Back to School Recovery Tips

By Hannah Waspi, M.S., RD, LDN, and Erin Seymour, M.S., RD, LDN 

Returning to school can be fun and exciting. It can also bring potential challenges to your recovery from an eating disorder 

First things first: Make sure you have set up appointments with your treatment team as they’ll help ease the transition back into your school schedule. Second, you might consider potential barriers that could keep you from meeting your nutrition goals.  

Here are a few tips to solve some common challenges:  

Tips for Dorm Living 

Limited storage space and appliances can make it challenging to meet your needs throughout the day.  

  • Make a list of microwaveable meals and snacks: oatmeal, mac and cheese, omelet in a cup, soup, ramen 
  • Stock up on perishable foods: peanut butter, crackers, nuts, tuna, applesauce, granola bars, dried fruit, fruit cups, and cereal  
  • Pack items to eat between classes  

Tips for Navigating the Dining Hall 

It can be really overwhelming to have so many options and need to make a decision in the moment.  

  • Set your goals before going into the dining hall: i.e. a “just meet my needs” meal plan, identifying a challenge food, promising to try one new food, etc. 
  • Spend five minutes walking around and scoping out all the options. Challenge your urge to identify the “healthiest” options. Ask yourself what foods you truly like, not what your eating disorder likes.  
  • Take a few minutes and some deep breaths. Then, decide what you can eat that will meet your meal plan or recommendations.  
  • Tip: Plate everything you need to meet your meal plan even if you don’t think you will be able to finish it. Set yourself up for success.  
  • Tip: Check in with your fullness cues during and after your meal. Decide if you would like to go back for more. Remember: You have permission to eat any food. 

Tips for Apartment Living 

Meal planning and preparation can be challenging for anyone – especially if you are struggling to hold yourself accountable.  

  • Set a day and time each week to go grocery shopping. Consider your class schedule and a time of day that the grocery store may be less crowded.  
  • Make a grocery list.  
  • Break your list into different categories: starches/grains, fruits/vegetables, proteins, dairy, etc., to make sure you have all the things you need to meet your meal plan. 
  • Make a list of staple items that you know you will buy every week. 
  • Make a list of go-to meals so that you have last-minute options in your refrigerator or freezer. 

Finally, going out to eat is always an option. You might consider setting goals around going out with friends for frozen yogurt, pizza, etc. It’s part of a normal college schedule to spend time eating out and can be helpful to foster friendships and take a break from your typical routine.