Nutrition counseling is an essential part of the eating disorder (ED) treatment and recovery process. The main goal of nutrition therapy is to aid patients in normalizing their eating patterns.
Normalized eating consists of:
● Eating adequately to meet individual nutritional needs
● Listening to and trusting your body’s internal cues to determine hunger and fullness
● A sustainable relationship with food from a balanced approach, free from negative or distorted thoughts about one’s self
Even though underlying thoughts and emotions remain at the core of a person’s illness and recovery, their relationship with food, nutrition, and eating can play a major role in inhibiting or promoting the recovery process. A Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) is a part of an interdisciplinary team of professionals, and will support and assist individuals in meeting nutritional goals and progressing towards recovery. The dietitian facilitates individual sessions tailored to each person’s unique struggle with food and eating as well as educational and supportive groups.
So why is nutrition counseling with a dietitian needed? The reason is that symptoms and behaviors can vary from person to person and between different eating disorder diagnoses, but the RDN works with their individual unhealthy focus on food and/or nutrition. For many with disordered eating or with a diagnosed eating disorder, they often have extensive and detailed knowledge about nutrition, but, as a result of the ED, may be applying it in ways that inhibit rather than promote their health. In other cases, individuals may be rigidly adhering to nutrition information that is inaccurate, misleading or dangerous.
Below is a list of behaviors and experiences commonly observed in individuals with eating disorders:
● Chronic/Severe dieting
● Eliminating specific food items
● Eliminating entire food groups or categories of foods
● Obsessive calorie counting, monitoring of nutrition labels or precise measuring of foods
● Labeling foods as good vs. bad, clean vs. dirty, or relying on safe foods vs. fear foods
● Difficulty eating around other people or in social situations
● Extreme difficulty making decisions about food, as when ordering off of a menu at a restaurant