Ways an RD (registered dietitian) plays an important role in the treatment of eating disorders:
Nutrition counseling provides a safe environment for the client to discuss food related thoughts & behaviors - opening visits with the therapist and doctor up to discuss the many non-food related parts of the disorder.
The dietitian may be the first provider to become aware of the eating disorder. It then becomes the important task of the RD to assess the level of care needed and assist the client in setting up a treatment team.
Nutrient deficiencies are common in those with eating disorders. An RD will help identify and work the individual on replenishing any nutrient deficiencies.
Electrolytes such as sodium, potassium and phosphorus are vital in keeping us alive. They play an important role in allowing the body to work and for the cells in our body to function. Electrolyte imbalances are frequent in those with eating disorders. The RD is trained to explore current nutrient intake, behaviors, weight & symptoms in order to identify a possible life-threatening electrolyte imbalance. The RD will collaborate with medical providers on ordering and obtaining lab values, weight issues, and medication as related to physical symptoms from ED (eating disorder) behaviors.
The dietitian may also collaborate with medical providers to establish an appropriate, healthy goal weight and exercise pattern.
RD’s will coach and support weight gain if needed in a secure setting. It can be extremely dangerous for someone with anorexia nervosa to gain weight on their own, without the aid of a medical doctor and experienced dietitian. Gradual, carefully planned weight restoration is needed in order to prevent refeeding syndrome (a potentially fatal shift in electrolytes that occurs with a rapid increase in energy intake after severe restriction). Additionally, a dietitian trained in the treatment of those with eating disorders will be sensitive to the emotional hardship of restoring weight.
Those who have an eating disorder know that recovering is not as simple as “just eat more” or “can’t you just stop eating as much or doing that?” The RD will calculate energy needs and prescribe meal plans as needed for both weight maintenance and restoration. Meal plans are used as a guide in order to attain a normalized eating pattern and an adequate, balanced and varied diet individual to each person’s goals.
Those who have been suffering from an eating disorder may react to establishing a normalized eating pattern an unexpected ways. The dietitian will assess & reassess what each individual needs throughout their journey in order to work towards a healthy weight and nutritional restoration.
Misguided beliefs about food & body weight are common amongst people with eating disorders. It is the role of the RD to challenge these myths, encourage variety of food choices – especially with feared foods, and help transform attitudes and judgements about food, eating, and its effect on the body. The RD will provide ongoing education on the role of nutrition in overall physical & mental health.
The dietitian will collaborate with the psychotherapist in monitoring food intake & behaviors in order to aid the individual in recognizing unhelpful patterns and triggers.
Eating disorders are challenging and confusing for both the individual suffering and those that surround them. Meal planning & ways to promote a supportive setting within the relationship dynamic may be discussed with family members, care givers, and loved ones by the RD.
Those who suffer from eating disorders have lost touch with their hunger & satiety cues. The dietitian will work with the client to help them to identify these signals.
Further into treatment, guidance from a meal plan to a more intuitive eating pattern will be encouraged. The RD will assess readiness and teach mindful eating practices when it is appropriate.
When looking for help with nutritional matters related to disordered eating, it is crucial to find a registered dietitian with experience and training in eating disorder treatment. While RD’s are qualified to treat a variety of nutrition related conditions & disorders, one RD may specialize in weight loss while another’s focus is on allergies & food sensitivities. Nutrition counseling may be detrimental for a client in recovery if the RD’s focus is not on eating disorders, as harmful behaviors and rules may inadvertently be further enforced.
Nutrition Counseling with Sheila:
Sheila is passionate about helping others achieve a healthy relationship with food & their bodies. If you would like to schedule an appointment with Sheila Bray, RD, send a private message or email on the Contact page.