Holistic Treatment for Eating Disorders: 13 Essentials for Holistic Eating Disorder Recovery

Written By

Rhea Dali

Expert Reviewed By

Dr. Lauryn Lax, OTD, MS

Dr. Lauryn, OTD, MS is a doctor of occupational therapy, clinical nutritionists and functional medicine expert with 25 years of clinical and personal experience in healing from complex chronic health issues and helping others do the same.

Eating Disorder Recovery - Girl On Dieting For Weight Loss, Tape Measure

When I was recovering from my 20 years of eating disorders—anorexia, orthorexia, purging, I often Google searched the World Wide Web for “holistic treatment” options for eating disorder recovery…only to yield ZERO search results.

To this day, options for a “holistic approach to eating disorder recovery” still are the same — NIL.

Enter: A functional medicine approach to eating disorder recovery—an approach that helped me personally heal 100% and, since then, I’ve worked with 1000’s of patients over the past decade to do the same.

If you know you are made for more and you want to holistically heal your relationship with food, your body, your gut health, balance your hormones, detox any toxins not serving you and up level your mindset, a holistic treatment approach is for you.

Consider this article your guide to taking your health and your life back into your own hands.


Looking for holistic eating disorder treatment or personal support, let’s optimize your gut and take your health back into your own hands! Book a complimentary 15-minute Health Strategy Call today. 

Additionally, drop a comment or shoot us a message if you have an idea of something that you’d LOVE to see in the holistic eating disorder treatment model. We are building something GREAT!


Eating Disorder Recovery - Child, Kid, Baby, Little Girl Doesn'T Want To Eat Broccoli

Every innovative solution has a backstory…my personal backstory begins back at 4th grade recess.

I was 10-years-old—with a pink scrunchie in my frizzy hair that my mom made you wear. All I wanted to do was fit in.

The popular girls invited me to join their gossip circle, where the topic of weight came up.

The Queen Bee said, “Oh my gosh you guys, I weighed myself and I am 69 pounds! I am soooo fat!”—immediately looking to each of us.

“What do you weigh?!” And, one by one, we had to go around the circle and report to our drill sergeant.

At a healthy 80 pounds, I was  by no means a fat kid, but when the circle got to me, I gulped and lied. “I don’t know.” Thinking: I AM NOT GOOD ENOUGH.

After school, I went home and stood in the pantry… Turning over my favorite Dorito’s snack pack, I began learning a whole new language—fat grams and calories. 

At age 10, my life path just took a sharp turn…

Little did I realize I’d spend the next 25 years, on a roller coaster of extreme diets, living inside of hospitals and treatment centers, and chasing a wide variety of solutions…all in search of feeling good in my own skin—with ZERO resolve…

Everything came to a head the morning that I stepped on the scale only to see a number I hadn’t seen since I was 10 years old. Only this time I was 23. And for the first time, it scared me. My body was shutting down from years of stress.

On my way to the gym that morning, I prayed, “God help me make a change today! Help me recover!”

To say the least, I didn’t make it to my workout.

When I got to that gym, not one, but 9 strangers—9 fellow gym goers, who I now call my 9 “Gym Angels”— stepped in, spoke up, said they wanted to help.

Within 48 hours, I found myself flat on my back in the hospital with a heart rate in the near 20’s’ and doctors saying I may not make it. And amidst the chaos, for the first time, something inside me clicked:

The answer isnt out there, its inside—addressing the root cause. Mentally and physically.

Those 9 strangers—my 9 Gym Angels—helped me resolve all those years of GUT HATE—showing me nothing but pure gut love.

And, in that moment, the spell was broken, and I made up my mind—I decided, no matter what:  I am healed. I will recover. Life is going to be different on the other side…

That one decision changed EVERYTHING.

Fast forward to today and not only is anorexia a story of the past, but so are the 13 other “incurable illnesses” I was diagnosed with in the aftermath from all that stress; and entire experience inspired me to dig deeper—to figure out how this whole gut-brain thing works, so that one day, I could help others too.


Eating Disorder Recovery - Slice Of Cucumber On The Plate In The Foreground, Depressed Girl Lying In The Sofa

Over the past decade, as a functional medicine practitioner, I’ve worked with 1000’s of clients to help them get to the root cause behind their greatest health challenges and close the gap from where they are to get where they want to be.

And not a week goes by that I don’t get an inquiry from someone asking about holistic treatment options for eating disorder recovery.

In fact, recently, I had a client in recovery from anorexia who needed a “higher level of care” for support with weight restoration and 24/7 accountability to fuel herself appropriately, and yet, even I was stumped!

  • Home-based treatment was challenging—primarily because the voice of ED was so “strong” that it was a struggle for her to even eat fruit (out of fear of sugar) or 3 meals per day.
  • The hospital was not equipped to support her mentally or emotionally; much less physically (ie. canned cafeteria food and feeding tubes seemed inhumane)
  • And most treatment centers I called STILL practice the “Poptarts, pizza, Prozac” model. (Note: This client was gluten intolerant and ultimately, like myself, values a holistic approach to recovery).

In fact, I spoke with one intake coordinator from a very popular eating disorder center chain, Eating Recovery Center, and she told me straight up:

“We do not do whole foods or “real foods” here…we do standard American fare: so pizza…Boost shakes…desserts…chips…burgers and fries.

These foods are in our culture, so we need to eat those things—you know, variety to get ‘all the nutrients’ we need. We don’t provide real foods here— organic produce…free range products…grass-fed meats.

Oh and for tube feeding, our formulas are sponsored by Nestle – and we have 2 options of Nestle…but that’s what we’ve got. We don’t really work around that.”

Mic drop.

While “perfect eating” and orthorexia are NOT encouraged, what is so “wrong” with actually eating foods humans were made to thrive upon? All with 80/20 balance! (Ie. like pizza or desserts)?

Just like a plant needs 3 main nutrients—sun, soil and water; humans require 3 main nutrients—protein, fat and fiber (carbohydrates), ideally in the real food form. What would happen if you gave a plant artificial lightbulb light, fake plastic soil (like turf) and dumped Coca Cola (instead of water) on it? It would not thrive — probably not even survive. Likewise, there is a difference in feeding a human real foods vs. fake foods, and this is something most centers to this day do not acknowledge.

