February 26th-March 3rd is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. At least 13.5 million Americans meet criteria for anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating disorder. When polled, 4 out of 10 Americans state that they either currently have or know someone who has an eating disorder. As I mentioned in my blog a few weeks ago, eating disorders are particularly prominent within the world of sports - especially in those sports which place an emphasis on appearance and weight, such as gymnastics, wrestling, figure skating, dancing and diving.
The Registered Dietitian (RD) is often part of a multidisciplinary eating disorder treatment team, including doctors, psychiatrists, and therapists. Clients sometimes have the misconception that the only thing an RD will provide during treatment is a meal plan. However, the role of an RD in the treatment of eating disorders involves addressing much more. This role also includes discussing eating behaviors and beliefs in the context of the eating disorder. This is why working with an RD in addition to a therapist or doctor is so important.
Are you thinking about seeing an RD for disordered eating or eating disorder behavior? Here are a few topics you can expect an RD to address throughout the counseling process:
1. Adequacy: Is the amount of energy taken in during the day adequate to support daily activities - from taking a shower to visiting the gym?
2. Balance: Does intake include every food group in a sufficient amount?
3. Variety: Does intake cover every food in way that vitamin and mineral needs are being met?
4. Autonomy: Is intake based on personal preferences or the expectations of others?
5. Confidence: Is intake based on internal cues or a fixed schedule? Is there ever regret surrounding food choices made? Are daily activities chosen based on what type of food will be available?
6. Legalization: Are there foods that are believed to be "bad" or "good"? What would it take to decriminalize foods so they are no longer in these categories, but instead seen as "supportive to my recovery" or "fueling/energizing for my body"?
7. Affect: Are beliefs about food and nutrition affecting physical and mental health or medication needs?
8. Rules: What misconceptions, harmful rules, or harmful beliefs exist about food and eating?
9. Sensory: How well does the client experience the sensory side of eating - the tastes, smells, and sounds?
10. Support: What activities can be provided to assist with the recovery process, such as cooking classes, therapeutic meal classes, or grocery shopping trips?
As you can see, the RD does much more than serve as the "food police". The RD's role in treating eating disorders and disordered eating cannot by filled by any other discipline, as the RD is truly the expert. If you or someone you know is struggling, encourage them to have the courage to find help. Visit the National Eating Disorders Association's website for more information and resources.
Source: Setnick, J.ADA Pocket Guide to Eating Disorders.2011: p12,149-151.