Eating disorders: How a nutritionist can help
Nutrition is an important part of the eating disorder treatment and recovery process. The role of a nutritionist is to support patients in normalising their eating patterns and rebuild their relationship with food.
While the underlying emotions will remain at the core of the person’s illness and recovery, eating and nutrition are vital in promoting their recovery. Professionals will support and guide patients in meeting nutritional goals and listen to them without judgement. Sessions will be tailored to each person’s individual needs, offering opportunities to practice their new approach to food and eating.
While eating disorder symptoms and behaviours vary from each individual and differ between the eating disorder diagnoses, an unhealthy focus on eating and/or nutrition is commonly present.
Many people suffering an eating disorder will have a detailed knowledge about nutrition, but as a result of the illness, they may be applying it in ways that damage health, rather than promote it. Other sufferers may adhere to nutritional information that is misleading, inaccurate or dangerous.
Common behaviours and experiences related to an eating disorder may include:
- severe dieting
- eliminating specific foods
- elimination of entire food groups
- obsessive calorie counting
- checking nutrition labels
- labelling foods as good/bad or clean/dirty
- difficulty eating in social situations/at a restaurant.
The healing process
Many people who have suffered with an eating disorder lose touch with their body and its natural signals indicating hunger and fullness. Their metabolism may struggle and their body may lose its ability to process and regulate food. The individual’s enjoyment of food may also diminish.
As part of the recovery process, nutrition professionals specialising in eating disorders will create meal plans and schedules for the patient. They will use these tailored plans to provide support and structure to the individual’s life while they work to repair their relationship with food and their body.
Eating Disorder Awareness Week is run by Beat, the eating disorder charity, learn more about how to donate on their Support Us page.