Eating disorders are severe medical disorders with high mortality rates. In fact, anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. People with eating disorders are at risk for serious health consequences such as heart, kidney and brain damage. Individuals with eating disorders, including anorexia, also see a high incidence of suicide. Finding the right eating disorders counseling and treatment is essential to prevent these serious health consequences. Eating treatment centers should always include nutritional counseling as a treatment component for eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa.
Eating disorders are complex diseases, and similar to other chronic illnesses, require a multi-faceted treatment approach. There may be a variety of professionals on the eating disorder recovery treatment team, including a psychotherapist, medical doctor, psychiatrist, and dietitian.
Nutritional Strategy and a Better Relationship with Food:
The role of nutritional therapy is important when it comes to eating disorder recovery. The dietitian works with the client to help them adopt a more flexible relationship with food and movement. Most clients with eating disorders have excellent nutritional knowledge. Many patients are more knowledgeable than the general public about how many grams of carbohydrates or calories a portion of food may have. They have the education needed to make good eating choices. However, a person who has an eating disorder generally has imposed strict and rigid guidelines on themselves about what they can or cannot eat. They learn to disregard their bodies’ internal hunger cues and avoid the feelings of hunger or satiety. Preoccupation with food stands in the way of mindful eating.
Nutritional therapy helps the person learn how to nourish their bodies, with a focus on increasing awareness of and responding to internal hunger cues using mindful eating practices. Nutritional therapy is about taking a flexible approach to food intake and developing a sustainable relationship with food.
Nutritional therapy can also help clients learn about various medical complications that may be associated with eating disorders, such as electrolyte imbalances. It can also help them recognize the symptoms of these serious health issues and gain greater awareness of how to get help for these issues.
Applying These Lessons in Real Life:
Many people with eating disorders find it overwhelming to eat in social situations. Eating disorder therapy helps clients address the social anxiety that may accompany eating disorders, by learning how to manage emotions in difficult or triggering situations. Nutritional therapy teaches clients to acknowledge the emotional aspects of eating while respecting their physical hunger cues. They learn to pay attention to what is happening at the moment without emotionally reacting to it.
When someone is in recovery from an eating disorder, developing mindful eating patterns takes time and practice. Eating disorder therapy uses individualized meal plans to help the person achieve the goals set by the client and his or her treatment team. Specialized treatment provides support to clients during mealtimes as they overcome personal challenges and work toward the goal of becoming fully recovered. Clients are gradually exposed to more challenging exposures as they progress through treatment.
With the help of eating disorder counseling and nutritional therapy, clients are taught the coping skills necessary to sustain their health by eating nourishing foods. They will learn to participate in social situations that involve food and overcome the anxiety and fear that can occur with mealtimes. Eating treatment centers help clients develop the skills needed to prepare simple balanced meals and mindfully respond to physical hunger cues.