance were women with partial eating disorder recovery, no recovery, unsure if they had an eating disorder, worried that they might have an eating disorder.  Also present were mothers of teen-agers and adults, grandmothers of teen-agers and adults, sober-living directors, mental health clinicians and interns. It was an emotionally moving yet inspiring experience for all of us. (Outline included at end of this post)*. The workshop title was was: 

"One Person Has An Eating Disorder,

Another Wants To Help Her Get Well."



Eating Disorder Recovery Tips for Everyone Concerned

By Joanna Poppink, MFT


Self care IS other care. True self care promotes healing and happiness.

What you give to yourself you also make possible to give to another.


What self care do you need?  Is it in your life?  How can you put it in your life?


  1. Kindness
  2. Compassion
  3. Relaxation
  4. Peace
  5. Beauty
  6. Love
  7. Support
  8. Education
  9. Encouragement
  10. Presence
  11. Time
  12. Joy
  13. Play
  14. Listening to your heart
  15. Honoring your authentic values
  16. Saying “No” when you mean it
  17. Freeing yourself to say “Yes” when you mean it
  18. Eat when hungry
  19. Drink when thirsty
  20. Sleep when tired


In Feng Shui, health is in the center with no tasks for you to create it.  Health happens when everything around the center is in balance.


Happiness is like that.  You do nothing specific for direct happiness.  When self care is in balance, happiness happens.




In times of stress, change and disruption stop. Sit. Feet flat on floor.  Do Mindful Breathing. Move one foot to the side.  Keep breathing mindfully. Remain still and quiet.  Bring yourself in balance. Move your other foot. Bring yourself to balance.


What’s happening? Your body teaches your psyche that you are present during shifts and changes. Your emotions settle and your mind clears.  You are free to make wise decisions and take wise action.


Joanna Poppink, MFT is a Los Angeles psychotherapist specializing in eating disorder recovery for adults and counseling for their loved ones.

Contact information, sign up for mailing list, make appt. Initial telephone consultation is free.

(310) 474-4165  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


*  Workshop Outline:

1. Basic challenges in recovering from your own eating disorder and how to meet them.
2. Basic challenges in helping your loved one recover from their eating disorder and how to meet them.
3. Personal private work, communication styles and boundary recognition issues are described.
4. Where love helps, where it gets in the way, knowing the difference and shifting to recovery mode is explored.


0 # tomorrow is a new daymylifex2 2012-04-24 21:59
tomorrow is a new day
0 # Today is a new day. Yesterday's mistakesmylifex2 2012-04-25 05:54
Today is a new day. Yesterday's mistakes are history. I cannot change them. Today's slate is clean so far, and I will decide how I fill it. My choices are my responsibility.
Laura R
0 # Thanks for sharing the handout. EspecialLaura R 2012-04-26 20:46
Thanks for sharing the handout. Especially the list. I'm not sure I know exactly how to implement some of the self care items or what types of activities would promote them but I've been looking at the list and thinking about it.
0 # I agree that what I give to myself makesmylifex2 2012-04-28 05:24
I agree that what I give to myself makes it possible to give to others. In my line of work (social work in a hospital setting), people expect me to be compassionate, patient, energetic for their cause, empathic, and the list goes on. I have felt nothing of this lately and am working with my therapist on reducing my anxiety about my job. At my session yesterday we talked about how it's not just the job, it's a lot of things going on in my life right now that I am allowing to keep me down. That I am allowing to defeat my efforts at "giving to myself". It's the trauma work I am NOT doing in therapy. It's the lack of sleep, rest. It's worrying about my kids. So I appreciate this one sentence for it's truth and poignancy for me at this time. I want to be able to give to others...I also want to be able to give to myself. I have not been eating right lately and this is one thing that really wears me out. I am trying to take it one day at a time. I need to get back to my nutritionist. I need to do this for myself. I am going to do this for myself. :-)
0 # Dear Tracy and Laura, In the above lipinkjoanna 2012-04-28 10:00
Dear Tracy and Laura,

In the above list the last three items should really be first.

When you are overloaded with stress, when your mind isn't working the way you know it can, when your emotions are haywire, when you can't bring yourself to the tasks you need to accomplish, stop looking for explanations, reasons, in depth understanding, etc.

You can't get there is such a state. What's needed is to pull yourself back on a healthy path. That means, without thinking, judgment, rationalization or excuses, go to:

eat when hungry
drink when thirsty
sleep when tired

Once you are physically nourished, hydrated and rested you will be amazed at the improvement in your thinking and emotional stability.

