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Anorexia/Eating Disorders/AN recovery as easy as quitting smoking?


Hi Mary,

I'm having a really hard time right now.

I've been struggling with AN for 6 years now. I'm a normal weight now after years of graft trying to make myself better (my LW was 99lbs and I'm 5'8"), but lately the urges have been coming back - big time.

I have no support right now, and I'm feeling really alone. My mum doesn't know (to scared to tell her and I don't talk to my dad), and my sister just doesn't understand.

Her heart is in the right place, but she's really not helping.

She doesn't understand just how hard it is to recover. She recently quit smoking, and says that recovering from anorexia is just the same as quitting smoking, as both are addictions (one to nicotine, the other to not eating).

She also views getting better as completely binary: you're either anorexic, or you're completely recovered, with no chance of relapse. I've come a damned far way with no help or support but my own, and endured years of struggle to return to a healthy weight and regain my periods, but my sister fails to acknowledge this is progress at all! I find it very disheartening.

I want to recover, and I know my sister just means well, but it annoys the hell out of me that she compares a mental disorder that I never chose to have with an addiction that she started himself. While I acknowledge that both are addictions, I did not choose this path.

Could recovery from AN really be as easy as quitting smoking? Am I just being weak?

Thanks in advance for your help, Mary, and sorry for the rant.


Hi Alicia,

I am so sorry you are going through this. Recovery from eating disorders is one of the most difficult things you can do in life. While many people remain in recovery, very few are completely recovered. It's unrealistic for your family to believe that you can simply snap out of it.

I want you do something for me: go to the library or bookstore and get this book and give it to your family (you should read it yourself too):

Just Tell Her to Stop by Becky Henry

I cannot tell you have many times I have recommended Becky’s book to clients and friends. Her story-telling method is just what my clients need. They read her book and realize that she “gets” them. With 20 stories to choose from, every client has been able to find at least one that resonates with them. Just Tell Her to Stop is a powerful testament to the effect an eating disorder can have on the life of not only the person who has been diagnosed, but also everyone around him or her. At the same time it offers the advice you need to hear to help yourself, your family, and your friends who suffer with eating disorders.

As for your current struggles, if you feel you would benefit from therapy and can afford/have access to it, then please go that route. If that is not an option for you right now, here are some books and websites that may help you.

Body Dysmorphia:

The Body Image Workbook by Thomas Cash -

Diet of Despair by Anna Paterson -

-Here are several good web resources for healing eating disordered thinking:

Food to Eat: guided, hopeful & trusted recipes for eating disorder recovery by Lori Lieberman and Cate Sangster

I talk to young women every day who are in the midst of their battle with an eating disorder or just embarking on their recovery. Every single one of them is afraid to eat. They worry that if they start eating, they’ll get fat overnight. And for someone with an eating disorder, that is the worst fear imaginable. If I could reach out to my clients across the globe, I would give every single one of them a copy of this book. Lori and Cate’s compassionate approach to recovery is just what these young women need. They give practical advice and explain why each recipe is nutritious and okay to eat in their “outsmart your ED voice” sections. Their conversational style makes it feel like you’re sitting down in your living room with them, a non-confrontational approach that my clients can all relate to.

I hope you find these helpful. Please let me know if there is anything else I can do to help. Good luck!  

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Mary Pritchard


I can answer questions about the psychology of eating, disordered eating attitudes and behaviors such as drive for thinness, drive for muscularity, binge eating, body dysmorphia, dieting, excessive/obsessive exercise, and body dissatisfaction. I can also answer questions about anorexia and bulimia.


I have a PhD in Psychology and teach courses in the Psychology of Health and the Psychology of Eating. I have been conducting research on disordered eating and exercise behaviors for 15 years.

Midwestern psychological association, rocky mountain psychological association

Over 50 peer-reviewed journal articles in journals such as Eating Behaviors, Eating Disorders, and Eating and Weight Disorders

PhD in Psychology from the University of Denver

Awards and Honors
30 teaching awards, have received funding to conduct my research from academic institutions and state and local government

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