Similar to the “classic” treatment for a person trying to lose weight—“move more, eat less!” (That does not work), the “classic” treatment for a person who has a funky relationship with food or needs to restore their health— “just eat what every single other American eats—93% of whom are metabolically unhealthy”—does not work either!

While there IS a method to the “madness” of eating cultural-based “fear foods”, if you are building the bulk of a patient’s diets on cheese pizza, Doritos, Oreos, packaged and processed man-made foods, this is NO different than the types of diets many patients with eating disorders are ALREADY eating (ie. Nutrient-deficient!).

And we are just talking about food here…


Eating Disorder Recovery - Teenager Girl Sitting On Ground Alone And Worried At Home Suffering Nutrition And Eating Disorder
eating disorder recovery – teenager girl sitting on ground alone and worried at home suffering nutrition and eating disorder

Conventional treatment methods for eating disorders are also missing out on several key components and considerations for helping patients OPTIMIZE vs. merely survive and get by or “manage” their eating disorders, including:

Gut Healing

98% of patients with a history of disordered eating have a “functional gut disorder.” Boost Shakes and Domino’s pizza are not helping here. Considering that the gut IS the “second brain” and 95% of serotonin is produced in there, the metabolism/hormones/weight is regulated there, blood sugar is balanced in the gut, our immune system is ALSO housed there, and digestion overall helps us absorb nutrients and feel good or poorly…why is treatment NOT addressing this, much less acknowledging it?

Natural Brain Restoration Methods (vs. Prescriptions)

SSRI drugs and talk therapy are the primary modalities for mental health in eating disorder recovery—methods that have a 25-33% efficacy rate in studies. Compare this to movement, blood sugar balance, probiotic therapy and subconscious “rewiring”—all of which have an 80-90% efficacy rate for remission of mental health challenges. In fact, a recent study compared SSRI drugs (like Prozac) to high-dose probiotic therapy (900 billion CFUs) in patients with depression and anxiety, finding that patients on probiotics had a near 100% remission from depression and anxiety, compared to only 1 out of 3 on the SSRI’s.

Blood Sugar Balance

93% of people have “dysglycemia” and poor metabolic health—including those with eating disorders. Nestle-infused tube feedings, Twinkies and Snickers Bar challenges are not helping here. Much less, the Standard American Diet, which has led to this statistic in the first place. Imbalanced blood sugar results in increased cortisol and HPA Axis dysregulation, which leave patients in “fight or flight” mode, fatigued and/or inflamed (gut inflammation, brain inflammation, etc.).

HPAT Axis Regulation

Eating Disorder Recovery -  Hands Holding Knife And Fork On A Plate With Green Peas On A White Table Top

One word: stress. The HPAT axis includes the hypothalamus, pituitary, adrenal and thyroid axis and plays a role in hormone balance, inflammation, blood sugar balance—really balance as a whole in the body. Eating disorder treatment can be just as stressful as the eating disorder itself—think fluorescent lit rooms, beeping monitors, daily or weekly weight checks, “consequences” for non-compliance, etc. What we RESIST persists…meaning the more we focus on both the problem or the rules and regulations of recovery, the more we ironically stay stuck in the problem or unnecessarily “fighting” against the rules and regulations of recovery.

Micronutrient Optimization

Magnesium, zinc, sodium-potassium balance, B vitamins, iron, selenium, etc.—we can get these all both through nutrients and proper gut health function (to absorb our foods in the first place).

Immune Stabilization

1 out of 4 women with a history of eating disorders will develop an autoimmune disorder. Autoimmunity is a byproduct of a “leaky gut” or “metabolic endotoxemia.” Both disordered eating and conventional treatments rich in processed or inflammatory foods, pharmaceuticals and unaddressed HPA Axis Dysregulation (stress) perpetuate this problem.

Purpose, Identity & Life BEYOND ED

100% of the patients I’ve worked with who have a history of eating disorders are searching for these 3 things—3 things that ideally should be incorporated within the therapeutic model of recovery. My own conventional treatment experiences were heavily focused on talking about the problem or dwelling on memories of the past versus looking forward and getting a renewed vision for who healthy, thriving, soul on fire “you” is beyond ED. “Without vision, the people parish.”  – Proverbs 29:18.

This is not an exhaustive list, but does shed some light on where a holistic approach to eating disorder recovery is needed.

Enter: The 13 essentials for eating disorder recovery!


Essential #1: Rewire the Gut Brain Connection (Your Subconscious Mind)

The gut and brain are directly connected, and they run the show of your entire body.

When the brain perceives mental, emotional or physical stress, it triggers the release of inflammatory cytokines down the gut-brain axis to the trillions of microbes and 500 million neurons in your belly, your second brain—which are connected to every single system and responsible for 95% of all signals  throughout the entire body. In fact, for every one signal sent from the brain—your, 9 more fire back from the gut.

Stress? Ka pow! Symptoms (or beliefs, thoughts, habits, behaviors, etc.).

Basically: The more stress you perceive (in your eating disorder or treatment), the more likely your total health—not just your digestion— is impacted overall—your immunity, your hormones, your anxiety, your energy, your metabolism, your brain function, your emotions and beyond.

Hippocrates once said that “all disease begins in the gut.” I say: All wellness begins in the second brain—your gut. Health is an inside job. 

In order to get over an eating disorder, you need to strengthen and rewire the gut-brain connection.

Personally, the “lightbulb” in my head went on when I healed my gut. The obsessive thoughts about food went away.

There are several methods for rewiring the gut-brain connection. Some of my faves include:


Health challenges—including eating disorders— do not come out of left field. There is always a root cause.

What I’ve discovered is that symptoms are often metaphors — signposts—of something deeper going on under the hood. Our body and brain’s way of trying to tell us: “Knock! Knock! Something is up! I am stressed!”

Like Bacon Intolerance Becky. Names have been changed for patient confidentiality.

Becky developed a bacon intolerance–a food she had eaten for years with zero problems…what gives?!

Well, when we did the work to figure out what triggers were going on in her life around the time she developed her bacon intolerance, she realized that she had been cooking bacon at the same exact time when she found out her husband had been cheating on her! Boom!  Her body locked her issues into her tissues.

