How to recover from bulimia: 5 steps to get back your regular life

recover from bulimia

How to recover from Bulimia Nervosa 

5 steps that will help you get back to your pre-eating disorder life

Bulimia Nervosa is an eating disorder that when left untreated, can wreak serious havoc on the body and mind. It consumes whole days and permeates just about every thought one has from the moment they wake up until the moment they go to sleep. It deceives the individual into believing that the decisions they make and behaviors they display are all in the best interest of Bulimia. This keeps Bulimia Nervosa in the driver’s seat, and the individual simply a passenger. Bulimia, like all eating disorders, leave individuals filled with fear and anxiety, riddled with guilt and shame around food, eating out, social events, celebrations, and primarily about themselves.  

As a gentle refresh on what Bulimia Nervosa is, it is an eating disorder characterized by a recurring and incessant binge-purge cycle. A binge is considered an episode of overeating, consuming a large amount of food in an inappropriately small window of time. What constitutes a binge as opposed to simply over consuming is intense feelings of being out of control around food, as if it is simply impossible to stop, the urge to consume is too strong.  After the binge has subsided, the individual then engages in purging behaviour.  Most commonly self-induced vomiting or the use of laxatives, diuretics, and over exercising to compensate for the binge.  It is common that as the purging has then also subsided, the individual heavily restricts consumption as an extended compensatory activity. However, the restriction inevitably leads to another binge and the cycle continues.

Overcoming Bulimia by oneself is incredibly challenging, and unnecessary. There are a myriad of resources that are available to provide hope, support, and guidance in overcoming one’s eating disorder. However, seeking help is also not an immediate fix so in the interim, here are 5 steps to help provide a path to recovery.

  1. Stop the binge-purge cycle

Stopping the binge-purge cycle altogether may be challenging but becoming in tune with it and cognizant of the cycle is the first step in recovery. Every small step counts on the road to recovery. Attempting to relieve yourself of some restrictive practices is a big step, however doing it in a safe space is important with people you trust. Furthermore, identifying what triggers the binge-restrict cycle is critical. It will help you work through those triggers to then in future, move past them.

  1. Start healing your relationship with food

A big part of eating disorders are fear foods. It’s not the food per sei, it is how individuals feel about said food, and negativity they have associated with those foods. Food is immoral, no single item of food is good or bad or right or wrong, so removing negative associations from foods will lessen the negative impact and control they have over us. 

  1. Manage your anxiety

“The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD) notes that more than half of bulimia patients have comorbid anxiety disorders.” Managing one’s eating disorder and mental health can be one in the same and working on your anxiety may alleviate ones eating disorder, and the reverse. There are many forms that help can take, through an individual’s general practitioner, or a trained professional in the mental health and wellness sphere. There is no one right way to approach mental health, it is an incredibly personal experience and whatever works for the individual and is sustainable long term is best.  

  1. Start healing your relationship with your body

Healing a long standing negative relationship one has with their body may be the hardest part of eating disorder recovery, but entirely the most important. Recognizing that we are all people of worth, deserving of love, affection, patience, attention, and respect is paramount. Everyone suffering from an eating disorder is so much more than their disorder, even though most days they probably feel like it is all they are, and all they have. 

  1. Develop a support system

Eating disorders do not happen in a vacuum in the sense that an individual with an eating disorder is only hurting themselves. When in reality, the eating disorder is impacting the people and relationships they love most. Alternatively, healing from an eating disorder also does not happen in a vacuum. The process is not linear, there will be days filled with tremendous progress, and some that feel like no progress is being made at all. It is important to surround oneself with people who love, lift, and support the individual with the eating disorder so they know all their hard work and resilience is worth it. 

Related Article: Anorexia into Bulimia

Article FAQs

Q: Can you self-recover from Bulimia?

A: Self-recovery is challenging and depends on the severity of the eating disorder. However, Bulimia recovery does not look the same for everyone. Recovery is an intensely personal journey and differs greatly depending on the need state of the individual. Treatment for Bulimia however follows a similar structure for all individuals, and all eating disorders for that matter. It is strongly advised that individuals seek professional help to achieve a state of recovery from their eating disorder.   

Q: Do you lose calories when you vomit?

A: In purging, yes, individuals lose some of the energy from the food that had been previously ingested. However, purging does not remove all calories from the body. Purging is never an appropriate way to remove the calories that have been consumed by an individual, no matter how uncomfortable it may feel.

Q: Can an individual with Bulimia fully recover?

A: Yes! Bulimia Nervosa is an entirely treatable and beatable eating disorder.  Recovery is not easy, and may take years to achieve however, it is entirely worth it.  Eating disorder treatment and subsequent recovery may involve the following three steps:


  • If the individual is in a medically compromised position, it is important to ensure the individual is in a stable physical place to begin treatment


  • The longest portion of treatment is active therapy.  It is a critical component in getting to the root of the eating disorder to work through, understand, and manage the psychological side of the eating disorder. Furthermore, it is a necessary step in setting up the individual with tools for their future, free of Bulimia.

    Nutrition Counseling

  • Often nutrition counseling is a necessary albeit less obvious component of recovery. It is important to provide the individual with true and real information about the necessity of sustenance and what our body needs to not only survive but thrive.

Dr. Natalie Mulligan graduated from the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine (CCNM). She completed her clinical internship at the Robert Schad Naturopathic Clinic with a focused interest in mental health. Prior to attending CCNM, she completed a Bachelor of Science degree at the University of Waterloo.