By: Sabrina Hardin
Accessing treatment is an obstacle to many people who suffer from eating disorders. Barriers to seeking help include stigma and shame, cost of treatment, lack of time, not knowing how to access help, distance from treatment centers, and lack of encouragement and support from others.1 Aiming to break down some of these barriers, a small team of psychologists, engineers and entrepreneurs in Palo Alto, California created Recovery Record, an eating disorder self-monitoring smartphone application that combines food and emotional tracking with evidence-based therapeutic strategies.2
The principles of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) lay the foundation for Recovery Record.2 CBT for eating disorders involves meal monitoring, which helps clinicians understand the feelings and behaviors maintaining an individual’s eating disorder.2 Recovery Record users are prompted to log meals and snacks throughout the day. When logging a meal, users are asked questions about what, where, and with whom they ate the meal, emotions during mealtime, and eating disorder urges they may be experiencing.2 Noticeably absent from meal logging is any mention of calories or nutrition information often found in other types of meal-logging applications. Users can also log any eating disorder behaviors or urges they may experience throughout the day.2
Recovery Record uses positive reinforcement strategies, such as affirmations and attractive graphics and gifs to promote positive emotions. Users can “pair-up” within the app and share digital gifts with other users, which helps build a sense of community and increases social support.2 A critical feature of Recovery Record is its inclusion of CBT-based coping skills. Users can access these skills at any time and are prompted to use a coping skill after logging an eating disorder behavior or urge. For example, a user who reports feeling the urge to restrict their food intake will be prompted with a relevant coping strategy, such as urge surfing, that they may find helpful.2 Jenna Tregarthen, one of the Founders of Recovery Record, explained, “we wanted to create a practical, evidence-based tool that anyone seeking to overcome an eating disorder could download for free and use in the day-to-day work of recovery.”
Both individuals with eating disorders and their clinicians communicate through Recovery Record. Patients can grant access to their clinicians who then can check on patients’ meal logs and eating disorder urges or behaviors.3 Linking accounts with a clinician is beneficial because patients can get feedback from their clinicians in real-time, helping them to stay motivated and accountable between in-person appointments.
Recovery Record is HIPAA compliant, which helps protect patient privacy. The app is also well-received by users. With over 2,200 ratings in the iTunes app store, Recovery Record boasts an average rating of 4.9/5 stars. The Recovery Record platform has also created opportunities to advance knowledge about eating disorders and their treatment through partnerships with leading research groups, such as the UNC Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders.
Although a mobile phone application is not intended to replace formal clinical care, Recovery Record has helped address some of the barriers to seeking treatment that many individuals with eating disorders face.
- Ali, K., Farrer, L., Fassnacht, D. B., Gulliver, A., Bauer, S. and Griffiths, K. M. (2017). Perceived barriers and facilitators towards help‐seeking for eating disorders: A systematic review. Int J Eat Disord 50: 9-21.
- Tregarthen, J. P., Lock, J. and Darcy, A. M. (2015). Development of a smartphone application for eating disorder self‐ Int J Eat Disord 48: 972-982.