Or, consider my own experience with anorexia, orthorexia and gut issues galore—back to 4th grade recess: Little girl tells me on the playground that I am “fat” at 10 years old—something I did NOT “digest,” “breakdown,” or “process.” The result? The belief “I AM NOT GOOD ENOUGH” and the emotions sadness, hurt and shame manifested as eating disorders and gut issues for years to come until I identified the root cause and learned how to “reset” the gut brain connection by first, creating a new self-concept—a new identity—that no longer “vibed” at the frequency: “I AM NOT GOOD ENOUGH.”

The Big Idea: Dis-ease in our lives often shows up as disease in the body. The body keeps the score. Symptoms are metaphors.

The cool thing? When we figure out what our body is trying to say, we can begin to reverse it.

Enter: The Total Gut Brain Reset— a free, simple, diet-free, prescription free, and Dr. Internet free formula to solve your mystery symptoms; a simple formula to figure out WHY YOU REALLY FEEL THIS WAY (and why you have an eating disorder)—and then take your health back into your own hands.

Clients in my programs and clinical practice all learn how to do a “TOTAL GUT BRAIN RESET” in order to take their health back into their own hands.


We briefly mentioned this in point #1, but a big reason how dis-ease gets stuck in the body as “disease” (ie. An eating disorder) is due to negative emotions and/or limiting beliefs that our conscious mind is programmed to believe at a deep cellular level.

Our mind receives and perceives every single stressor, thought, belief and sensory information in our lives and then sends a signal down the gut-brain axis (vagus nerve) to the gut where the subconscious mind lies. Again, for every ONE signal TO the gut, there are NINE more signals that get “fired away” FROM the gut to every part of our body.

Soooo…if our conscious mind BELIEVES “I AM NOT GOOD ENOUGH,” or “NO ONE LOVES ME,” or “I AM ANOREXIC/BULIMIC,” or “I HAVE TO EARN MY FOOD,” then the subconscious mind—the gut—simply carries out the orders and those beliefs become “etched” into your cells.

Or, if your conscious mind FEELS anger, sadness, fear, hurt, guilt or shame, then the subconscious mind—the gut—simply carries out the orders and those feeling become a state in which you operate your life from.

When we have “trapped” anger, sadness, fear, hurt, guilt or shame from past or present experiences and we have not fully become aware or “worked through” the “issues in our tissues,” then those emotions simply “run the show” of how we operate.

For example, if I feel angry/frustrated with my body, then what we RESISTS PERSISTS, and our body seemingly works AGAINST US…not with us.

Or, if I feel a deep level of sadness or shame about who I am or what I’ve lost, we become the stories we tell—and feel—about ourselves. We stay STUCK in a pit of sadness or shame inside.

Clients in my programs and clinical practice also all learn how to RELEASE NEGATIVE EMOTIONS AND LIMITING BELIEFS during my “TOTAL GUT BRAIN RESET” process.


Talk therapy is a mainstay in eating disorder treatment and can be a beneficial adjunct even in a holistic recovery model. That said, “therapy” is a Wild West term  (sort of like “functional medicine”) and encompasses multiple modalities: from CBT to DBT, EMDR, somatic and beyond. Regardless of the label, the most beneficial approach I’ve found for a holistic approach to eating disorder recovery is one that focuses on the future—life beyond ED—versus one that fixates on the “problem” —talking in loops about the eating disorder, the current state (feelings) and the past.

A positive psychology approach is one that acknowledges that, while the past has shaped you, it does not define you, and helps clients transcend beyond the current 3D reality brain state in which they operate. Additionally, considering that 90-95% of our thoughts are driven by the subconscious mind, not the conscious mind, a therapist or coach who considers this and integrates “subconscious re-programming”  techniques and exercises can help clients mentally recover with less effort and resistance and more ease.


We aren’t what we eat. We are what we feed our mind. We are the stories we tell ourselves.

So put good stuff in! Some of the most powerful books and teachings in my recovery include the following:

Tony Robbins and NLP have also been impactful in my own gut-brain life.


There are 6 “gut hungers” that have nothing to do with food. Eating disorders are often times poor attempts to meet these. What are you REALLY hungry for?

Check out this video for more insight.

Essential #2: Gut Healing

As a refresher: 98% of folks with a history of chronic eating disorders have a functional gut disorder—gut issues; AND 95% of all your thoughts and emotions stem from your gut—can you sense a dilemma?

Even if you don’t feel overt gut symptoms, like gas and bloating, gut bacteria imbalance (dysbiosis) and leaky gut are the top drivers behind eating disorders and the side effects (ie. obsessive thoughts, hormone imbalances (including leptin and gherlin imbalances), nutrient deficiencies, anxiety/depression, metabolic imbalances, etc.). Eating disorders are gut-brain disorders.

Hence, “healing the gut” (a “TOTAL GUT RESET”) is an essential component for holistic eating disorder treatment and recovery.

Personally, when I healed my gut and began eating foods that supported a healthy gut ecosystem, it was as if the lightbulbs in my brain turned on and my entire relationship with my body, food, recovery and self improved—drastically.

Again, while there is no one-size-fits-all approach to any holistic eating disorder recovery plan, there is a 3-phase process:

  • Phase 1: Kickstart
  • Phase 2: Cleanse
  • Phase 3: Optimize


Lay a solid foundation of “good gut health” with the 5 “Gut Luv Habits”—implemented daily, including:

  1. Energize by de-stressing the HPA Axis (breath work, nervous system regulation and a solid morning/evening routine)
  2. Hydrate (with clean mineralized water and lymphatic support)
  3. Boost Digestion (enzymes, stomach acid, gallbladder support, leaky gut support)
  4. Nourish (with micronutrient dense foods, blood sugar balance and probiotics/prebiotics)
  5. Move & Rest (mindful movement + a circadian rhythm reset)

—All habits we go “deep” on in a “Total Gut Reset” program.

