Challenging Fluid Restriction For Eating Disorder Recovery

Today our Nutritional Therapist, Marissa-Catherine Carrarini is exploring the effects of fluid restriction and sharing her top tips for drinking a variety of beverages as an eating disorder sufferer…


It’s summer. It’s hot and we are all thirsty. Whether we’re reaching for a refillable bottle (doing our bit for the planet), picking up something cold from the fridge in the shop or asking for extra ice for our drink on-tap at the local pub, we know that staying hydrated isn’t just necessary for survival but refreshing too. For eating disorder sufferers however, drinking can be particularly challenging.

Eating disorders make us disconnect from our needs and wants. They are even more powerful when we are feeling at our weakest. Instead of joyfully filling glasses with precious liquids, too often we’ve found that our clients go too thirsty or stop themselves enjoying fun, sweet or fruity drinks/shakes.

We do a lot of work on intuitive eating/drinking (listening to the nutritional needs of your body and responding to them) and mindful eating/drinking (eating/drinking with purpose and presence, with intention and attention). Just like when sufferers aren’t necessarily feeling hungry, it’s important to challenge not feeling like drinking. With food, we encourage clients to eat at meal times with an appropriate size portion as it stimulates the appetite making eating easier. This makes hunger signs more recognisable. It’s similar with drinks. We encourage clients to drink an appropriate amount regularly to help them to recognise the signs of being thirsty more easily.

Let’s continue to challenge this with different types of drinks:




Dehydration is a dangerous affair. Eating disorders promote dehydration for all sorts of disturbing reasons. However, not drinking enough (especially in the hot weather) can lead to worrying issues and difficult symptoms. These include lethargy, dry mouth/lips/eyes, frequent headaches, impaired mood/alertness, sugar cravings, disturbed sleep and feeling dizzy.

The recommended amount for an adult is 6-8 glasses per day (1.2 litres – approximately 2.5 typical sized bottles) but many people without an eating disorder struggle to manage this. If water drinking is tricky, set an alarm on your phone or leave bottles around the house to remind and support you to drink. Sometimes adding a sweet cordial may be helpful. If you are feeling dehydrated, start with small sips, gradually increasing the amount. You may also need to take a sachet of electrolytes to replenish lost minerals.


Sweet Drinks, Milky Shakes or Coffees


Sweet drinks (AKA “liquid calories”) can be scary. Clients often tell me about not wanting to “waste” calories. I am interested in this term because it assumes that simple pleasure, every day kindness, joining in social situations or basic nourishment is a “waste”.

Another way to think about it is that denying yourself a drink that you like is a form of starving, of taking away and of isolating. These are harmful coping mechanisms for dealing with your emotions. These come from your eating disorder voice and an ‘unwell’ mindset. Remember that your eating disorder isn’t the only thing that can leave you feeling satisfied, determined and empowered. Challenging these by having something to eat or drink that you enjoy can make you feel this way too. It does this in a much kinder, self-caring way.




While I am not promoting alcohol, – especially if you are underweight, heavily restricting or have a history of issues with alcohol – a beer or cocktail on a sunny day can be a lovely experience that eating disorders stop us enjoying. Clients often tell me about worrying about calories or worrying about not being in control. What I hear instead: isolation and stopping yourself from having a bit of fun.

Intuitive and mindful eating/drinking is naturally eating/drinking in moderation. It is about honouring cravings and avoiding the binge/restrict/shame/guilt cycle.


More tips


  • Be honest with yourself with regards to how much you need to drink to be satisfied
  • Be honest as to what drinks you enjoy
  • Try not to decide beforehand what you will drink – see what you want to drink in the moment
  • Be honest about your struggles with liquids

Perhaps this summer it might be nice to embrace the sun and embrace your thirst!



Posted in , by The Recover Clinic