Experiences of recovery in binge-eating disorder: a qualitative approach using online message boards

  • Vanessa M. Lord
  • Wendy Reiboldt
  • Dariella Gonitzke
  • Emily Parker
  • Caitlin PetersonEmail author
Original Article



In this study, qualitative methods were employed to analyze secondary data from the anonymous postings of a pro-recovery website in an effort to investigate the changes in thinking of binge-eating disorder (BED) sufferers who were able to recover from the disorder, understand more fully how guilt and self-blame affect recovery, and explore the perceived motivators and challenges to recovery.


681 messages from 65 participants pertaining to BED were analyzed from January 1, 2014–January 1, 2015 through thematic analysis. Coding strategies were employed to reveal patterns within the experiences of the participants.


The researchers identified three themes surrounding “changes in thinking” from analysis of the message board postings: admitting the disorder, recognizing unhealthy coping behaviors, and seeing recovery. Further analysis of postings suggested that guilt and self-blame hinder recovery by promoting a feedback cycle of binging, which leads to further guilt and self-blame. The data ultimately identified experiences that resulted in or hindered recovery. The experience of validation appeared to result in recovery; those who experienced validation were less inclined to engage in disordered eating behaviors. Conversely, weight loss or attempts at weight loss hindered recovery by ultimately promoting more disordered eating behaviors.


This qualitative analysis of message board postings offers authentic, credible data with a unique perspective. Practitioners working in the field of eating disorders such as registered dietitian nutritionists or therapists might use evidence from the data to guide their practice.


Binge-eating disorder Content analysis Self-blame Recovery Validation 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

On behalf of all the authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

The online discussion group from which the postings were retrieved is free and accessible to anyone. Additionally, no form of registration was required to view the messages. Due to the anonymous nature of the website, the subjects “about” whom the data was collected are not identifiable, even to the researcher.

Informed consent

Due to the public, open, and anonymous nature of the forum and messages, this type of study did not require informed consent.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Vanessa M. Lord
    • 1
  • Wendy Reiboldt
    • 1
  • Dariella Gonitzke
    • 1
  • Emily Parker
    • 1
  • Caitlin Peterson
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Family and Consumer SciencesCalifornia State University, Long BeachLong BeachUSA

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