  • Digestive enzymes with meals
  • HCL to bust bloating directly after you eat
  • Humic fulvic minerals to repair leaky gut
  • Digestive bitters (if you are constipated or bloated)
  • Quality probiotic and possibly, a prebiotic (if bloating is not indicated)

The Kickstart Phase is also dedicated to “getting to the root cause(s)” physically with any helpful lab testing and assessments (like a comprehensive stool analysis, SIBO breath test, hormone/cortisol testing and toxic burden screening for mold, metals and chemicals). As for the mind, during the Kickstart, you will learn how to redefine your self concept and wire your gut-brain axis for more “gut love” (self love) through the 3 step Gut-Brain Reset formula—tune into your gut, take care of your gut, trust your gut.


Next up, Phase 2 (Cleanse) is devoted to “cleansing” your brain of the limiting beliefs, old stories, habits, influences and negative emotions/thoughts NOT serving you and replacing them with the beliefs, thoughts, influences, emotions and thoughts that do.

During this phase, you will also explore if any toxic “triggers” are contributing to disordered eating—like toxic mold in your home or mercury “overload” from the fillings in your teeth—all of which can disturb the gut brain axis and promote disordered eating/thinking.

We will offload or “cleanse” any environmental toxins or pathogens (ie. Parasites, SIBO, candida, etc) not serving your highest self using supplements, lifestyle therapies and medicinal foods; while continiung to “seed” a healthier microbiome.


Lastly, OPTIMIZE: You. Thriving.

Now that your gut is feeling and functioning better, there’s a good chance your brain is functioning better, your metabolism is functioning better, your hormones are functioning better, your energy is online and you have the bandwidth to think about life beyond illness.

During Phase 3, physically we focus our energy on optimizing the gut (post “cleanse”) by rebuilding it with high dose probiotics and prebiotics, along with continued leaky gut support (like colostrum, humic fulvic minerals, collagen, and short chain fatty acids); as well as supporting your micronutrient status (with micro greens and any additional nutrient deficiencies that were present from poor absorption and/or intake—from zinc to magnesium, vitamin D, vitamin A and more).

Mentally and emotionally, “optimizing” is all about tapping into who you are beyond ED—passions, purpose, spiritual life, relationships, career or education. Who are you beyond ED—healthy, healed and free? As part of a TOTAL GUT RESET, we will explore that and define that.

Essential #3: Nutrition Therapy

Let food be thy medicine.

Even though eating disorders are NOT about the food, nutrient dense food is a piece of the holistic eating disorder treatment puzzle.

The philosophy?

 For health, body (gut) and mind restoration: Eat real nutrient-dense foods that your body was made to crave and thrive upon—humanely-raised meats, wild-caught fish, color-rich veggies and fruits, healthy fats. Foods you’d find on the outer perimeter of the grocery store. Foods your great great grandmother would have eaten. Foods humans have eaten for billions of years prior to the processed food and diet food culture of the past 50-100 years—ancestral eating.

All with 80/20 balance of course (ie. No perfection). When in Rome, try the pasta. On your birthday, eat a treat you genuinely enjoy. Zero stress. Ditch food rules and myths in favor of food truths. Ditch diets that eliminate an entire food group (ie. Meat, fat or carbs) and balance your plater.

Perplexingly, most conventional eating disorder treatments prescribe the Standard American Diet as “nutrition therapy” — feeding patients processed foods that contribute to the chronic disease epidemic we see today nationwide where 93% of Americans are metabolically unhealthy, and about that same amount has a health condition related to a dysbiotic (unhealthy) gut.  While, mentally, this approach may be helpful for some of that 80/20 balance (non perfectionistic) thinking, it is not helping the gut, hormone or autoimmune challenges plaguing this population.

In fact, 1 out of 4 individuals with an eating disorder will go on to develop an autoimmune disorder within one year of having the disorder. Likewise, patients with autoimmune disorders, like celiac disease (both diagnosed and undiagnosed) are also 33% more likely to develop an eating disorder due to both the sensitivities they develop to foods as well as the significant underlying “leaky gut” presentation that may lead to a disrupted gut-brain connection and disordered eating.  Individuals with eating disorders are also significantly more likely to develop gut-related conditions like SIBO, candida, slowed motility and leaky gut from the disorder alone. Hence, the Standard American Diet rich in nutrient-deficient, processed, man-made foods is not necessarily improving the situation once treatment ensures.

There has got to be a middle ground, as well as education for both clinicians and patients in the nutrition department. For this reason, I like to teach my clients about the core principles of “ancestral eating”—principles that humans have eaten by for billions of years (prior to the Industrial and Agricultural Revolutions) of the previous 100 years. Here are the basic principles:

1. Nutrient-Dense, Whole Foods: Emphasize the consumption of whole, minimally processed foods that are rich in essential nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats. Foods made with refined grains, seed oils and sugars are not preferred.

2. Animal Products: Include animal products from pasture-raised, grass-fed, and organic sources, such as meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy, to ensure a good supply of essential nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids and fat-soluble vitamins.

3. Traditional Fats: Incorporate traditional fats and oils like butter, lard, coconut oil, and olive oil, while minimizing the consumption of industrial seed oils high in omega-6 fatty acids.

4. Avoid Processed Foods: Minimize the intake of processed and refined foods, including refined sugars, flours, and artificial additives, which may contribute to inflammation and chronic disease.

5. Properly Prepared Grains and Legumes: If consuming grains and legumes, prepare them using traditional methods such as soaking, sprouting, or fermenting to reduce anti-nutrients and improve digestibility.

6. Fermented Foods: Include fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi in your diet to promote gut health and enhance nutrient absorption.

7. Bone Broths: Incorporate homemade bone broths into your diet regularly for their rich nutrient content, including minerals, gelatin, and collagen, which support joint health, digestion, and immunity.

8. Organic and Local Foods: Whenever possible, choose organic and locally sourced foods to minimize exposure to pesticides, hormones, and other harmful chemicals and to support sustainable agriculture practices.

9. Whole, Unrefined Sweeteners: Use whole, unrefined sweeteners like raw honey, maple syrup, and molasses in moderation, avoiding highly processed sugars and artificial sweeteners.

10. Proper Food Preparation: Practice proper food preparation techniques, such as soaking, fermenting, and slow cooking, to maximize nutrient bioavailability and minimize the formation of harmful compounds.


A sample BALANCED day consisting of a gut loving, whole food-based meal plan for an individual in recovery may look like the following:



– Three-egg omelet cooked in ghee with spinach, mushrooms, and cheese.

