Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

8 Keys to Recovery from an Eating Disorder: Effective Strategies from Therapeutic Practice and Personal Experience

Rate this book
A unique and personal look into treatment of eating disorders, written by a therapist and her former patient, now a therapist herself. This is no ordinary book on how to overcome an eating disorder. The authors bravely share their unique stories of suffering from and eventually overcoming their own severe eating disorders. Interweaving personal narrative with the perspective of their own therapist-client relationship, their insights bring an unparalleled depth of awareness into just what it takes to successfully beat this challenging and seemingly intractable clinical issue.

For anyone who has suffered, their family and friends, and other helping professionals, this book should be by your side. With great compassion and clinical expertise, Costin and Grabb walk readers through the ins and outs of the recovery process, describing what therapy entails, clarifying the common associated emotions such as fear, guilt, and shame, and, most of all, providing motivation to seek help if you have been discouraged, resistant, or afraid. The authors bring self-disclosure to a level not yet seen in an eating disorder book and offer hope to readers that full recovery is possible.

296 pages, Paperback

First published November 7, 2011

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Babette Rothschild

34 books60 followers

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
346 (54%)
4 stars
195 (30%)
3 stars
72 (11%)
2 stars
13 (2%)
1 star
5 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 47 reviews
Profile Image for Thomas.
1,427 reviews8,338 followers
January 13, 2014
As someone who has experience with an eating disorder and who wants to help those with eating disorders in the future, I cannot recommend 8 Keys to Recovery From an Eating Disorder enough. Carolyn Costin and Gwen Grabb have both dealt with eating disorders and they share the wisdom they've accumulated after working as therapists for several years. The eight keys range from learning to separate your eating disorder self from your healthy self, to trying to understand the underlying emotional problems beneath the food, to reaching out to others for support. Costin and Grabb write with a personal and understanding tone that, while convincing, never feels condescending.

This book goes beyond simple explanations of symptoms or quick tips to improve. It offers reflective writing exercises, and instead of featuring strategies for merely coping with your eating disorder, it offers methods for you to take charge of your life and to transcend the anxieties you feel. It has aided me in evaluating my past struggle with food, and I will definitely utilize this book as a resource for further research and future counseling. Highly recommended to those who have or have had an eating disorder, to those who know someone with an eating disorder, or to those who just want to learn more.
Profile Image for Deb.
349 reviews79 followers
April 5, 2012
*Satisfying physical, emotional, and spiritual hunger *

To give my authentic reaction to _8 Keys to Recovery from an Eating Disorder_, I'll share an excerpt from the e-mail I wrote to the author soon after I completed the book:
“I absolutely loved this book!!! Similar to my experience with your other book, I enthusiastically savored every nourishing word! I just love how the book explains, organizes, demystifies, and humanizes eating disorder treatment and recovery. This book has already informed and shaped the therapy sessions I have held since reading it. (I feel like I've been channeling it in all my recent sessions!)”

For therapists, those who suffer from eating disorders, and their loved ones, this book offers a complete and satisfying menu. It's divided into eight “main courses” which are the keys to eating disorder recovery:
Key 1: Motivation, Patience, and Hope
Key 2: Your Healthy Self Will Heal Your Eating Disorder Self
Key 3: It's Not About the Food
Key 4: Feel Your Feelings, Challenge Your Thoughts
Key 5: It *Is* About the Food
Key 6: Changing Your Behaviors
Key 7: Reach Out to People Rather Than Your Eating Disorder
Key 8: Finding Meaning and Purpose

Flavoring each of these courses are highly informative, well-organized, easy-to-digest, and satisfying explanations of all aspects of the eating disorder recovery process. For example, the beginning of the book provides a birdseye view of the ten phases of eating disorder recovery (pp. 14-16):
1. I don't think I have a problem.
2. I might have a problem but it's not that bad.
3. I have a problem but I don't care.
4. I want to change but I don't know how and I'm scared.
5. I tried to change but I couldn't.
6. I can stop some of the behaviors but not all of them.
7. I can stop the behaviors, but not my thoughts.
8. I am often free from behaviors and thoughts, but not all the time.
9. I am free from behaviors and thoughts.
10. I am recovered.

