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  • Helly Barnes

Project Manage Your Eating Disorder Recovery - It Matters!

A helpful way to approach eating disorder recovery can be to view recovery as a project... a full time project that is the most important thing you will ever do in your life.

In viewing recovery in 'project' terms, you become analytical, strategic and methodical in your attack on recovery and you stay focused, constantly evaluating and problem solving. This is just what any successful recovery needs!


I always say that eating disorder recovery is more than a full time job.

It takes so much mental and emotional energy, commitment, focus and determination and puts the person going through it under a high need of various kinds of support… and that is all before you consider the requirements for food and rest!

Anyone who just mindlessly wanders into recovery is not likely to get very far at all.

Recovery takes real effort and a planned mode of attack, if meaningful progress is to be made and so as not to drag the whole process out for years or hit an obstacle, get bored or give up after just a week or two.

In my opinion, everyone can do recovery and get to the end, but so many don’t because they say they have 'tried' so many times and never succeeded...

But I suspect, in truth, all their previous attempts were not treated enough like a full focused, full time, full on project, in which plans were made, resources focused on and found, budgets accounted for and regular analysis undertaken of what was working, what wasn’t and what could be done about the areas in which things were either not working or going too slowly!

If recovery is not executed with sufficient focus and strategic attack, it is all too often left on the back burner when life gets in the way.

This post explains steps to take to make recovery your full time project and how to apply the five stages of project management to get your recovery project off the ground, executed, implemented, reviewed and finally closed when the desired results are achieved!

Applying The Five Stages of Project Management To Eating Disorder Recovery

Stage One - The Concept and Initiation

At this first stage, ask yourself, what is it you are trying to achieve?

Hopefully, full recovery but get more specific:

- What are your project (recovery) goals and overall intended outcomes for your future?

- What do you want to be able to do with ease and without the eating disorder getting in the way?

- Who do you want to be?

- Where do you want to be?

- What relationships do you want to have?

- What else in your life would you want to be different and better as you come to the end of your recovery project?

Be specific and dig deep, making your reasons for putting in the recovery work, resources and effort that will be needed meaningful and personal to you.

What is your overall brief?

Perhaps make this into a short mantra or statement for yourself on what it is this recovery project is intended to achieve for you and how.

It might be as simple as, 'I will eat and rest all I can so that I can be free and fabulous without a pesky eating disorder limiting my potential for fun!'.

Finally, begin to consider, who is going to be part of your project team so results happen for you that bit faster and more effectively?

Stage Two - Definition and Planning

Now it is time to get down to the nitty gritty. No free wheeling in your recovery!

Establish a set plan of attack in terms of Project Recovery.

Decide, what is your plan of attack?

What is the scope of what you want to do?

What is your budget?

When it comes to budget, consider resources in terms of time, emotional support, brain space availability and space for the high mental focus recovery necessitates, resting opportunities, food access(!) and so forth.

Make a plan for how you can increase all these aspects in your budget, perhaps making savings in other areas of your life while you are working on this project, because you will need as many of all these resources as you can get (and more).

Next, consider roles and responsibilities.

What are you prepared to be responsible for in your Recovery Project?

Are you ready and willing to be the project manager or are you seeking someone to partner with you in the management of the project and take a share of the project planning and implementation load, while you engage in the actual doing?

What are the roles of other people in your recovery support team – do they know what they are to do? Is it realistic?

Do others around you know what you are about to do and if / how can they support this?

How will your recovery team communicate when they need to, both with you and with each other?

Next, carry out a project risk assessment – what are the risks to doing this?

Risks to the Recovery Project could include:

- The emotional considerations. The level of anxiety, stress and emotional turmoil recovery does create (which is inevitable). How will you manage this and stay on track?

- Being too busy in other areas of your life so that the Recovery Project gets put to one side. What plans can you make to stop this risk from interrupting your project execution?

- Becoming complacent in recovery. How will you keep recovery interesting and progressing?

- Recovery team failures. What can be done if a member of your support team cannot be a member of your team any longer? Do you have other plans / people you can call on?

- What about when you gain weight and want to flee the project? How can you stop yourself sabotaging your project and stay on track?

Plan ways to overcome any of the risks to your recovery project that you can predict might occur.

What are your initial deadlines?

Set an idea in your mind of overall deadline for Recovery Project and for the first goals you set along the way.

What are your initial goals and how will you celebrate wins?

It is important to set constant incremental small goals along the way of your recovery journey, recognise the wins when they happen, celebrate them and then set more.

Stage Three - Launch and Execution

Now it is time to step into your Recovery Project, executing all that you have to do, alongside your support team fulfilling the roles that they know are key in their contribution to the project.

Hold lots of meetings and discuss the process as it is executed and implemented with your team and with yourself through self reflection and analysis!

Constantly review and reflect on what is working and what is not. Provide status reports and updates, considering wins and things that did not go so well, recognising progress in terms of mental state or ability to do things you could not do x weeks ago. Journaling can be a great tool here!

When things are not working, reflect and establish a new way that will work better.

Fix issues as they arise in the execution of your Recovery Project!

Also consider your budget management and all aspects of the budget!

Are you keeping a close eye on resources and ensuring they are not depleting, finding ways to access more before they run out? This might be emotional energy, mental focus, support from others and most certainly food!

Stage Four - Monitoring and Control

Keep reviewing and coming back to the project (recovery) goals and your why's.

What is being achieved, what isn’t?

Do the goals need changing?

Are your whys still as valid – are their new ones now?

Are you achieving what you set out to for this stage of the project?

Is progress you are making of sufficient ‘quality’ and is it sustainable?

Are your support team providing sufficient support or do tactics need to change or team dynamics need to change?

Track all the efforts and costs against your progress and review / reassess. Does your budget need to increase?

What is working in your implementation steps and what isn’t?

What needs to change?

How feasible is change to make more successful wins (be honest here - don't let fear stop you aiming high!)?

What mini goals have you achieved and are you celebrating them all?

What’s the next incremental goal on route to the end result?

What performance is worth celebrating and recognising the achievements of?

What has been achieved, what areas still need working on (get detailed)?

At this stage, stay focused on ongoing :






This stage of the project could be some time in length but that is ok… Just keep your Recovery Project top of mind and top of your life so that it keeps progressing and you get closer to the end.

Stage Five - Project Close!!

Celebrate!! Party time!!

This is the huge time to party and celebrate!!

Review your progress and the journey you have been on and recognise just how much you have achieved.

Reflect on what you have learnt about yourself and about recovery from the journey you have been on.

And then celebrate big time with your recovery team.

Finally, once you have recovered little from the celebrations, spend time thinking about what you might need to do to keep yourself firmly in recovery now and eating disorder free well into your free and full future life.

And now it is time to close the project down and move forwards and live your life to its fullest!


This blog post is also available as a podcast episode on Feck it, Fun, Fabulous and Free in Eating Disorder Recovery!


Helly Barnes
Helly Barnes
Jun 14, 2022

Thank you so much for your comment. It sounds like you have been making some progress with your treatment team and I hope that you continue to make leaps into recovery from here! x


elaine gigliotti
elaine gigliotti
Jun 11, 2022

I really enjoy your podcast. It helps me a lot being an older women in recovery after 25 years of restriction. Congratulations on your progress Helly. I know how hard it is. I will work on my plan with my treatment team as I am discharged from out patient support in 30 days. A bit stressed about that. A plan will be beneficial. Kindly


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