The goal of eating disorder treatment is full recovery: living life free of eating disorder thoughts and behaviors. There is always hope, even for patients with chronic illness, but the best path to recovery is early intervention and firm and unyielding progress toward full medical, emotional, and cognitive health. Although they are extremely serious brain illnesses, anorexia and bulimia can be successfully and fully treated.
F.E.A.S.T. Believes in Full Recovery
No patient or patient's family need ever settle for treatment that isn't
working, is stalled, settles for less than 100% recovery, or stops
before the patient is fully self-sufficient.
It is important for parents to know that full physical, emotional, and
cognitive recovery is not unattainable or rare. In fact, if properly
treated an eating disorder can be short in duration and without long-term
And although it has become common to say that it takes 5-7 years to
recover, this is a statistic based on older treatment approaches and drawn
from the most severe cases. Recovery is rarely achieved in less than
several months, but treatment that languishes or settles for low weight
goals should be reexamined.
It is also common to say that one never completely recovers from an eating
disorder. This is a disabling and self-perpetuating myth.
FEAST was founded by families who have supported or are currently
supporting loved ones through the recovery process. Many of us have
seen children and young adults go from gravely ill to full remission
of symptoms, living healthy normal lives.
Signs of Recovery
published by Cris Haltom in the EATING DISORDER SURVIVAL GUIDE, May 25,
(adapted from sources below)
- Eating occurs at regular intervals and is guided primarily by physical
rather than emotional hunger.
- Metabolic rate, if measured, is restored and maintained at a healthful
- The ability to recognize and respond to hunger as a guide for eating
appropriately has returned.
- Weight for height based on age and gender is restored to a healthful
- For females, menstruation is achieved or restored and maintained without
- Skin health, dental health,thermoregulation, hair growth, and digestion/
absorption functions are restored to normal.
- Healthy body composition (lean body mass and body fat) is restored and
- Caloric and nutrient intake is appropriate for maintaining a healthy
weight and body composition.
- Purging behavior, e.g., self-induced vomiting and laxative or enema use,
- Use of diet pills or appetite suppressants is absent.
- Excessive exercise is absent.
- Binge eating behavior is absent or rare.
- The ability to tolerate a wide variety of foods so that a good balance
of high- quality protein, carbohydrates, fatty acids, minerals, and
vitamins is maintained.
- The ability to tolerate natural shifts in weight (one to several
pounds) related to such factors such as hydration changes, illness, and
season of the year.
- The ability to tolerate 'spontaneous' natural eating - especially out
- Weight gain does not deter from eating well.
- Acceptance of genetically-determined body type, size and shape.
- The percentage of waking hours spent obsessing about weight, food,
and/or body image is reduced to 15% or less.
- The ability to effectively cope with problems in ways other than
through disordered eating behaviors.
- After physical health is restored, the ability to understand and
resolve, other than through disordered eating, the issues underlying and
driving disordered eating.
- The ability to recognize signs of relapse and to seek appropriate help
if relapse occurs.
- Triggers for relapse thinking or behaviors can be identified.
- The family as a whole has moved beyond food and weight preoccupation.
- The family as a whole is able to identify, explore, and cope with
normal adolescent issues.
- The family as a whole has created a healthy culture around food and
Understanding what to look for in recovery helps parents recognize
signs of improving health. Parents need to be encouraged to hope for
recovery, even though statistics about recovery can be discouraging.
Recovery may take many routes and may include setbacks and unexpected
turns. However, all the evidence suggests that recovery should remain the
desired destination and the hope for the future.
- Coutier, J. and Lock, J. "What is remission adolescent anorexia?" The International Journal of Eating Disorders. 2006, 39:3, 175-
- Hudson, J. I. et al as reported in Eating Disorders
Review, "BED: A chronic or temporary condition?" 2005, 16:6,
- Peterson, C. and Mitchell, J.E. "Self-report
measures," In Mitchell, J. and Peterson, C. Assessment of Eating Disorders.
2005, 98-119. New York: The Guilford Press
Clinician Articles, Interviews & Letters
"Five Questions" interview with
Stanford professor James Lock, MD, PhD.
Should we wait until an adolescent is ready for treatment for Anorexia Nervosa? by Belinda Dalton (Special
"Clinician Faces Old Ideas As She Pursues New Career" by Dr. Sarah Ravin (Special to F.E.A.S.T.)
Top US Psychiatrist responds to question about eating disorders as a brain disorder, stigma associated with eating disorders, and families as "part of the solution."
Audio Interview with James Greenblatt, M.D., Author of "Answers to Anorexia"
Educational Videos and Audio
Eating Disorders 101, from the UCSD ED Program
"Living on Air" BBC Program on the biology of anorexia
Family-Based Treatment for Anorexia Nervosa in Young Adults, by Maudsley Parents, January 2010
"My Kid is Back" an interview on Life Matters radio show, March 19, 2009
"Family-Based Treatment for Anorexia Nervosa" by Maudsley Parents
"Family-Based Treatment for Bulimia Nervosa" by Maudsley Parent
C & M ED Productions - Animated, educational dialogues created by two F.E.A.S.T. Parents
"The Worst Attendants" - The history of parents and eating disorders and the principles of the Family-Based Maudsley Treatment. A PowerPoint slideshow with audio narration presented at the Renfrew Foundation Conference, November 2010
"Do Carers Care About Research?"
PDF of Powerpoint presentation by Laura Collins presented at 2010 Academy for Eating Disorders conference in Salzburg, Austria.
"Do Parents Cause Eating Disorders?" (video)
Interviews of experts by Laura Collins, F.E.A.S.T. Director