This is a particular challenge for people with an eating disorder. Funny, isn't it? So much focus on the body while simultaneously neglecting what the body needs for health and survival.

Eat, drink, sleep and then look to the deep inner work.

Let me know what happens when you do. :-)

0 # it seems so simple. Why isn't it?mylifex2 2012-04-28 17:44
it seems so simple. Why isn't it?
Laura R
0 # Joanna - I completely agree about the thLaura R 2012-04-28 18:16
Joanna - I completely agree about the three things being critical to be able to doing the inner work. Tracy, I agree that it's not simple. Not eating for me means really bad anxiety and a muddy brain. It was much worse a year ago when I was severely underweight. My body would be begging for food and I wouldn't be able to think and then I'd forget that eating would help me think and everything would get worse from there. Even today at "underweight" have to be careful but now I notice the funny feeling in my head that I'm running out of fuel and I am more likely to remember "oh yeah, eating will clear up my head and calm my anxiety".

Regarding the inner work, I'm working with my T on compassion. Being compassionate with myself and tuning in to my own suffering is something I am finding hard to tolerate and be with. For some reason it in hurts my heart and I feel overwhelmed. T says it could be grief or sadness for that part of me. I find it hard to watch anyone suffer and always want to help. When I look at my own suffering I feel panicky because feel like I don't know how to help and it feels so big. So I don't stay with it very long. I'm going to keep trying though.
0 # I think the one I fail at most of the timylifex2 2012-04-28 18:32
I think the one I fail at most of the time is getting enough rest. I am eating more and not starving my brain, but I need to make better food choices. I know I don't get enough to drink throughout the day because I forget. I am working on a plan to get more rest which involves asking people to take one or both of my girls overnight once or twice a month, as well as take a day or two off from work each month just for me...with no kids staying home! :-)
Laura R
0 # That sounds like an awesome plan Tracy!Laura R 2012-04-28 19:31
That sounds like an awesome plan Tracy!
0 # thanks Laura! I am going to work hard omylifex2 2012-04-29 20:26
thanks Laura!
I am going to work hard on Joanna's challenge this week. The sleep part is the most challenging also because I stay up so late at night just to have that time to myself. I am around people all day and my kids at night. Once they go to bed, I find myself forcing myself to stay up just to enjoy the quiet time to myself. I am not sure how to remedy this because, although I know my body needs more rest, I also know it needs time to debrief from my day and have some quiet time for myself. I guess I could use some suggestions on this one...
0 # Something that helps is to make your bedpinkjoanna 2012-05-02 17:06
Something that helps is to make your bedroom and your bed wonderfully inviting. Whatever works for you, see if you can make it happen for you.

I like cozy quilts, big back up pillow support as I write my last journal entry, art on the walls that bring me pleasure.

Follow feng shui principles. Close your closet door. Have the room be clean and neat. Don't face a mirror from your bed. See that you can see the door from your bed so you are in the power position in the room.

It all helps. If you make yur bedroom and your bed a nourishing place for you to be, gradually you'll be glad to go there.

Again, like in so many challenges, the key is "gradual."
0 # well, I must admit I have a mirror facinmylifex2 2012-05-02 18:31
well, I must admit I have a mirror facing my bed on a dresser across from it. I can see the door from my bed, but usually keep the closet door open for some reason or another. Neat and, I haven't slept in my bed for two months now because it seems to be the place the clothes land after getting out of the dryer. I have been sleeping on the couch a lot lately. I have a huge tv in my den and I love to fall asleep to HGTV...(home and garden). You are right with your ideas. Sleep should be soothing and something to look foward to as it is a way to take care of my body. Another stress for me is the sooner I go to sleep, the sooner work comes. And work is a huge stress. So I guess I have lots to work on. Gradually....thanks :-)
0 # Tracy, The sooner you go to sleep thepinkjoanna 2012-05-02 21:26

The sooner you go to sleep the more nourishing rest you get and perhaps some healing dreams. Mornings and days are different when you begin them refreshed.

And about the mirror. Many people, including me, have learned to cover mirrors in hotel rooms when they face the bed. It makes sleep much more peaceful and restful.

