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10 Best Emotional Eating Support Groups: Online and In-Person Options

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10 Best Emotional Eating Support Groups: Online and In-Person Options

Table of Contents

Key Takeaways

  • When emotional eating (eating to regulate negative emotions) occurs frequently, it may be a sign of disordered eating or an eating disorder. 
  • Emotional eating support groups are often hosted by treatment centers for free, typically focusing on general eating disorder recovery.
  • Support groups are not meant to replace medical advice or therapy and should be considered a supplement to eating disorder treatment. 

Emotional eating is when a person eats in response to negative emotions to regulate their mood. When it happens occasionally, emotional eating is a normal part of life. However, if you frequently experience emotional eating, it may be a sign of disordered eating or an eating disorder. 

While a therapist or registered dietitian can be invaluable in helping you with emotional eating, these resources are not accessible to everyone. As a result, some people choose to join emotional eating support groups, many of which are free. 

However, not all support groups are created equal– continue reading for the ten best emotional eating support groups.

Consider trying Nourish if you’re seeking a registered dietitian for support with emotional eating. Visits are conducted online for convenience, and Nourish accepts most major insurance carriers. 

Benefits of Joining a Virtual Support Group for Emotional Eating 

If you frequently eat to help regulate your emotions, you may be dealing with emotional eating. When this becomes a regular habit, it can be a sign of disordered eating or even an eating disorder, like binge eating disorder (BED)

Many people with these conditions participate in virtual support groups, which are typically led by eating disorder treatment centers. While most of them focus on eating disorder recovery as a whole, emotional eating is a common topic of discussion. 

Online support groups are a convenient way to connect with peers over shared experiences and concerns like emotional eating, body image, and other eating disorder behaviors. They provide a safe space to learn new strategies, decrease isolation, and reduce shame. 

While self-help strategies like support groups are not a replacement for treatment, research shows that eating disorder support groups can be a positive tool for peers to encourage and support each other in their recovery journey. 

You may benefit from joining a virtual eating disorder support group if you:

  • Are currently in eating disorder treatment.
  • Have completed an eating disorder treatment program.
  • Are concerned about disordered eating habits. 

Most online eating disorder support groups are free to participate in and can connect you with resources for accessible treatment options. 

Considerations

Signs of disordered eating, like emotional eating, can often overlap with eating disorder symptoms. If you aren’t currently in eating disorder treatment and have concerns about your eating habits and relationship with food, it's best to talk with your doctor prior to pursuing self-help options. 

Online support groups are not intended to replace medical care or therapy for eating disorders. Support groups are not to be confused with group therapy. While group therapy is often part of eating disorder treatment and is led by a licensed therapist, support groups are typically peer-led with a facilitator who may or may not be a clinician. 

Unfortunately, some communities posing as eating disorder “support groups” actually exist to encourage eating disorder behaviors. Red flags include discussing weight loss strategies, sharing photos of body size, and calorie counting

If you encounter one of these groups, it’s best to leave and find a group more supportive of your recovery journey

Consider booking a consultation with a registered dietitian through Nourish if you’re interested in online eating disorder treatment. 

Center for Discovery

Center for Discovery is an eating disorder treatment center with locations across the United States. They offer virtual and in-person treatment for anorexia, bulimia, binge eating, and more. 

Center for Discovery offers free online support groups for various age groups and topics. Meetings are held via Zoom and don’t require you to reserve a spot in advance. You can also log on anonymously if you’d like. 

While some of the groups are only available to people who have completed treatment with the Center for Discovery, there are other options anyone can participate in. They also offer support groups for special populations, including adolescents, Spanish-speaking individuals, and loved ones. 

Eating Recovery Center

The Eating Recovery Center treats eating disorders at clinics nationwide, both in-person and virtually. 

Eating Recovery Center hosts free support groups for adults facilitated by clinicians specializing in eating disorders. Weekly meetings are held virtually through the Zoom platform. These free resources are available to everyone, not just those treated at the Eating Recovery Center. 

A wide range of support group options exist, including:

  • Eating disorder recovery. 
  • LGBTQ+ body image support.
  • Family members. 
  • College student groups. 

Balance Eating Disorder Treatment Center

The Balance Eating Disorder Treatment Center is located in New York City and has treatment options for eating disorders, disordered eating, and body image concerns.

This treatment center offers a free virtual support group twice a month. This support group is specifically for people with disordered eating and body image concerns who are contemplating whether eating disorder treatment is the right path. 

The support group provides information about treatment options and offers a safe space for group members to feel a sense of community. 

Eating Disorder Hope

Eating Disorder Hope is a website that offers resources, information, and support to individuals with eating disorders, body image issues, and disordered eating. 

While Eating Disorder Hope does not host their own support group, they provide a directory where you can search for support group options by state. Their website also has helpful information about what to expect when attending a support group and possible red flags to look out for. 

National Alliance for Eating Disorders

The National Alliance for Eating Disorders, also known as “The Alliance,” is a non-profit organization that connects individuals with treatment options and eating disorder resources. 

