The 12 Step Recovery Program to Treat Eating Disorders

Dixie on August 29, 2020
The 12 Step Recovery Program to Treat Eating Disorders

When you hear the term ‘Eating Disorder’, what is the first thing that comes to mind? 




But this is far more serious and complex than that.

Eating Disorder is a widely misunderstood condition that affects not only the physical but also the mental and psychological aspects of a person.

It usually begins with an obsession with food, body weight, or body shape.

This dangerous disorder, then, leads to unhealthy, obsessive, or disordered eating habits.

These people struggle with their relationship with food, have distortions of their body image, and live with anxiety and/or depression.

6 Most Common Types of Eating Disorders

Listed below are brief explanations of the most common eating disorders, to help you identify the signs in loved ones and lead them to the help they need.

  1. Anorexia Nervosa (voluntary starvation)

This commonly develops among teenagers and young adults, especially more women are affected than men.

Characteristics of anorexia include:

  • Little to none food intake
  • Fear of being “fat”
  • Over-monitoring their weight
  • Body image issues or denial of being underweight
  • Constantly unsatisfied with their body
  • Excessive exercise
  • Forces themselves to vomit or use laxatives
  1. Bulimia Nervosa (binge-eating followed by purging)

It is defined as the frequent consumption of unusually large servings of food, aka bingeing, in short periods.

Followed by purging (self-induced vomiting), fasting, over-exercising, etc.

Unlike anorexia, people with bulimia may be slightly underweight, normal, or overweight.

They tend to binge on any foods but more so on foods they avoid, and eat uncontrollably or until their stomach is painfully full.

This leads to throwing up to relieve discomfort and to get rid of calories and prevent weight gain in an unhealthy way.

  1. Binge-Eating Disorder (binge-eating without purging)

Like bulimia, most symptoms are the same.

For example, they consume relatively large amounts of food within a short amount of time.

However, people with binge-eating disorder don’t purge or use intense weight loss methods.

Characteristics of binge-eating disorder include:

  • Loss of control during binge-eating
  • Continuous weight gain
  • Frequent consumption of large portions of food secretly, despite not feeling hungry
  • Intense fulfillment while eating, followed by feelings of shame, disgust, or guilt, which can lead to depression
  1. Pica (craving non-food substances)

It is a disorder mostly observed in children, pregnant women, and people with mental disabilities.

Pica is described as constant eating/craving of non-food items and substances, such as:

  • Paper
  • Soap
  • Hair
  • Wool
  • Chalk
  • String 
  • Metal
  • Pebbles
  • Dirt
  • Soil
  • Ice
  • Laundry detergent
  • Cornstarch

Individuals with pica typically do not have a dislike for normal food in general.

Those with the disorder are more prone to infections, stomach injuries, poisoning, and nutrient deficiencies.

  1. Rumination disorder

A condition characterized by repeated regurgitation of food after eating, bringing back digested food up into the mouth without effort, involuntary puking, or disgust. The food is then re-chewed and spit out or re-swallowed.

People of all stages of life can be affected by the disorder.

This leads to extreme malnutrition and weight loss.

  1. Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID) 

ARFID used to be known as “feeding disorder of infancy and early childhood,” a diagnosis restricted for children under 7 years old.

Although, it continues into adulthood and common among men and women.

This is a feeding disorder in which the person avoids or displays a lack of interest towards some foods based on:

  • Smells 
  • Tastes
  • Colors
  • Textures
  • Temperatures
  • Had past negative experiences with food.

This behavior is more than picky eating and being cautious.

They may also have a fear of vomiting or choking. This condition can cause people to undereat, lose weight, and have poor development.

What is the 12 Step Program for Eating Disorders?

The 12 Step Program is initially developed by Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) for individuals recovering from alcoholism.

Later on, this program became the foundation for many recovery programs of a wider range of substance addictions and dependency issues.

Following the same principles of the initial 12 step program, it can also be beneficial and applicable to men and women recovering from their eating disorders.