After guiding the reader through the stages of change and integration of the recovery process (during which the eating disorder self and healthy self merge into a fully integrated person), the book provides an informative and fascinating exploration of the 14 key issues underlying eating disorders (pp. 83-86):
1. Poor self-esteem
2. Need for distraction
3. Longing to fill up emptiness
4. Belief in a myth
5. Drive for perfection
6. High-achievement orientation
7. Desire to be special/unique
8. Need to be in control
9. Desire for power of self/others/family/life
10. Desire for respect and admiration
11. Difficulty expressing feelings
12. Lack of coping skills/use of eating disorder serves as a safe place to go
13. Lack of trust in self/others
14. Fear of not measuring up

The book is also packed with practical tools and techniques for managing eating disorder behaviors, including conscious eating guidelines, the hunger scale, and ways to move through the three-step process of feeling, challenging, and changing. Supplementing these how-to's is the spiritual component of the book which recognizes the complexity and depth of eating disorders. In the authors' own words (p. 222):
“With an eating disorder, you fall into the illusion that your worth is tied to the external, to things of the ego such as your looks and your ability to control food or your body. [The goal of recovery] is to tie your worth to your innate intrinsic value as a human being, and your connection to other beings and the world around you. This involves turning your attention to matters of spirituality and soul.”

And, to help guide the readers through this essential spiritual growth aspect of the recovery process, the book explores the four-fold path of: (1) showing up; (2) paying attention; (3) telling the truth without judgment; and (4) not being too attached to the results. Following this path, it becomes possible to use mindfulness to respond from the soul instead of react from the ego, and to ultimately experience “the love, self-worth, and connection you were seeking all along.” (p. 190)

The book ends with a clear and inspirational snapshot of recovery (p. 253) :
You will no longer have an eating disorder self but instead be living your life as a fully whole integrated person.
You will understand your issues but no longer use eating disorder behaviors to cope.
You will feel your feelings and know how to challenge your thoughts.
You will eat freely—but consciously—what you want, and no longer use scales or diets to dictate your eating.
You will continue to be aware of and work on any problematic behaviors that need to change.
You will get your needs met from your relationships rather than your eating disorder.
You will live a soul-led life that brings you meaning and purpose.

As a therapist, I highly, highly recommend this book for anyone struggling with an eating disorder, and for all of those who support them during the recovery process. The content of the book feeds the mind and provides guidelines to follow for feeding the soul. In the end, it's possible for anyone to arrive at the destination of one of the clients featured in the book who pledges that (p. 256):
“I will let food satisfy my physical hunger and love fulfill my emotional hunger.”
Profile Image for Kate Conroy.
95 reviews18 followers
October 23, 2017
Monte Nido was founded by Carolyn Costin, the author of 8 Keys. She recovered from her eating disorder and made it her life’s work to create a place where others could do the same. The eight keys are exactly what they sound like: eight principles necessary to recover from an eating disorder, and they include things like, “It’s not about the food,” and “Meaning and Purpose.” The book takes you through each of the eight keys and basically explains how to look at your disorder from a new perspective. It also includes journal prompts to help you actively engage with each key. The most important and unique concept they present is the idea of the “eating disorder self” and the “healthy self.” They stress the importance of noticing the dialogues in your mind between both of those voices. The unique part is that they say the eating disorder self part of you is not a bad part of you. It’s a part of you that’s hurt. It’s sad. It’s lonely. And it needs something. Attention, love, help. You have to nurture that part of you, not get rid of it. But you need to nurture it with more positive and healthy coping skills until it has merged with your healthy self.

I was also particularly struck by the section on weighing. Costin stresses that it is absolutely essential that a person with an eating disorder stop weighing themselves completely. This is the first time I’ve heard that. All my past therapists have told me to weigh myself 1-3 times a week in the morning. I had never in my life considered just never weighing myself again. But now that the idea has been introduced to me, I realize that, as incredibly frightening as that thought is, that might just be the only way to really stick to my recovery. So, this is a thank you to Carolyn. Thank you for creating this book that has helped me see my behaviors, thoughts, and feelings in a new way, and thank you for creating this home for me to heal myself for the next three months.
Profile Image for Scylla.
33 reviews2 followers
February 24, 2017
This is possibly the best eating disorder "self help" type book one can get their hands on. The authors talk the reader through experiences they have had with their own eating disorders, and how they have helped clients with eating disorders. There are optional journal entries for the reader to do as well throughout the book, to help deal with their own eating disorder. This book is tailored for all potential eating disorders, NOT being restricted to anorexia and bulimia (like so many other eating disorder books do). As someone with a more rare eating disorder (ARFID/SED), I have to give a giant THANK YOU for this book.
Profile Image for Lyndsey Asgard.
150 reviews1 follower
July 5, 2018
This books was really good, and really helpful. It held a lot of great insights as to why your eating disorder exists, and it gives you tools to rewire your brain to overcome it. And it didn't have "you just have to do this and presto! No more eating disorder!" It was very realistic and honest in it's approach, and as a person who's in the limbo of recovered and still very much fucked up, I appreciate that.

