This can be incredibly helpful in eating disorder recovery

If you suffer from disordered eating, you may have experimented with an extensive range of eating regimes, in the pursuit of finding the perfect one for you.


Said regimes may have involved: eliminating carbohydrates, eating within specific time windows or munching purely on one type of food to excess. Frequently, the honeymoon phase seems to work, along with the fantasy that ‘the perfect plan has finally been sourced’. Alas, several weeks in, it hasn’t worked out and you’re back to seeking the next ‘one’ to heal your relationship with food.

With following these dietary plans, you may have found that your eating has become chaotic and unstructured. You’re likely restricting your eating in one form or another. This could involve not eating enough, delaying eating for as long as possible or not eating a balanced range of foods, so craving those absent.

As a consequence, you may find yourself constantly preoccupied with food. You may feel out of touch with hunger and fullness cues. Eating may feel erratic and out of control. 

So how to change this?

Starting to practice regular eating can be a game-changer in your recovery journey. It’s often not an appealing concept, as can feel quite bland and unsexy, not holding the promise and seduction of ‘the special plan’ you’d hoped for.

You will need to stay in your own lane, regardless of what others around you are doing. Remember, you have absolute permission to eat regularly and this is supporting your recovery.

Regular eating means what it says on the tin: eating at regular intervals throughout the day. 

In eating disorder treatment, we often recommend three meals and three snacks, although if this feels overwhelming, you can build up to this. 

You decide the times you want to eat, initially eating by the clock, rather than relying on hunger cues, as these will take time to reset. 

You’ll also need to prioritise eating episodes in recovery, with planning and some preparation. You might wish to map out your week with some food choices and then stock the cupboard accordingly. It’s not about getting too specific or counting numbers, rather just ensuring that food is on hand with some choice and variety to make up your meals and snacks.

Four benefits of regular eating

1. It helps give structure and routine to your eating and daily life. It prioritises your self-nourishment and self-care, as markers throughout your day. These become the non-negotiables and you are retraining your body to anticipate food and to regulate appetite and hunger cues.

2. It helps balance your blood sugar which makes you feel one-hundred per cent better! Having balanced blood sugar assists with poor concentration, tiredness and irritability. You’ll have more energy and a happier mood. You can watch a film or read a book without constant distractions of hunger, or lapses in focus.

3. It helps you avoid binge eating or ‘out of control eating’ episodes, which can be understandably triggered by long periods of restriction or erratic eating. Regular eating is a cornerstone of recovery in binge eating disorder treatment, allowing stability in your body physiology to then allow you to tackle emotional triggers too.

4. Regular eating also improves the metabolic functioning of your body so that your body is functioning optimally. It avoids your body going into starvation mode, where some metabolic processes shut down or are slowed.

To support yourself with regular eating, some reflection and planning will be needed. Aim to implement all your planned eating episodes and for gaps between eating to be around two to three hours. 

Get family and friends on board to support you with regular eating. Maybe someone can sit with you, or you can plan some of your eating episodes with friends. You might need to carry snacks with you so that you have food on hand to manage this.

You will need to stay in your own lane, regardless of what others around you are doing. Remember, you have absolute permission to eat regularly and this is supporting your recovery.

If you are struggling to manage regular eating, you may wish to get additional support from an eating disorder therapist like myself, or a specialist dietitian. They can support you with meal planning and considering food choices, and support you to step out of your comfort zone with eating.

This article was written by Harriet Frew.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Cambridge, CB1
Written by Harriet Frew, MSc; MBACP Accred
Cambridge, CB1

Harriet Frew is a counsellor specialising in eating disorders and body image. She has worked in the NHS and private practice since 2003, and is passionate about supporting and educating others through therapy, writing and social media.
Instagram: @the_eating_disorder_therapist; Podcast - The Eating Disorder Therapist

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