The 12-step process in a nutshell:

  • Acknowledging the loss of control over your condition;
  • Attending meetings with others struggling with eating disorders;
  • Realizing a higher power that can provide you hope;
  • Evaluating past mistakes with the aid of a sponsor (experienced member);
  • Setting right these wrongs;
  • Learning to start a new life with a code of conduct;
  • Helping those who share similar addictions or compulsions.

How do I get into a Group?

Attending support groups can be a great way to address your recovery process. 

Groups give comfort, acceptance, encouragement,

and support you in accomplishing your goals. 

Before searching for groups, consider your goals and ponder on these questions below:

  • Do you want to be a part of a community where peers support each other and lead support groups?
  • Do you want to join a group headed by a therapist that is more organized and can connect you with a select group of people who attend weekly?

It is also advisable to ask local therapists if they know of any recovery group options within your reach. They may be able to suggest one that caters to your needs.

Also, 12-step programs are free and usually available worldwide.

Eating Disorders Anonymous (EDA)

EDA is a recovery program where individuals join with like-minded men and women to share their experiences and goals.

EDA states that their “primary purpose is to recover from our eating disorder and to carry this message of recovery to others like us”, using the 12-step program to focus on the solution and not on the disorder itself.

Anorexics and Bulimics Anonymous (ABA)

ABA is another 12-step program that welcomes people coping with all types of eating disorders

Their main objective is to find and continue recovery in our eating methods, and to help others gain healing as well.

How Willow Place for Women Can Help Treat Eating Disorders

Here at Willow Place for Women, we help our clients understand what they can do to improve their overall well-being and start a new healthy and happy journey!

Individuals in our program have the opportunity to utilize a number of our services and therapies. 

Our therapy and educational sessions work specifically to address the underlying causes of eating disorders. 

Or, to teach helpful relapse prevention skills to help women establish true and meaningful healing. Specific services available in this program include:

DBT: Dialectical behavioral therapy intends to help individuals change negative thought patterns that encourage eating disorder behavior. Once a person is more in charge of the way they think, they can take control of how they behave. This specific therapy includes individualized sessions in which participants speak with a cognitive behavioral therapist in a safe and secluded environment

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy: Before true healing can begin, a person must both accept their issues and commit to a life of recovery. This type of therapy involves helping individuals accept their eating disorder condition. And, dedicate their lives to healing and recovery.

Nutritional Groups: Group therapy sessions allow individuals in treatment to understand that they’re not alone by socializing with others dealing with similar situations. Also, they provide a setting in which people can practice techniques discovered throughout time in treatment.

Process Groups: Since we offer daytime outpatient treatment, those enrolled in the PHP will have the weekends to themselves. But, we want to make sure that all women in our care get the support they need every day. So, before and after each weekend, we offer process groups. During these groups, individuals set goals and discuss occurrences on the weekends.

Interpersonal Process: This type of individualized therapy aims to discover the underlying causes of eating disorders. Once it’s determined why an eating disorder develops, both therapists and the individual in treatment can determine the best methods to stress management, goal setting, finding meaning to life, and much more!

Supportive Therapies: Along with the therapy sessions listed above, the women enrolled in eating disorder PHP can take advantage of a number of supportive therapies which aim to provide additional support throughout the process of recovery. These include art therapy, movement therapy, acupuncture, yoga, and family involvement!

Willow Place for Women is a women’s only outpatient eating disorder, trauma, and substance use disorder treatment facility. 

During this pandemic, we are still working to provide support for women who need our help across the globe. 

We offer online treatment for your wellbeing during this uncertain time of the COVID-19 virus. 

Contact us today to tell us about what you’re dealing with. 828-707-6084

Request a Call Back

If you or someone you love is battling a severe chemical dependency, an eating disorder, or both, please feel free to contact one of our trained cognitive behavioral therapy Asheville addiction specialists today. All calls are free and completely confidential. While we know that suffering from a severe and life-threatening substance dependency can, at times, seem insurmountable, we sincerely believe that every woman is capable and deserving of the opportunity to recover. Reaching out is the first step – give us a call today and we will gladly walk you through the process of beginning your beautiful, fulfilling journey of recovery.

Note: Your details are kept strictly confidential.

Your Name

Seeking help for:

Your Email Optional

Location Interesting in:

Your Phone Number

5 + 5 =