Really fantastic book for those who are suffering from eating disorders and want to recover, or even for those who want to understand eating disorders better.

Profile Image for Lauryn.
7 reviews2 followers
February 25, 2020
The treatment centre I go to for my eating disorder gave all of us this book on our first day of treatment. I read the first two chapters during my first week but put down the book until my eight. This book is amazing for when you are motivated for change and need an extra push towards recovery. The small journal activities are very helpful and make you think a different way about many aspects of your illness. It's worth reading!
Profile Image for Anna.
4 reviews
March 25, 2015
The most life-changing book I think I have and will ever have read. So many lines resonated with me; it was as if I was reading my own diary at times.

If you are struggling with an eating disorder, I cannot even begin to explain how much this book can aid in your recovery. Good luck and beauty is as deep as the soul.
Profile Image for Amy Grossman.
145 reviews11 followers
December 13, 2011
Carolyn Costin was a life saving, powerful force and, a guardian angel, who helped make recovery possible for me. This book is inspiring and a learning tool. I have not read a book in the eating disorder genre as amazing as this. Thank you, Carolyn and Gwenn.
Profile Image for Hannah.
366 reviews40 followers
August 27, 2012

Insufferably condescending. Any helpful/practical advice was overshadowed by simplistic generalizations.
Profile Image for Jen.
3 reviews34 followers
July 28, 2015
The 8 Keys to Recovering From an Eating Disorder by Carolyn Costin. Costin delivers an honest, realistic, authentic approach to finding your way out of an ED and finding yourSELF.
Profile Image for J.
203 reviews19 followers
December 12, 2022
While very funny and typical of me that I only finished this book because I wanted to get close to my goal on Goodreads, I genuinely found this a passionate and useful guide, and one that as someone who got an ED and mostly recovered from one alone, full of tips that were understanding and provided a deeper insight into why I might still want to do things that hurt me.

Also really liked the last chapter on spiritual healing ! Anyone got any tips on the meaning of life and how to promote your soul self please let me know !
Profile Image for Alison Raman.
11 reviews
February 18, 2016
8 Keys to Recovery is an excellent book for both people who have an eating disorder and their loved ones. Blending personal narrative with clinical expertise, Costin and Grabb bring a wide lens to the experience of living with an eating disorder and practical steps individuals can take to recover. Of course, recovery does not occur linearly, but 8 Keys is a framework within which to make changes and awaken a sense of curiosity about the relationship between the illness and yourself. If you have been to treatment previously many of the exercises and methods of approaching recovery may seem familiar. However, each time one revisits a different concept, attempts to change, or internalization may occur as an "aha" moment or a willingness to try something different.

Many memoirs and books about eating disorders include detailed affairs of behaviors associated with these illnesses, which can activate urges (triggers) to do the same in others with an eating disorder. While memoirs can be validating to other sufferers and help individuals without eating disorders better understand the illness, such detailed narratives of engaging in specific behaviors is often very triggering to people struggling and may even lead some sufferers to experiment with new behaviors. What I appreciate about 8 Keys is that acknowledges the internal experiences of suffers without focusing on such detailed narratives.

I also appreciate the focus on increasing skills, awareness, and self-compassion that can lead to behavior change and ultimately recovery. Insight is powerful, but without making changes moving toward recovery stalls. 8 Keys doesn't dive into the proposed causes or etiology of eating disorders intensively, which are slowly evolving, rather it is a more forward-looking perspective-"here you are, and these are some steps to take to move forward." Exploring the past in recovery is helpful and necessary at certain junctions and in particular situations, but it isn't always the place to start.