The key is that the room is called bedroom. Not changing room, dressing room, tv room, laundry room, etc. Our challenge is to make it a real bed room for us, one that welcomes us to rest, nourish, refuel and discover healing dreams.
0 # Trust me, I think about going to bed earmylifex2 2012-05-03 06:13
Trust me, I think about going to bed early all the time. It is something I know my body needs. I guess I need to relinquish the anxiety I have over feeling that I will not have enought "me time" if I do so. I guess technically getting sleep is "me time", but not in the capacity that I have been used to thinking of.
I have been thinking about a re-do on my bedroom. When I think about changing the color scheme, or moving things around, or adding a throw rug, a new comforter, etc., it does make me feel good. My challenge is finding time and money for myself. I am so broke and drained after taking care of my job and my kids. I know these are things that I need to plan out. I know it is important to care for myself.
I have started a little garden on my patio. I have herbs and flowers and plants. It is small right now, but I am adding to it. I also obtained a very shabby chic rocking chair which I put out and added a very pretty blue throw pillow to cushion the seat. (the patio is covered). In the evenings I enjoy leaving the french doors open to view my work and my kids love to sit outside and do their homework. It is very peaceful out there. All this to say that I have taken some notes here :-) and am trying to do peaceful and calming things for myself. It is small, but it is rewarding.
0 # Beautiful!pinkjoanna 2012-05-03 16:47
0 # Last night I went out without my kids anmylifex2 2012-05-05 08:24
Last night I went out without my kids and asked my parents to watch my girls. I left my older one there for the night and was able to get an extra hour of sleep this morning as my little one actually slept in. I went to bed a little earlier last night as well, so I probably gained a couple hours of sleep overall. I do feel more refreshed this morning and less anxious. I noticed that I am not bouncing off the walls frenetically and doing everything in a hurried manner. I made a nourishing breakfast which I was able to eat in peace as my girls are not both here fighting and picking on each other. I am watching my 4 year old play independently and quietly. I have my french doors open and I actually have slowed down enough to hear the birds...I forget they are out there sometimes. I asked my parents to keep my older child for the day so that I can continue to keep some quiet around the house while I get some work done. I don't usually ask for help from my parents, but today I pretty much told my mom I need her to do this for me. I so desperately need a calm day.
I am going to work on my bedroom today. I don't need to buy anything new, I just need to straighten up the stuff I already have :-) I am going to try and sleep there tonight.
Keep you posted. :-)
0 # room clean! mirror down! sheets washed!mylifex2 2012-05-05 13:40
room clean! mirror down! sheets washed! closet organized! dusted, vacuumed and furniture re-arranged. Clothes off bed, put away and goodwill bag organized with clothes I no longer wear. I have barely stopped today, but it looks so nice. I can't believe I actually set my mind to something like this and did it.
(I put the mirror over my living room mantle...looks pretty good in there..)
Thanks for the encouragement!
0 # Congratulations Tracy!!!- I can feel howJan 2012-05-05 17:15
Congratulations Tracy!!!- I can feel how good that feels for you!_ I can feel how good your bedroom looks too!- Sounds like you had quite a workout in there!! Keep us posted - now that you have put your energy into cleansing it all- am so sure you can now sleep just beautifully in there!!!

Good Job!!

0 # Thank you, Jan! Yes, it felt (feels) quimylifex2 2012-05-05 18:13
Thank you, Jan! Yes, it felt (feels) quite good!!! After I moved the mirror onto the mantle in the family room I placed a couple of candles in front...I love how two candles double into four in front of the mirror...I have them surrounded by small smoothed river rocks my kids have found and painted. I also planted some basil, oregano and garlic chives today. I had a totally peace filled day. I didn't even think of the cleaning as a work out. My doctor has me on gym restriction so I haven't been able to go and formally work out anyway. But today was good. And I am grateful for that.
0 # I'm just back from a mini vacation and apinkjoanna 2012-05-06 23:21
I'm just back from a mini vacation and am delighted to discover this terrific progress. Hooray, Tracy!

Now, please be gentle with yourself and find a routine you can live with that allows you to maintain what you've created. You are moving chi around, honoring yourself and your children, celebrating everyone's creativity and clearing space for what you want and need to come into your lives.

I have a mirror over my mantle, too. I love how it doubles plants and art.

Remember, the mirror will double whatever it reflects so watch out for clutter. :-) Double what you care about.

I love hearing that you had "a totally peace filled day." And I hope this inspires others who are quietly reading this site.

Brava, Tracy. And now, the challenge is going to bed earlier and creating an ordinary routine that maintains what you've created. Gradual, gradual, gradual until it's just a normal part of every day living. :-)
0 # thanks, Joanna. I agree to not overwhelmmylifex2 2012-05-07 15:41
thanks, Joanna. I agree to not overwhelm myself with too much change at one time. I also like what you reminded me of with the mirror - to not let clutter reflect. I didn't think of that.
I need to translate some of this to my office at work. My desk looks a mess...paperwork everywhere. I need to make it a more peaceful place to go when I am not in the "war zone" of my unit. A retreat, so to speak.

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