About Abigail Natenshon
Over 35 Years of Eating Disorder Specialty Practice
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Eating Disorder Specialist

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Abbie’s Advice to Patients and Families with Eating Disorders


If you are entering eating disorder treatment, it is important that you understand the following:

  1. An eating disorder is essentially a device meant to solve problems and insure one’s emotional survival in the world; though its intentions are noble, its functions are harmful and potentially deadly. Eating disorder recovery will help you to discover more effective and less harmful ways to accomplish your life goals.  Remember that eating disorders are completely curable with effective treatment in 90% of cases.


  1. ED treatment is designed to help you to set and achieve goals that may yet be unknown to you at the start of treatment. In ED recovery, weight loss or gain becomes secondary to your ability to develop the internal resources and emotional resiliency you need to gain, lose or sustain that weight healthfully, to develop a healthier relationship with food. One’s relationship with food becomes a metaphor for how you approach life and problem-solving in genera, food choices both reflect, and impact, your emotional well-being. Eating behaviors and emotional issues should be part of the fabric of each therapy session.

  2. If you are currently, or have been, engaged in treatment that has been less than successful, your next treatment experience needs to be different. It is up to you to make sure that this happens. This time around, your treatment needs to be change-centered, action-focused and outcome-based; your therapist needs to be directed and intentional, skilled in cognitive behavioral techniques as well as in mindful, psychodynamic treatment.


  1. ED recovery successes are often camouflaged in what might appear to be “failures,” so don’t be discouraged; keep your recovery expectations realistic.  Though progress may be slow, expect to experience changes, if small, from the very start of treatment and throughout care. Every session should provide fodder for learning and change and be a source of empowering self-understanding. Expect ED recovery to feel worse before it feels better;  it may be anxiety-provoking for an anorexic person to gain weight, but in the end, re-feeding the malnourished brain is the best medicine of all for reducing that anxiety.


  1. Both you and your treatment professionals must consider you to be a collaborating member of your treatment team.  The decision to recover, and the pace at which you will do so, remains your own, unless, of course, you are at risk physiologically.  Be aware that an eating disorder temporarily strips it victims of the judgment and capacity for self-care. Under dire circumstances, ED individuals need to put their care in the hands of others, until such time as they can resume responsible self-care.


  1. Everyone with an eating disorder needs to be under the care of a medical doctor. Eating disorders are the most lethal of all the mental health disorders.


  1. Most recovered clients admit to feeling gratitude for having suffered through a painful and convoluted ED recovery process, as healing produces an improved quality of life in all spheres; some call recovery “getting their life back,”  others call it “a better me.”  Always, the treatment struggle is well worth the recovery effort.



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