Going back to places that you haven’t been since your disordered eating days.

There were times when I was doing well not engaging in eating disorder behaviors in my day to day life (i.e. no overexercising or restrict-binge cycling), but then I would go to a place I hadn’t been since pursuing ED recovery and all of the sudden it felt like my brain forgot all the progress I’d made and was like, “let’s go back to what we used to do in this place.”

In particular for me, I noticed this scenario pop up on our annual trip to Laguna Beach. In my life at home I’d had time to practice the skill of waking up and dealing with the discomfort of not allowing myself to go exercise (rigid exercise was a behavior that kept a pattern of restrict-overeat-exericse food off alive in my life), but in places I hadn’t been since being healthy it was almost like my healthy self hadn’t had time to process and practice being my healthy self in certain locations. I would revisit those places and my brain would pipe up with memories of the eating disorder routines I did in those places for a decade.

For a while, even just being in my childhood home (I imagine the holidays were tricky for some of you because of this), college town, or our family’s lake house was challenging and I always found myself in a bad mood when there and met with this pull to go back to not taking care of myself and not using all the new skills I’d developed.

I noticed being in some locations took more intentional focus on 1) eating based on hunger, fullness and cravings, 2) moving my body in a way that felt good and not in a way aimed at changing my body size, and 3) focusing on using the healthful coping mechanisms I’d decided on and been practicing for handling stress and anxiety, rather than the maladaptive coping mechanisms of restriction/over-eating/overexercise.

I didn’t and don’t view the more intentional focus required in certain locations as a regression into the eating disorder, instead it was just my brain going back to old patterns I did in that place. Many times it was just a thought popping into my head and then me saying, “brain, we don’t need to do that anymore. We’re safe and we take care of ourselves. And when we feel unsafe we have skills to go to.” I’ve heard numerous clients say many times how they feel like their ED behaviors shift to more of a habit than a reflection of their values (once aware of their true values and they’ve unearthed the root cause(s) of their eating disorder with their therapist) and they wonder why they still occasionally choose the ED behavior. It reminds me of Paul in Romans when he is deeply distressed by how his sin separates him from God: 

This scripture isn’t saying sit and wallow in the shame of your actions. Rather, instead of sitting in that shame we are so prone to feel, when we are believers and mess up, we get to turn and run right back to Jesus who is has already forgiven every sin and fall straight into his unending grace. He really is with us through every moment of suckiness of this life, even if we don’t feel like he is. While in recovery, there will be desires you have that serve the eating disorder (i.e. pursue a body size you aren’t meant to be, refuse to follow a meal plan set by your treatment team that includes all food groups, etc.), but we have to actively choose not to pursue them. Engaging in ED behaviors will halt your life and separate you from Christ (here’s a post on how being in pursuit of our culture’s version of being a good steward kept me separated from Christ). People don’t end up with eating disorders for no reason. They can serve to keep you from drowning for a temporary amount of time, but your eating disorder will never be enough. Your eating disorder is a less-than-gospel that won’t ever bring you peace and saving.

So what’s an actionable step to take…

Before going to places where your eating disorder was strong (or if you’re in the early stages of recovery this is also a good idea whether going anywhere or not), it can be good to make a list of the mood states, environments, comments, situations, or foods that trigger unhelpful thoughts (you don’t have to believe your thoughts) or behaviors. Also, I always found it comforting to know that eating disorder behaviors are predictable and you can use that predictability to break out of your routines and fuel your recovery. Below is an activity to help you increase awareness around the predictability and the function of your eating disorder behaviors. 

When you return to places you haven’t been since your eating disorder days, it can be a moment of:

  • “wow, look at how far I’ve come in my recovery!”
  • a regression back to old thoughts/behaviors
  • or, more typically, a mixture of the above two

Is this something you can relate to?

What has been helpful for you to focus on when returning to places where your eating disorder was present but you haven’t gotten to practice being your healthy self there much?

(also. I’m not biblical scholar and sometimes I’m gonna get scripture interpretation wrong. If I take the true meaning of a scripture out of context, I’m sorry and I don’t mind being corrected! But I don’t think that’s a reason not to share the application of scripture to ED recovery. I know the holy spirit lives in me and gives me knowledge to share and I don’t think my faith in meant to be lived in my head in private without sharing. So here we are!)


  1. Yes! I always find this with my grandparents’ house. When I stay with them, it’s so easy to let ED behaviours come back, especially because I don’t love all the food there: saying to myself that I’m not eating as much as normal because I don’t like this food is an easy ‘excuse’. Also, my grandparents now think I have a very small appetite because of the way I used to eat, so I often have to ask them for more, which I still sometimes find challenging. Thanks for sharing this – I thought I was the only one who felt this way. (And that part from Romans you shared is so relatable for recovery!)

  2. I just love everything about this post!  I struggle most not in a particular place, but around a particular person, which is my. mom.  Feeling  of inadequacy and all others, start creeping in and along with it thoughts of ED behaviors.  I have to constantly. remind myself I am enough.  I don’t need  to make myself smaller around her, her actions and behaviors are not mine, etc.  I love this passage of Romans and the fact that you are becoming more open about sharing. your faith.  Something I am striving to do more of.

  3. I just love your use of the scriptures and interweaving of faith in your posts! Thank you!

  4. Kylie, your heart for those in ED recovery and for the Lord is something that is oh so special to me. As a Christian who has struggled with body image and food, hearing from others who believe the same things I do is the best. Thankful for these words! 

  5. This is interesting; I’m going to practice these skills during a trip to NYC this weekend! Also thank you for being bold and sharing scripture as it relates to recovery, etc :)

  6. As a dietitian who now works in eating disorders and had disordered eating myself in the past, I found this post so helpful! I have been told throughout my career to not be too bold with my faith as it might scare off potential clients. Thanks for encouraging me to still be bold with my faith. <3

    • Gotta do what aligns with your values! I feel what’s the point of working for myself if I can’t be and do exactly who I’m called to be and do what I’m called to do. In a few years I’d love to go back to school for biblical counseling to really be able to bridge EDs and scripture!

    • I’m not religious at all but seeing expressions of other people’s faith, especially from someone I respect and admire so much, is not off-putting at all! I love all of her posts even if i glaze over the scripture portion :) 

  7. I love this post and the incorporated scripture!

  8. This is so beautiful, I looove this post. thank you Kylie :)

  9. I am LOVING how you are now posting more about the interplay between ED and having a true relationship with Christ. I really, really, really hope you continue to write more about this because I think this is the heart of the matter. 

  10. I can relate to this so well. I also have experienced strong feelings/impulses associated with certain smells. For the longest time, the smell of hotel towels would remind me of hospital stays. In a way, I found the smell comforting. But not in a good way. Thank you so much for sharing your experience. 

  11. I love this post and love how you’ve been incorporating more of your faith into your blog recently! It’s so helpful. Thank you for being bold and sharing the Gospel!

  12. I LOVE how you brought in Romans; it’s so true that thinking of how we want to NOT go back to that place and actively engaging in not pursuing those behaviors is part of recovery, especially when your mind goes back to those places.  Thank you for this Kylie.  I totally appreciate you sharing Jesus through more and more blog posts; it’s sooo beautiful to me.  

  13. Thank you for these words! I appreciate you talking about your faith. This is so helpful! 

  14. Hi Kylie! I was wondering if you have done a post on how to not get into diet mentality after having a baby? Or if it is ok to try and lose the weight?

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