– 1 cup of bone broth.

Morning Snack:

– Greek yogurt parfait with mixed berries and paleo granola (grain-free)


-Gut Luv Bowl: Roasted chicken breast, mixed greens, roasted butternut squash, avocado, sautéed broccoli, Primal Kitchen Cesar dressing

– Fermented vegetables like sauerkraut or pickles.

Afternoon Snack:

– Protein shake (almond milk + protein powder + 1 tbsp nutbutter + crushed ice + cacao)


– Beef steak served with roasted white sweet potatoes drizzled with olive oil and sautéed rainbow chard in ghee

DAY 2:


– Protein smoothie made with almond milk, banana, protein powder, cacao, colostrum,, almond butter.

– 1 cup of bone broth.

Morning Snack:

– Cottage cheese with pineapple chunks.


– Baked salmon served with white rice and roasted vegetables (such as zucchini, asparagus, and carrots).

– Fermented cabbage slaw.

Afternoon Snack:

– Hummus with cucumber sticks.


– Baked crispy chicken thighs (skin on) served with mashed sweet potatoes and steamed green beans in 1 tsp grass-fed butter

– Mixed green salad with avocado and olive oil dressing.

DAY 3:


– Two slices of gluten-free Base Culture bread “toast” with 3 eggs, 2 slices turkey bacon & mashed avocado

Morning Snack:

Protein shake in almond milk 


– Turkey and cheese lettuce wraps with hummus and sweet potato chips

– Fermented beet kvass.

– 1 cup of bone broth.

Afternoon Snack:

– Almond butter with apple slices.


– Baked cod fillet with roasted mixed root vegetables (carrots, parsnips, beets) and sautéed baby bok choy

– Mixed green salad with avocado and olive oil dressing.


The above meal plan is a sample of a “starter” 2000-2400 calorie balanced meal plan.

As recovery and “treatment” ensues, additional portions, fuel and/or an added “Gut Luv” treat after dinner may be necessary to aid in weight gain goals if that is part of a goal.

What I have found in clinical practice is that: the more we heal the gut (including probiotics, prebiotics and leaky gut support), the better the body is able to absorb nutrients and hold onto quality fuel without going “hyper metabolic.”

Many conventional treatment models that focus nutrition therapy on processed foods and the “Standard American Diet” run into the “problem” of many patients with anorexia going “hyper-metabolic” as ‘re-feeding’ and weight gain ensues—sometimes requiring 3000-4000 calories for any weight gain to occur. However, did you know that we can be “eating, but starving” at a cellular and gut health level? If we are NOT absorbing our nutrients or we are not eating a balanced nutrient-dense diet, it’s as if we have a hollow leg and the food goes “straight through us.” Hence, hyper metabolism is more likely. When we focus on improving digestion and gut absorption, paired with a gut-loving food diet, the fuel “sticks” much more easily without over-taxing the body or gut to shove more and more food in order to gain weight.

Some of my favorite strategies to gain weight without feeling overly full or lethargic include, adding in foods like:

>An additional serving or two of starch in the day (sweet potato, potato, winter squash, rice, gluten-free properly prepared oats, coconut flour bread or tortilla, plantain chips).

For example:  instead of a small sweet potato, a medium to large potato; instead of 1 cup of winter squash, an additional half cup; instead of just sweet potatoes, maybe add in some white rice, quinoa or black rice; etc.).

>Raw & grass-fed dairy. If dairy is tolerated, consider adding in a serving of raw milk, raw milk kefir, raw cheese and or grass-fed cottage cheese/Greek yogurt (full fat). If dairy is NOT tolerated, sub out coconut milk, kefir and yogurt.

>Gut Luv Treat. Dessert after dinner. Some of my faves include: a serving of 100% dark chocolate with a prebiotic drink (like Olipop), homemade coconut milk ice cream or Mammoth ice cream,

>Protein Shake. Bring a “fixed” shake into the daily mix consisting of beef protein powder, cacao, nutbutter, fruit and nut milk or coconut milk.

>Bump up portions &/or healthy fats. Similar to our first point on adding in an additional starch serving, at meals you can gradually increase portions. For instance, instead of 4 ounces of meat, bump it up to 6 or even 8 ounces if doing fish as it is lighter. Instead of 1 tsp of ghee or butter to cook, bump it up to 2. Drizzle on some olive oil to your starch or add a tablespoon of coconut butter.


Sometimes clients may require medicinal re-feeding with formulas or shakes for enhanced nutrient intake and/or easy absorption.

Thankfully, there are several Nestle-free and Boost-free formulas out there for alternative options.

Some brands to consider include:

  • Functional Formulas
  • Kate Farms
  • Real Food Blends
  • Blended meals with a Vitamix! You can do anything — chicken, sweet potatoes, broccoli; beef, squash, spinach. Add in olive oil, MCT oil, coconut oil, ghee or grass-fed butter and sea salt.

And of course, if a patient is able and willing to eat by mouth, the GAPS-inspired protocol is a great baseline approach built upon easy-to-digest foods, and designed in particular for people with gut-brain disorders.


“Holistic health” is a “scary” word sometimes for the eating disorder treatment world where orthorexia is definitely a “thing.”

However, what I have found is the more you empower individuals with knowledge of how the human body optimally functions, restore digestive (and gut-brain) health and incorporate 80/20 balance (ie. No perfection), orthorexia has NO place in the mix.

80/20 is simple: 80% of the time, eat “real” whole foods that your body was meant to thrive upon. 20% of the time, let life happen. When in Rome, try the pasta. On your birthday, eat the cake. In a given day, incorporate 1 to 2 “gut love treats” (ie. Non-perfect foods).

This supports the “hygiene hypothesis”—You know the immune theory that the “cleaner” and more sanitized we are, the sicker we actually get? Well, the “cleaner” we are with food, the more food intolerances and sensitivities we may develop, not to mention a funky relationship with food. With renewed permission, we are able to sustain a balanced lifestyle…beyond the next 30-90 day “protocol”!

Essential #4: Mindful Movement

Humans are human beings — not human sittings. We are made to move and be active participants in life—not couch sitting or desk jockey, Instagram scrolling slugs; or the opposite, not hamsters on wheels running for hours on end or spending hours upon hours in the gym. Often times, patients enter eating disorder treatment and are forced to go from 100 mph to 0 mph in the exercise department.

