The 12 Step Recovery Program to Treat Eating Disorders

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

Have you ever heard of the 12 step recovery program?

How about the term ‘Eating Disorder’, what is the first thing that comes to mind? 



But this is far more serious than that.

Eating Disorder is a widely misunderstood condition.

It 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, and shape.

Having said that, eating disorder leads to obsessive eating habits.

These people struggle with their relationship with food.

As a result, having a distorted body image. Plus, live with anxiety and depression.

6 Most Common Types of Eating Disorders

Listed below are brief explanations of the most common eating disorders:

  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
  • Denial of being underweight
  • Constantly unsatisfied with their body
  • Excessive exercise
  • Forces themselves to vomit 
  1. Bulimia Nervosa (binge-eating followed by purging)

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

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

Unlike anorexia, bulimic people may be slightly underweight or overweight.

They tend to binge on any food.

This leads to throwing up to relieve discomfort and get rid of calories.

Having said that, preventing weight gain in an unhealthy way.

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

Just 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.

They don’t use intense weight loss methods as well.

Characteristics of binge-eating disorder include:

  • Loss of control
  • Continuous weight gain
  • Frequent consumption of large portions of food, 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 such as:

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

In general, individuals with pica typically do not have a dislike for normal food.

Those with the disorder are more prone to:

  • Infections
  • Stomach injuries
  • Food poisoning
  • Nutrient deficiencies
  1. Rumination disorder

An eating disorder that brings back digested food up into the mouth. 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 malnutrition and weight loss.

  1. Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID) 

12 step recovery

ARFID refers to “feeding disorder of infancy and early childhood”. It is 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 where the person displays a lack of interest towards some food 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.

As a result, 12 step recovery programs offer a wide range of substance addiction and dependency issues.

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 12 step recovery program?

12 step recoveryAttending 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 12 step recovery groups, ponder on these questions below:

  • Do you want to be a part of a community where peers support each other?
  • Do you want to join a group headed by a therapist that is more organized?

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

Eating Disorders Anonymous (EDA)

EDA is a recovery program where individuals 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”.

As a result, EDA uses the 12-step program to focus on the solution and not on the disorder itself.

Anorexics and Bulimics Anonymous (ABA)

ABA is a 12-step recovery program that helps people coping with all types of eating disorders

Their main objective is to find and continue recovery in our eating methods. In addition to that, ABA helps others gain healing as well.

Our 12 step recovery at Willow Place for Women 

Here at Willow Place for Women, we help our clients understand what they can do to put an end to eating disorders.

We are here to guide you to start a new healthy journey!

Having said that, individuals in our program have the opportunity to utilize a number of our services and therapies. 

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

Furthermore, we teach helpful relapse prevention skills. 

Willow Place helps women establish true and meaningful healing. Specific services available in this program include:


Dialectical behavioral therapy help individuals change negative thought patterns.

As a result, we help put an end to your eating disorder behavior.

DBT includes individualized sessions. We allow our clients to speak with a cognitive-behavioral therapist in a safe and secluded environment

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

Before true healing can begin, you must both accept your issues and commit to a life of recovery.

Having said that, this type of therapy involves helping individuals treat their eating disorder condition.

Plus, dedicate their lives to healing and recovery.

Nutritional Groups for 12 step recovery

Group therapy sessions allow our clients to understand that they’re not alone. 

At Willow Place for Women, you get the opportunity to socialize with others dealing with similar situations.

Process Groups

Our clients enrolled in the PHP will have the weekends to themselves.

With that said, 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 for 12 step recovery

This type of individualized therapy aims to discover the underlying causes of eating disorders.

Once determined why an eating disorder develops, our therapists can determine the best methods for you!

Supportive Therapies for the 12 step recovery program

The women enrolled in eating disorder PHP can take advantage of a number of our supportive therapies.

Having said that, Willow Place for Women aims to provide additional support throughout the process of recovery. These include:

  • Art therapy
  • Movement therapy
  • Acupuncture
  • Yoga
  • Family involvement

Willow Place for Women is a women’s only outpatient eating disorder treatment facility in Asheville, North Carolina. 

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

We offer online treatment 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 substance use, mental health, or eating disorders, please feel free to contact one of our trained admission specialists today. All calls are free and completely confidential. While we know that suffering from a severe and life-threatening substance use disorder or a mental health issue 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.