- Best overall: Recovery Record: Eating Disorder Management
- Best interactive app: Rise Up + Recover: An Eating Disorder Monitoring and Management Tool for Anorexia, Bulimia, Binge Eating, and EDNOS
- Best app with CBT: MindShift CBT
- Most comprehensive: What’s Up? – A Mental Health App
- Best for self-improvement: Cognitive Diary CBT Self-Help
Developing a positive relationship with food can be a complex process, especially for those living with or recovering from disordered eating. It’s not something that can be fixed by comparing notes with friends or reading information from the internet.
However, if properly vetted and used as a supplement to appropriate medical care, technology can be helpful in eating disorder recovery. There are apps that can help you understand how to monitor your habits, improve your mental health, and take positive steps toward a stronger mind and body.
It’s key to differentiate between eating disorders and disordered eating. Disordered eating might not involve a diagnosable eating disorder, like anorexia or bulimia, but it does involve dangerous abnormal eating behaviors that can potentially lead to these conditions.
Disordered eating may involve:
- eating for other reasons besides hunger and nourishment, such as stress, boredom, or to mask emotions
- eating the same thing every day
- completely eliminating certain food groups
- occasionally or regularly engaging in destructive behaviors, like binge eating, purging, or abusing laxatives
Eating disorders may entail different types of behavior depending on the type:
- Anorexia nervosa. People may not eat enough and could appear very thin.
- Bulimia nervosa. People may overeat and then purge to avoid gaining weight. They may also abuse laxatives and diet pills.
- Binge eating. People may eat uncontrollably but not purge.
If you’re experiencing disordered eating, you can contact the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) helpline for support, resources, and treatment. You can call or text NEDA at 800-931-2237.
If it’s an emergency situation, you should call 911. The NEDA crisis text line is also available by texting.
It’s important to seek out appropriate medical care from trained professionals when it comes to treating mental health conditions, like eating disorders and disordered eating.
However, properly vetted programs and apps can be useful in eating disorder recovery when used as a supplement to professional help and group therapy.
In fact, a
With so many smartphone apps on the market, it can feel overwhelming to wade through them all. Figuring out which ones offer quality services and reputable information is a task in it itself.
We made our selections for the best eating disorder apps based on:
- customer ratings and reviews
This app is designed to be a smart companion for managing your recovery from a variety of eating disorders. You can keep a record of your meals, thoughts, and feelings. You can also customize meal plans, find and learn coping tactics, and log recovery goals.
The app even gives you the ability to communicate with your medical treatment team when you need in-the-moment feedback and support.
Best interactive app
Rise Up + Recover: An Eating Disorder Monitoring and Management Tool for Anorexia, Bulimia, Binge Eating, and EDNOS
If you experience issues with food, dieting, exercise, and body image, Rise Up + Recover offers an empowering range of tools to help you find success.
The app is based on self-monitoring homework, a key aspect of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). You can log your meals, emotions, and behaviors, set custom reminders to keep you inspired and moving forward, and export PDF summaries of your meal log and check-ins to share with your treatment team.
Best app with CBT
MindShift is a scientifically based anxiety tool that teaches you how to be mindful, develop more effective ways of thinking, and proactively take charge of your anxiety.
CBT can help with disordered eating through self-monitoring, helping you understand the interactions between your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. It can also help you develop strategies to combat negative behaviors.
This app shows you how to address and manage social anxiety and perfectionism with CBT-based tools for lasting positive change.
Most comprehensive app
What’s Up? is a useful app that offers different therapy methods to help you manage stress, anxiety, depression, and other conditions.
Using this app, you can learn simple methods for overcoming negative thinking patterns, use the diary to track your thoughts, feelings, and habits, and try the app’s breathing exercises for staying calm and relaxed. All of these CBT-based techniques may be useful in supplementing eating disorder recovery treatments.
Best for self-improvement
- Android rating: 4.3 stars
- Price: free with in-app purchases
Cognitive Diary teaches you how to recognize the kind of thinking that interferes with achieving goals in your life, and what you can do to change those negative thoughts.
Negative thoughts and habits are often core aspects of eating disorders and disordered eating behaviors, which is why identifying and combating them can be an effective part of treatment.
Designed for self-help and self-improvement, the Cognitive Diary app was developed by a licensed clinical psychologist with more than 20 years as a practicing psychotherapist.
Can an eating disorder app replace traditional treatment?
No. An eating disorder app should never replace comprehensive care from a licensed professional treatment team.
It can, however, be a supplemental tool to help you work through negative thoughts and behaviors as part of your treatment plan.
What should I look for in an eating disorder app?
Make sure an app has been developed by licensed medical professionals before using it. Additionally, read through reviews to get a feel for others’ experiences with it and to determine if its offerings might be useful for you.
You should mention your use of the app to your treatment team, since many apps include a clinician portal. It’s important to share your data and progress with your treatment team.
What if an app’s exercises aren’t working for me, or they’re making my experience more difficult?
Always defer to your treatment team. Tell them how you’re feeling, and they can help you determine if there are better options available for you.
When used consistently, eating disorder apps can be a great way to supplement regular therapy or support groups. They can be used as a tool to track habits, moods, and feelings, connect you to your support team, and help you take positive steps toward recovery.
However, eating disorder apps shouldn’t be used as a replacement for treatment and should be used under the guidance of a mental health professional.
Jessica Timmons has been a freelance writer since 2007. She writes, edits, and consults for a great group of steady accounts and the occasional one-off project, all while juggling the busy lives of her four kids with her ever-accommodating husband. She loves weightlifting, really great lattes, and family time.