While this may be necessary in some cases until medical stability is achieved and a patient isconsuming proper nutrition, movement certainly has a place in a holistic approach to eating disorder recovery.

Often times clinicians may fear that exercise can further “contribute” to ED related psychopathology; however research confirms that it actually does the opposite. In fact, movement may even enhance outcomes as patients learn how to crawl and walk again in the exercise department potentially after years of unhealthy purging with exercise or an unhealthy relationship with their body.

This was certainly the case for myself! I had an extensive history of 8 hour long “marathon” workouts for years and was particularly a slave to chronic cardio (I was the stair master QUEEN)! In recovery however, I began asking myself a simple check in question:

What would healthy, recovered Lauryn do?”

And that one question began to change EVERYTHING – helped me begin to operate and show up in an entirely different way. I began training to get stronger, build lean muscle, have fun and not force. I LOVE movement—always have. I grew up playing sports and was active my entire life. In recovery, I began to reclaim my LOVE for movement by doing things that actually brought me JOY as well as helped build my body UP vs. break it down.

“Mindful movement” is a term I use in holistic eating disorder recovery and treatment, sort of like “mindful eating”—increased awareness about our thoughts, feelings and our “why” related to why we choose to move how we move or eat how we eat (or don’t move or eat).

As mentioned, when I was recovering from anorexia, mindful movement for me looked like:

>Not doing the same things/types of workouts I forced myself to do in my eating disorder & mixing it up (ie. Not doing the same thing every single day)

>Workout integrity (ie. Not sneaking squats in the shower or crunches in my bed room)

>Adopting an “athlete mindset” (ie. Using exercise to build my body up vs. break it down)

>Incorporating recovery (ie. Sauna, mobility, bodywork, lighter days)

>Being OK if I missed a day of working out or my schedule got changed around (ie. Not waking up at 4 am just to work out if I happened to have a morning flight at 6 am — knowing I could workout another time).

Basically, I gave up excessive usage of mirrors, scales, fitness magazines and “counting” (ie. Counting how many calories I burned; counting carbs and macros, etc.). Instead, I found CrossFit (mirror-free gym) that inspired me to find strength within and was built upon community (not isolation and secrecy). I re-found weight lifting and the beauty of actually letting muscle groups rest in order to get stronger. I found hip hop dance. I found basketball and shooting hoops. Yoga was powerful and to this day, I rarely miss a day—it taught me how to meditate, breathe, recover my muscles and process my thoughts. And, of course, walking! I love walking—it’s probably my favorite way to move my body and it’s my favorite way to connect with people and friends.

A “mindful movement” plan is unique to each individual but should include a variety of movement that “sparks joy” and helps individuals connect vs. disconnect with their body. I personally do not feel a need to compete, overly push myself or do things that I don’t want to anymore.

Consider adding in a variety of:

  • Walking
  • Yoga/stretching and/or pilates
  • Strength training
  • HIIT training
  • Fun (dance, swimming, sports, biking)

Ditch the chronic cardio—the hours upon hours spent “burning calories.” The more calories you try to burn (and less that you eat as well) will backfire with your metabolism and drive up cortisol. Remind the “ED voice” of that anytime it gets loud.

Essential #5: Learn Truth

There is truth in light and learning truth to combat food rules, myths and eating disorder lies is like a bright “light” —illuminating eating disorder freedom and recovery.

Eating disorder rules are a Wild West, and they can often shift, depending on current popular diet culture beliefs or diet myths, as well as personal experiences and bias.

During my eating disorder days, I did every diet under the sun and lived in bondage to (false) “truths” in my head, including:

“Eating fat makes you fat,” which then shifted to “Carbs make you fat and gain weight…eat high fat!”

“Meat—especially beef—makes you a fat American and causes cancer,” on to “High protein, low carb diets help you lose weight.”

“Eat a plant based diet” turned into “Veggies are toxic (high in poisons like oxalates and lectins).”

Even within certain diet perimeters (ie. Vegan, keto, carnivore), I had food rules galore:

  • Bananas are fattening
  • No eating carbs after noon
  • Fast for 14-16 hours between dinner and breakfast
  • Skip breakfast
  • No more than 20 carbs per day
  • Fruit is bad
  • Only lean meats
  • Avoid sugar but artificial sweeteners are ok
  • The only starchy carbs you can eat are sweet potatoes
  • Nuts are moldy
  • Avoid histamine
  • Avoid oxalates

The list goes on. It wasn’t until I began to learn the TRUTHS about nutrient-dense, ancestral eating that I was able to begin to combat the lies of diet culture, especially any time that “voice” would try to pull me back down like quick sand.

And as I began to learn truths also about functional health, I was also able to combat lies like:

Lie: “Eat less, move more”

Truth: This slows down metabolism!

Lie: “You need to run 6 miles daily”

Truth: Chronic cardio hijacks cortisol levels and actually runs your hormones and metabolism into the ground.

Lie: “Low carb diets are healthy”

Truth: If you cut carbs completely, you cut off the primary food source of a healthy microbiome. Incorporate more pre-biotic fibers and starches to build up a healthy gut (for a healthy brain, hormones and metabolism).

You get the picture. Hence, an important aspect of holistic eating disorder treatment should incorporate nutrition and health education.

Personally, in my 20 years of conventional eating disorder treatment, I can confidently say I did not learn anything in the holistic health department more than how to count food exchanges, calories or macros for a meal plan; and the fact that I needed food to survive.

Why don’t we bring more truths into the mix so we can combat the lies?

Essential #6: Reset Your Blood Sugar & Circadian Rhythm

Balanced blood sugar and circadian rhythm are the 1-2 punch for energy, brain function and less stress (cortisol) in the body. In turn, this aids in the ability to engage fully in the recovery process, feel balanced, less anxious and even think LESS intrusive and obsessive thoughts about food.

First up: Blood sugar is a code term for “cellular energy.” Unfortunately, many people with eating disorders (and non-eating disorders) alike suffer from hypo and hyperglycemia episodes in their blood sugar all day long (like they are riding a roller coaster inside). In fact, 93% of Americans are metabolically “unhealthy” due to imbalances in blood sugar.

