It is important to remember the unique nature of eating disorders compared to other mental health disorders. Opposed to other mental health disorders, eating disorders center around one thing that we as humans cannot live without: food. It seems basic, but when an individual has a poor relationship with food, they cannot simply abstain from it, like someone struggling with substance use disorder (SUD) may have to do with drugs or alcohol. 

People that struggle with eating disorders also tend to have a poor relationship with another crucial part of healthy living: physical activity. This is why recovery-based movement can be crucial to treating individuals struggling with eating disorders.

Integrating physical activity into long-term eating disorder recovery is critical. While it should never be the sole treatment modality, recovery-based movement can be a pivotal part of anyone’s eating disorder treatment plan. However, it is also important to understand the boundaries that many people with eating disorders need to establish when it comes to physical activity.

To say that people who struggle with eating disorders are people that struggle with food are doing them and the entire recovery industry a disservice. Yes, while food is involved, eating disorders often involve issues beyond the simple elements of eating. A comprehensive and customized recovery plan will get to what underlies these issues. If deemed appropriate, this may very well involve recovery-based movement.

What Is Recovery-Based Movement?

Just as it is an unfair simplification to define an eating disorder as a struggle with food, it is unfair to simply equate exercise with recovery-based movement therapy. Recovery-based movement is not about starting or stopping an exercise regimen. It is about assessing what exercise and mindful movement should apply to an individual’s well-being.

This can only happen after a proper and professional eating disorder assessment and a comprehensive and sustainable recovery plan are created. For example, an individual that struggles with compulsive over-exercise will have a much different recovery-based movement plan than an individual that focuses more on food avoidance and restriction than physical movement.

An eating disorder recovery plan must always be customized for the individual to achieve the best results. So, what might some of those individualized plans look like?

What Does Recovery-Based Movement Look Like?

The answer to what a recovery-based plan looks like should never be identical. While yes, there are many overlapping aspects of individualized recovery-based movement plans, they will largely depend on what is determined in the eating disorder assessment. However, one major similarity in almost every recovery-based movement plan is that it is also administered in tandem with a nutrition therapy plan.

A recovery-based movement plan will work on how an individual connects with physical exercise. If that relationship has been skewed, it will help an individual reconnect with exercise healthily and consciously. This will also be done alongside nutrition therapy that will help create an understanding of how food is not just calories to be counted or “burned off.” Rather, it is something that will nourish both the body and soul.

Recovery-based movement will help introduce exercise to an individual while also putting boundaries in place to stop the potential for over-exercise or other aspects of their eating disorder from undermining the process. A professional can help assess how this movement is helping with the overall recovery process. They can also make the proper adjustments that will lead to the most successful and sustainable recovery. This may include an increase or a reduction in exercise, but it will always keep the process unique to the individual.

The Importance of a Balanced Recovery Plan That Focuses on the Long-Term

There is no “cookie-cutter” “quick-fix” plan for eating disorder recovery. Everyone’s struggle with an eating disorder is unique to them, which is why their recovery plan should be as well. However, there are a few aspects of a recovery plan that can best set anyone struggling up for success.

A recovery plan should never be one-dimensional. There are many treatment modalities for eating disorder recovery; any good recovery center will utilize many of them in a single recovery plan. For example, a recovery plan that focuses on nutrition therapy should not stop there. It may also focus on group therapy so that an individual can relate to others that are also having a shared experience. 

Another example, as we have primarily been discussing, is a recovery plan that focuses on recovery-based movement should not stop there. It may also focus on therapy like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) that can help get to the underlying emotional issues that often precede or contribute to an eating disorder.

Remember, an eating disorder is not a “food disorder.” It is a mental health disorder, and it deserves to be treated with the weight and gravity that distinction bears. The right recovery center understands this, and they know what it means to treat the individual and not just their disorder because an individual should never be defined solely by their struggles.

Recovery-based movement can be a critical part of an individual’s long-term eating disorder recovery. Integrating recovery-based movement can help an individual take autonomy over their health journey and begin to heal themselves through proactive physical means. This can be particularly helpful for those struggling with eating disorders because it can help incorporate healthy movement into their overall eating disorder recovery. Recovery-based movement is extremely versatile and may involve many activities, can be cost-effective, and is open to all populations. If you feel like you, or someone you love, are struggling with an eating disorder, we can help. For more information on recovery-based movement and creating a customized recovery plan, call be Collaborative Care at (401) 262-0842.