Eating disorders are difficult to combat because they incorporate psychological and physical roots. However, they are treatable with the proper guidance and determination. If you suffer from one of the three common types of eating disorder—anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating—and have decided to seek help on your own or as a part of a support program, there are certain topics and questions you’ll want to ask. As well, you should be prepared to answer questions thoroughly and honestly.
It's a good idea to discuss your eating disorder with your primary care physician first so that he or she can help direct you to a qualified dietary specialist, whether it's a dietitian or nutritionist. Keep in mind that dietitians have obtained years of formal education to attain their titles, while nutritionists may not have undergone such rigorous training. Your doctor will be able to refer you to a health professional who is best equipped to help you overcome the nutritional obstacles of your eating disorder.
Nutritionists who assist clients with eating disorders aren’t your typical nutrition specialists. While practitioners in this field receive basic training in regard to eating disorders, those dedicated to helping treat them give special attention to behavioral therapies implemented in tandem with nutritional guidance. Beyond working with you to design a balanced diet that addresses your specific nutritional needs, they will help you to explore the symptoms and causes of your eating disorder. Then, they will design strategies to help you toward your goal of good health.
Questions and Topics
When you sit down with your nutritionist, there are several areas he or she will want to explore in order to obtain a clear understanding of your specific needs and challenges. He or she will likely want basic medical histories for both you and your family to pinpoint any specific needs that are not being addressed or areas that require special attention. As well, work with your doctor to provide a weight history. Your diet history—past regimens, allergies, and specific nutritional issues—will be accompanied by a basic review of the physical and psychological symptoms of your eating disorder.
Your nutritionist will design a meal plan with you. This is a tool that provides an outline for healthy eating patterns and requirements for you. With a meal plan, you’ll be given guidelines for a daily caloric intake, incorporating a balance of all the food groups specific for your needs. In many cases, you’ll also be introduced to the exchange system—trading foods for one another while still maintaining a healthy balance. For example, you might exchange complimentary proteins—rice, beans, squash—or eggs for a serving of meat.
In addition to working with you to develop a diet plan that works for you, your nutritionist will help you to stay motivated. He or she understands that seeking help for any disorder is a difficult decision that's frequently accompanied by uncertainty or fear of change. He or she will work with you to understand these fears and to help you stay in control of your destiny. These dietary specialists may work with other therapists on patients' teams, and they will also employ strategies, such as asking patients to keep a food journal to record what is eaten and how patients feel about their meals. Meditation, mindfulness exercises, and other psychological scaffolding tactics may be introduced to help you build your health of mind and body together.
Seeking help isn’t an easy choice. It’s a sign that you are stronger than your disorder and it doesn’t define you. Working with dietary specialists can be a helpful way to ensure your success, but of course, you must take time to determine which professional will be the best fit for you. Take time in the first interview to ask about their approaches, what tools and techniques they favor, and experience with treating eating disorders.