When blood sugar is off, we naturally exacerbate inflammation and oxidative stress inside our gut-brain axis and our HPA Axis (stress levels)—causing imbalances galore in digestive function, brain function, peace of mind, hormones (especially leptin and ghrelin—the fullness and hunger hormones), metabolism and beyond. Additionally, imbalanced blood sugar can also provoke obsessive thoughts about food (because our body is not getting all the nutrients it needs) and/or the opposite—lack of appetite and even lack of hunger if it goes on for too long, as it drives up cortisol and inflammation that blunts our hunger cues.

Blood sugar gets imbalanced for a few primary reasons:

  1. Not eating enough (ie. Chronic under-eating)
  2. Poor absorption (ie. Bad gut health)
  3. Nutrient-deficient and low protein diets (ie. Eating but starving at a cellular level)
  4. Overconsumption of processed foods, sugar, refined grains, foods you are intolerant to

Hence, the top ways to improve blood sugar include:

  1. Eating enough fuel (quality calories, and ditching excess fasting)
  2. Improving gut health
  3. Higher-protein (0.8-1 gram of complete animal-based protein per pound of ideal healthy body weight), combined with micronutrient-dense, mineral-rich produce
  4. 80/20 balance — keeping SAD diet (Standard American Diet) foods to 20% or less of the diet (as opposed to the bulk of the diet)

As for circadian rhythm: your biological clock—every BODY is wired to thrive upon a 24-hour rhythm that keeps our cortisol (stress hormones) in check, along with every body function (from your poo patterns to sleep, digestive health, energy, metabolic health, hormone balance and beyond).

Eating disorders often disrupt circadian rhythms with erratic sleep-wake-eating behaviors, such as late night eating, skipping meals, insomnia, “off” sleep schedules, etc. In fact, a common theme I see amongst may of my clients is that they do not eat much during the day, only to consume the majority of their calories and fuel at night time—as if they are “earning their food” by not eating during the day. This can set you up for both under-eating overall, binging at the end of the day, and/or poor digestive health as your body tries to digest all your calories in a smaller time frame; not to mention poor sleep and recovery at night, disrupted blood sugar and again, exacerbations in stress hormones and internal inflammation.

Holistic eating disorder treatment and recovery helps patients re-establish circadian balance with strategies like:

  1. Eating 3 balanced meals and snacks, as appropriate during the day
  2. Starting the day off with 30-40 grams of protein within the first 2 hours of waking
  3. Establishing a regular self care schedule (ie. Same wake and sleep times, general workout times and eating times)
  4. Improving light exposure to super-charge rest and sleep (ie. Morning sunshine and earthing/grounding to establish healthy melatonin production; Mitigating blue light and artificial light exposure)
  5. Educating clients on how their body functions (blood sugar and circadian) in order to optimize gut health, hormones, brain function, metabolism, etc.

Essential #7: Do Functional Lab Testing

“Functional lab testing” is basically testing you will not find in conventional eating disorder treatment that paints a picture of deeper “root cause” issues going on under the hood—both triggered by the eating disorder and/or exacerbating the eating disorder itself.

For example, studies show that “X-factors” like toxic black mold or parasites can be precursors to the gut-brain disruption that can set the stage for disordered eating.

Functional lab tests may include:

  1. Comprehensive stool analysis + parasitology
  2. SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth)
  3. Leaky gut lining test
  4. Salivary/urine hormone & cortisol analysis
  5. Toxic burden testing (heavy metals, molds, chemicals)
  6. Autoimmune food intolerance screening
  7. Epigentic testing
  8. Comprehensive functional blood chemistry

…Just to name a few. A functional medicine practitioner can help you with determining what tests, if any, may be appropriate.

Essential #8: Balance Your Metabolism & Hormone

Metabolic and hormonal imbalances are common byproducts of disordered eating.

As a functional medicine practitioner, specializing in holistic eating disorder treatment, I work a ton with patients experiencing “post recovery recovery” (what happens to your body AFTER an eating disorder)—including: a sluggish metabolism (easily gaining weight without trying); loss of period and fertility; thyroid “problems” and low energy.

A holistic approach to eating disorder treatment openly discusses and teaches patients about common hormonal and metabolic imbalances, and aims to balance hormones.

The #1 way to balance hormones and metabolism? Balance the HPA Axis! (Stress management system)!

Personally, I do not prefer to supplement or over-treat hormone imbalances by using exogenous hormones (like estrogen or progesterone). Instead, finding, if we can restore healthy levels of stress (cortisol) in the body, combined with optimizing gut function (the #1 endocrine and metabolic organ), hormones naturally balance back on their own.

For example, after 20+ years of NOT having a period, I got my period back with these 7 simple shifts:

  1. High dose probiotic therapy
  2. Adding in 1 extra serving of food-based fiber and starch into my diet (to aid in a healthy microbiome)
  3. Gallbladder and liver support (the hormone balancing machinery)—including castor oil packs, digestive bitters, herbal tea and amino acids (bone broth daily)
  4. Mitochondria support (the precursor to a healthy metabolism and hormones)
  5. Daily yoga, weight training and replacing chronic cardio with HIIT and fun (like dance)
  6. Believing “my body has the perfect blueprint of health and healing inside” (vs. “I am sick;” or fearing if I would ever get my period back)!
  7. Eating a little more (not less) of nutrient-dense foods

These same hacks skyrocketed my metabolism.

Essential #9: Support Your Immune System (Prevent Autoimmune)

Eating disorders increase the risk of developing an autoimmune disorder two to three fold. This is primarily because eating disorders disrupt the gut microbiome and gut lining—the “house” of the immune system.  As inflammation and “chaos” happens downstairs, it impacts the system as a whole.

Enter: Autoimmunity like Hashimotos, colitis, Crohn’s, celiac disease, arthritis and/or inflammation!

A holistic eating disorder approach recognizes this and incorporates support for the immune system as part of treatment in order to both prevent and reverse autoimmunity into remission.