The Alliance has virtual and in-person support groups across the country that are led by therapists and offered weekly. Programs are free to join and range from: 

  • Eating disorder recovery support.
  • Support for LGBTQ+ individuals with eating disorders.
  • Groups for loved ones. 

Free in-person support groups through The Alliance are available in Delaware, Florida, Indiana, Louisiana, and Pennsylvania. 

Alsana

Alsana is an eating disorder treatment program with in-person facilities in Alabama, California, and Missouri and virtual treatment options nationwide. They take a holistic approach to care, focusing on the whole person and individualized treatment. 

Their free online support group meets every other week, with facilitators including clinicians and recovery coaches. The support group is meant for adults in eating disorder treatment and focuses on recovery through a Health at Every Size lens. 

Thrive Wellness

Thrive Wellness is a behavioral health clinic based in Reno, Nevada, that offers services for treating eating disorders, perinatal mood disorders, and other mental health conditions. 

Thrive hosts a free weekly virtual support group for people recovering from eating disorders. It is facilitated by a therapist specializing in eating disorder treatment and focuses on teaching mindfulness and coping strategies.  

The Lotus Collaborative

The Lotus Collaborative is a California-based program that treats a wide range of mental health conditions, from eating disorders to anxiety and depression. 

They offer a free weekly support group for people with eating disorders. Visits are hosted via Zoom, and the group is open to anyone in active eating disorder recovery. 

Morningside Chats

Morningside Chats in the Living Room is a free eating disorder support group hosted by a registered dietitian and certified eating disorder specialist. Each week, a different eating disorder expert joins the group to offer insight and tips on recovery. 

The participating experts include therapists, psychiatrists, social workers, doctors, and registered dietitians with topics such as mindfulness, relationship with food, body image, and more. 

Multi-Service Eating Disorder Association (MEDA)

Multi-Service Eating Disorder Association, known as MEDA, is an eating disorder treatment center located in Massachusetts. 

MEDA currently offers two weekly drop-in support groups– one for people recovering from eating disorders and one for friends and family. The former group is moderated by a therapist, while the latter is peer-led. 

The groups are conducted virtually via Zoom and are free of charge. 

Takeaway

Habitual emotional eating can sometimes indicate a deeper issue, like disordered eating or an eating disorder. If you haven’t been diagnosed with an eating disorder, talk to your doctor about your eating concerns before joining a support group or utilizing other self-help tools.

Many treatment centers offer online eating disorder support groups, which can be a convenient, free way to find a sense of community before, during, or after eating disorder treatment. 

Here’s a summary of the top ten support groups for eating disorders. 

  1. Center for Discovery– This group allows you to log on anonymously and also has a Spanish-speaking support group available.
  1. Eating Recovery Center– There are multiple support group options, including LGBTQ+ body image support.
  1. Balance Eating Disorder Treatment Center– This group is best for people with eating disorders or disordered eating who are contemplating treatment. 
  1. Eating Disorder Hope– Use this database to search for support groups by state and find other eating disorder resources. 
  1. National Alliance for Eating Disorders– This program has multiple therapist-led support groups, including support for LGBTQ+ individuals with eating disorders.
  1. Alsana– This program has a holistic approach to care and focuses on the Health at Every Size principles. 
  1. Thrive Wellness– Get support for eating disorders and perinatal mood disorders with the free resources from this program. 
  1. The Lotus Collaborative– This treatment center specializes in eating disorders and other mental health conditions, like anxiety and depression. 
  1. Morningside Chats– Different guests each week join this support group to share their unique expert perspectives. 
  1. Multi-Service Eating Disorder Association (MEDA)– This is a therapist-led group for general eating disorder recovery support. 

Managing Eating Disorders with an Online Dietitian

If you’re unsure where to start with treating your eating disorder, consider Nourish. Our online eating disorder treatment program connects you with an outpatient eating disorder dietitian who can help you target disordered eating behaviors like emotional eating, binging, and restricting. 

Nourish coordinates with your care team to ensure continuity of care, and we work with you to maximize your insurance coverage. Find a dietitian near you to get started.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you cheer someone on with an eating disorder?

If a family member or loved one is experiencing an eating disorder, you may feel unsure how to best support them in their recovery journey. The good news is that many eating disorder treatment centers offer support groups specifically for friends and family of people with eating disorders. 

These support groups provide tips on how to cheer on your loved one and how to have difficult conversations. They also offer a sense of community and help you feel less alone.

What does orthorexia do?

Orthorexia is a type of disordered eating involving a preoccupation with healthy or “clean” eating. While it’s not considered an eating disorder in itself, orthorexia can be a warning sign of an eating disorder, like anorexia nervosa. If not addressed, orthorexia may lead to insufficient nutrient intake and impact the individual’s relationships and quality of life.

Why do I emotionally binge eat?

While many people use the terms “emotional eating” and “binge eating” interchangeably, they are not the same. 

Binge eating occurs when a person eats a larger-than-normal amount of food while feeling a lack of control or difficulty stopping. When binge eating happens regularly, a person can be diagnosed with binge eating disorder (BED), which requires treatment.

Emotional eating involves eating in response to negative emotions. It could be a sign of disordered eating or an eating disorder when it happens all the time.

References

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