I highly recommend this book to anyone in the eating disorder field, individuals struggling with an eating disorder and their supporters, or is interested. The only sections I feel were a bit out of date was some of the nutrition information. I hesitate to write even that because of the controversy nutrition information in the eating disorder treatment world, but ongoing and new research about genetics, the brain, and the microbiome may shed additional light on the nutritional aspect of the disorders and recovery.
Profile Image for Richard Quis.
Author 1 book2 followers
October 10, 2013
Eating Disorders: When Your Best Thinking isn’t Enough

When a diet no longer serves you and a demeaning voice inside you takes control of your life, you need Carolyn Costin and Gwen Grabb. They are eating disorder therapists who know how to empower people to change their destructive eating habits. This book is a journey through the twisted food thoughts that make people think they’re in control when they’re not. It’s all there: thin commandments, food rules, hunger games, food journals, conscious eating, scale addicts, exercise addicts, overeaters, undereaters, binge eaters, emotional eaters, rigid beliefs, emotional reasoning, perfectionism, privacy delusions, bulimia, anorexia and purging. These are tough issues to deal with, but with this book, a journal and the right help, there is a way out.

Richard Quis co-author Thinking Anew: Harnessing the Power of Belief
Profile Image for Julia.
292 reviews7 followers
November 25, 2012
Overall, I think this could be a useful book for many people in their recoveries from eating disorders. I do feel like it's necessary to add one big cautionary note: while I think that many readers would appreciate hearing about both authors' own struggles with eating disorders, and find solace and hope in the personal anecdotes, I can imagine such stories being hugely triggering for others. I don't think it's an insurmountable problem, even for those it might trigger (as dealing with triggers is, indeed, part of recovering from an eating disorder), but I do think it's a book best read after careful consideration of where along one's path to healing a given individual is.
Profile Image for Carey.
32 reviews68 followers
June 10, 2015
The 8 Keys To Recover From An Eating Disorder is a lifesaving book for many who struggle with eating disorders. Her book offers hope and healing that recovery is possible. I like the fact that the book states "It gets worse before it gets better" which is very true and often overlooked as recovery isn't working when in fact it is working and progress is being made. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is struggling with an eating disorder, family, friends, professionals, and those that are recovered to refresh things a bit.
Profile Image for Kasey.
171 reviews
November 18, 2018
Since I took a new job working with people with eating disorders (of which I know nothing), I have to interrupt my fiction reading with learning.

This book is really, really good. I think it is good for clients and therapists alike. It offers a hopeful and realistic view about treatment/healing from an eating disorder, and lots of practical steps to take. Provides various ways of thinking about/dissecting different elements of the problems that tend to keep the eating disorder alive. Engaging, well written, and helpful.
Profile Image for Casandra.
87 reviews8 followers
October 7, 2018
This book absolutely changed my life. It was so thoughtful and raw, vulnerable yet strong, inspiring, motivating, and provides so much hope.
The personal reflections and excerpts from women either during or after their treatment were perfect. They gave a very real sense of the magnitude of just how far Eating Disorders go and just how far you may have to go to recover. It's a process and this book highlights the whole thing beautifully.
Profile Image for Rose Boyer.
289 reviews5 followers
March 21, 2016
This is a good book for those suffering for eating disorders and for those of us to might clinically treat individuals suffering with eating disordered behavior. I appreciated the personal stories which made it easy to identify with, the writing assignments, and way the concepts were brought together through out the book and in the end with brief beginning lessons in meditation and mindfulness.
Profile Image for Morgan.
426 reviews33 followers
August 17, 2012
This book is a great resoruce for those who have or think that they have an eating disorder. It offers insight at a very personal level.

It additionally provides writing assignments that those with eating disorders and professionals can use.
1 review
December 22, 2015
An amazing book! The way it is written is clear and concise and helped me better understand my ED. The actives also helped me go deeper into the ideas they presented and made it much more personalized. Incredible!
Profile Image for Tamara.
63 reviews7 followers
August 29, 2015
outstanding ... will re-read again and again!
Profile Image for Katrin.
490 reviews5 followers
October 16, 2015
Awesome book and very practical! Lots of writing assignments to help get in touch with ourselves and away from the eating disorder!
1 review
October 2, 2017
Good advice

I thought it was a very good book for those with eating disorders. It should be real helpful. I enjoyed learning about the topic.
231 reviews
October 26, 2017
This is an excellent, practical book for anyone struggling with an eating disorder.
June 2, 2018
This is probably the single most helpful book on ED recovery I have ever read. I would recommend it to anyone I know who struggles with an eating disorder or body image in general.
3 reviews1 follower
March 5, 2019
Practical, concise, firsthand experience. Definitely recommend to anyone recovering from an eating disorder of any type
Displaying 1 - 30 of 47 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.