Bulimia relapses and how to deal with them

Bulimia Help

Bulimia relapses and how to deal with them.


Dear Readers,

I’ve been asked four questions on Bulimia Relapse and ED relapse and how to deal with them. The best answer comes from the very best In-house recovery coach Catherine Liberty. Please do read the information carefully. It can really help you in your journey to recovery.


By: Catherine Liberty  Catherine Liberty's picture


Okay, it’s time to talk about one of the more challenging aspects of recovery – RELAPSE.

Hands up – who has experienced a bulimia relapse or at least a “slip up” on the road to recovery?

Honestly I would be very shocked to meet anyone who hadn’t experienced some kind of relapse or “slip-up” while recovering from bulimia.

Why would that be so surprising to me? Well the reality of recovery is that relapses happen. They are a very normal aspect of recovery.

As you will find as you continue your journey, it’s really your attitude to relapse that is the most important thing.

When we relapse it can leave us feeling trapped in a really scary place. We can feel like failures and often like all of the hard work that we have put into recovery so far has been for nothing. We can feel like we’re ‘back at square one’ and often for a time our bulimic behaviours can return with a vengeance.

Relapse can repeatedly make us feel like:

1. Recovery will be impossible,

2. Recovery only happens for other people, or

3. A true recovery never really happens for anyone – feelings like this can be especially true for those of us who experience relapses quite far on into the recovery process.

It’s crazy to think that I have been a strong believer in all three of those scenarios at one point or another through the years.

Now though, I can happily report that all three are completely untrue. In many ways it is your attitude to relapse that can end up having the most profound effect on your recovery experience.

My own recovery story was a little different to most, mainly because I didn’t have my first bulimia relapse until just after 6 months of successful recovery. When that first relapse did happen I was terrified.

I had a really bad attitude towards relapse because it was “the unknown”, I thought I would be different, I thought I would be the one person who had “the perfect recovery”.

Of course relapsing made my recovery less than perfect and for a time I hated that. As time passed however, I began to change my relapse attitude from fear to acceptance.

It was a pain to get back on track after slipping up, it was hard to go straight back to structured eating after a binge and it was horrible to accept that recovery couldn’t be the perfect smooth process that I had hoped for, but as hard as it was to accept those things it WAS possible – and you will find the same.

It is very important that you begin to accept that sometimes relapse will be unavoidable. More than that, it is important that you start to understand just how valuable episodes of relapse can be.

Your should never underestimate how positive an episode of relapse can be.

I know many of you probably think I’m a little insane for writing the words “relapse” and “positive” in the same sentence, but it is the honest truth.

A relapse lets us know that something isn’t quite working in our recovery plan. It can let us know that we’re not eating enough, not getting enough rest, not developing our strategies enough to cope with emotional triggers.

Experiencing relapse can help us to develop new plans and strategies and to be stronger next time we face the same triggering situation.

Even more than that a relapse can often let us see how truly wonderful recovery actually is.

There was a time where I found myself “needing a break” from recovery. When that break finally came (in the form of a relapse) I realized just how horrible bulimia was. I couldn’t believe I had lived that way for almost 11 years. Relapsing at that time actually ended up really boosting my recovery motivation.

I believe that it is impossible to recover without experiencing some phases of relapse, but that’s okay. As painful as it can be in the moment, it is the bad days that teach us the most.

It is the hard times that offer us true enlightenment.

Today I want you to think about your own attitude to relapse:

  • What can you learn from relapse experiences and how can you ensure that you do learn from them?
  • How does or has relapse made you feel about recovery?
  • How can you use those experiences to keep moving forwards with your own recovery?
  • Have your attitudes towards relapse changed over time?
  • It can be a great idea to create your own relapse plan so you are prepared and know what to do when you experience an episode of relapse.

Sometimes recovery can be trial and error and it will never be smooth running but that’s okay because we have to let go of these make-believe ideas of perfection and control, they simply do not exist in the real world and that’s where we’re trying to get ourselves right?