Support for the immune system may entail:

  1. Gluten-free, conventional dairy-free diet
  2. Eating “low residue” grains (or properly prepared grains—soaked and sprouted)
  3. Proper sleep, daily sunlight/natural light exposure as much as possible), and daily low intensity movement
  4. A happy heart, stress management and social connection
  5. Leaky gut supports (colostrum, collagen, humic-fulvic minerals, sea moss gel)
  6. Oxidative stress supports (liposomal vitamin C & glutathione, mitochondrial multi-vitamin)

Essential #10: Support the Liver & Gallbladder

Liver and gallbladder health are paramount in gut health and eating disorder recovery.

These two pathways are what help keep inflammation down in the body, contribute to healthy bowel movements, promote enzyme production, aid in digestion,  balance blood sugar, regulate hormones and help the body process every single nutrient, supplement, medication and toxin it is exposed to.

Liver and gallbladder health are often compromised in disordered eating, primarily because the digestive process is hijacked with binging, purging, restricting, fasting and overtraining behaviors. This is why common bloodwork findings for an eating disorder patient may include: high total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol, elevated liver enzymes, altered glucose and/or imbalanced hormone markers.  Impaired methylation is also a common genetic predisposition in eating disorders which is translated as a “sluggish liver” that is functioning at only about 40% capacity, and can inhibit digestion and gut-brain function as well.

This is a problem considering the fact that we are inundated with over 100,000 unregulated toxins in our daily life, and these are very rarely if ever, addressed when it comes to eating disorder recovery. 

From toxic mold to parasites, heavy metals, chemicals and endocrine disruptors (found in countless hygiene products, medications, plastics and birth control pills), toxins are the X-factors when it comes to disordered eating and may play a role in the gut-brain distress that provokes both gut imbalances and brain imbalances associated with eating disorders.

The more inflammatory signals between the gut-brain axis, the more patients can continue to stay “stuck”—unable to transcend their disordered thinking beyond willpower, grit and might alone (which will only get you so far).

Top Liver & Gallbladder Supports:

  • Poo Daily (Support as needed)

Digestive bitters, squatty potty, Smooth Move tea, hydration

  • Castor Oil Packs

Placed on your liver and gallbladder

  • Supplements & Foods

B-vitamins, glutathione, NAC, vitamin C, celery juice, cholagogue foods (beets, carrots, fiber), digestive bitters

    Essential #11: Connect

    Eating Disorder Recovery -  Women Working Out In Gym Together

    Humans are nutrients. Eating disorders are socially isolating. Point-in-blank.

    If you’re familiar with the Blue Zones—the 5 cities in the world where people live the longest and are the healthiest—the number one factor comes down to human connection.

    Strengthening healthy social connections and community is a missing link in the conventional eating disorder treatment model which can be often isolating from the “real world.”

    Personally, my own experience within the confines of inpatient treatment centers was far from positive, as many of the fellow patients were fighting their own internal battles as well and our primary connection was centered on disease vs. wellness (misery loves company).

    It was not until I was out of an institution and found community through my church, my CrossFit and healthy fitness communities, groups/activities aligned with my passions and healthy role models that I got the “pep in my step” I had been seeking for years.

    Hence, a holistic approach to eating disorder treatment is one that is focused more on looking forward and life beyond illness vs. stuck in disease; it’s one that brings likeminded wellness warriors together and empowers them with possibility of life beyond ED.

    This is a core component of the community I am building.

    Essential #12: Discover Your Life Passions & Purpose

    What lights you up?

    Eating disorders love diminishing your passions and purpose—making the sole focus about diets, exercise, the next binge, the next purge, the next restriction, food rules, thinking about what you’re going to order at the restaurant next week, etc.

    Holistic eating disorder recovery is hellbent on helping individuals create life beyond ED (as mentioned above), knowing, when you find something greater outside yourself, the “need” for ED falls to the wayside.

    A big part of my own purpose became overcoming my eating disorder in order to help others—healed to heal others. My faith and relationship with Christ also has been my “rock” throughout my life, and when I finally woke up and realized how much my eating disorder was trying to prevent me from being who God created me to me, I decided to claim the gift of freedom and new life—away from rules, chains and the weight of ED.

    As for passions, I have lots, and the more I pursued recovery, the more life (and my bandwidth) opened up to other things, like:

    • Hip hop dancing
    • Writing/blogging
    • Podcasting
    • Acting classes
    • Creating content
    • Entrepreneurship
    • Social connection
    • CrossFit
    • Yoga
    • Nature
    • Researching
    • Holistic health
    • Biohacking
    • Volunteering
    • Mentoring
    • Bible study

    Again: What lights you up?  A holistic approach to eating disorder treatment will help you find your “happy.”

    Essential #13: Reclaim Body (Self) Love + Food Freedom

    Love and freedom are your birth rights. Eating food (to thrive) is your birth right.

    You come into this world as love—babies are the purest form of love. Not only are they made from love, but they are also “love” in that they are instantly cared for—a baby does not raise itself. It is loved by every single hand that cares for it.

    Likewise, as a baby, you ate food to not only survive but to grow and thrive. You didn’t think twice about it. Your mom didn’t think twice about it. Any caretaker did not think twice about it. If you are here today, you received care and food in order to make it this far.

    Your essence, love, is no different today than it was 15-20-30-40 years ago…no matter how old you are.

    And “self love” is the ultimate super power for helping you take your health and life back into your own hands.

    Your personality (how you see yourself; your self-concept) creates your personal reality.

    Again: Your personality (how you see yourself; your self-concept) creates your personal reality.

    Holistic eating disorder treatment recognizes that a HUGE PIECE of the healing puzzle comes down to identity—the core of who you are and how you see and view yourself. Your worth.

    In relation to your health, your body, your purpose, your relationships, your career/education, money and beyond.

    Are you a worthy individual? Do you know that you are fearfully and wonderfully made? That there is NO ONE like you? And that you are here for a bigger purpose than living for the next “high”—the next binge, purge, restriction, fast, etc.?

    When you know that, the eating disorder “voice” has no room. You are now standing on top of the mountain and ED begins to fall more and more away.

    Holistic Health is Yours for the Taking

    Looking for holistic eating disorder treatment or personal support, let’s optimize your gut and take your health back into your own hands! Book a complimentary 15-minute Health Strategy Call today. 

    Additionally, drop a comment or shoot us a message if you have an idea of something that you’d LOVE to see in the holistic eating disorder treatment model. We are building something GREAT!

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