Building Personal Boundaries in Eating Disorder Recovery

March 21, 2018 Mary-Elizabeth Schurrer

Do you struggle with building personal boundaries in eating disorder recovery? Learn how healthy personal boundaries strengthen relationships at HealthyPlace. You'll be able to put ED recovery first when your personal boundaries are strong. Learn why now.

Building personal boundaries in eating disorder recovery helps to make the healing a priority. But when it comes to eating disorder recovery, how can you maintain effective personal boundaries, and why do those boundaries even matter in the first place? It's important to realize the purpose of having personal boundaries is not to prevent all relationships from nurturing—but to protect the safe relationships from becoming unhealthy. Constructing and asserting personal boundaries will equip you to prioritize eating disorder recovery while teaching the people you care about which behaviors toward you are appropriate and which should be re-evaluated.

Why Does Building Personal Boundaries in Eating Disorder Recovery Matter?

Sometimes even the closest and most secure relationships can begin to feel off-balance if you don't establish how you want to be treated and show the other person—either with communication or nonverbal expression—what this means for the dynamic. And that's where personal boundaries in eating disorder recovery come in. When boundaries are nonexistent or ambiguous, over time your relationships can veer into the zones of codependency, enabling, manipulation, control or enmeshment. When this occurs, identity and individuality are often suppressed which can exacerbate the urge to withdraw into an eating disorder where you've created a false identity.

But when personal boundaries in eating disorder recovery are present and clearly defined, this empowers you to decide what is acceptable treatment versus what you're unwilling to condone. Personal boundaries allow you to connect with people in a framework that's beneficial, authentic and reciprocal for everyone—without sacrificing your own needs or desires. Boundaries can also increase self-esteem and promote self-care. In other words, asserting boundaries is a step toward reclaiming your own voice and granting it permission to be heard. This is an intrinsic element in the eating disorder recovery process.

How to Build Personal Boundaries in Eating Disorder Recovery

Making the decision to invoke boundaries within your relationships will communicate to other people and yourself that recovery comes first. This does not mean you're self-absorbed with no regard for the wellbeing of your friends or family. In fact, the opposite is true—setting boundaries can be the most generous action you take because it invites people to co-create a healthier relationship dynamic alongside you.

Here are strategies you can follow to build positive personal boundaries in the midst of eating disorder recovery:

  1. Write down exactly what you're unable to tolerate in a relationship. Maybe it's a topic of conversation that triggers the eating disorder. Maybe it's a form of ridicule, criticism or sarcasm that leads to self-doubt. Whatever the case, be precise on what you feel is a breach in boundaries.
  2. Formulate action steps to guard yourself against a triggering situation when it happens to arise. If the scenario is not conducive to just walking away, it's a smart idea to arm yourself with phrases like, "I'd prefer not to discuss that, could we talk about something else?" Then be prepared with a backup to quickly change the subject. If the other person isn't respectful of that boundary, consider limiting your interactions in the future.
  3. Keep in mind that boundaries are fluid and can shift over time which also means setting them is not a one-and-done kind of experience. This practice requires consistency—so be attentive to the boundaries, reinforce them unapologetically and make adjustments as you grow in eating disorder recovery.

Why Healthy Personal Boundaries in Eating Disorder Recovery Are Important


APA Reference
Schurrer, M. (2018, March 21). Building Personal Boundaries in Eating Disorder Recovery, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 18 from

Author: Mary-Elizabeth Schurrer

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