An eating disorder dietitian is a registered dietitian that specializes in eating disorders. Not all registered dietitians have regular contact with clients suffering from the likes of bulimia, binge eating disorder, or anorexia, but those who do understand the number of challenges these patients can present. Eating disorder treatment consists of levels of care ranging from inpatient or residential to partial-hospitalization to intensive outpatient.
An eating disorder dietitian works closely with a team of medical professionals. This team is typically made up of primary therapists, family therapists, psychologists, medical doctors, nurses, and case managers. An eating disorder dietitian’s role involves monitoring the weight and the vital signs of the patient and adjusting the patient’s meal plan to promote weight restoration, weight maintenance or weight loss.
So, let’s take a closer look at the role of an eating disorder dietitian and the types of problems they treat.
Bulimia is described as an emotional disorder involving distortion of body image and an obsessive desire to lose weight. Bouts of extreme overeating are followed by depression and self-induced vomiting, purging or fasting.
Binge Eating Disorder is the most common eating disorder in the United States. It’s characterized by recurrent episodes of eating large quantities of food (often very quickly and to the point of discomfort), but binge eaters don’t turn to unhealthy compensatory measures (e.g., purging) to counter binge eating. The health risks of binge eating are most commonly those associated with clinical obesity, weight stigma and yo-yo dieting.
Anorexia nervosa is characterized by a distorted body image, with an unwarranted fear of being overweight. Symptoms include trying to maintain a below-normal weight through starvation or too much exercise.
Your eating disorders dietitian is trained to develop meal plans that are tailored to take into account your specific eating disorder history and what behaviors their patients engage in, such as restriction, purging or laxative abuse.
It takes the average person suffering from an eating disorder 149 weeks before they look for help. That’s almost three years, but this doesn’t have to be you.
A great place to start your search for an eating disorder dietitian is by talking to your doctor. Your doctor will not only be able to provide some nutrition counseling, but they may have some experience in the treatment of eating disorders. If not, they will be able to line you up with a treatment center that specializes in disordered eating behaviors.
Your treatment team will help you to rebuild a healthy relationship between food and weight. They’ll provide food and nutrition tips, teach you healthy eating patterns and support your mental health.
Unfortunately, there is a high risk of relapse with eating disorders. Treatment can be the difference between life and death, and the work of eating disorder dietitians is an essential part of treatment that can impact someone’s life and help them regain their life and happiness once again.
National Eating Disorders Awareness Week provides another great opportunity to get the information you need to find help for eating disorders. The events provide you the opportunity to join the conversation about food, body image and exercise issues on a multitude of platforms. By taking part, you can help bust myths, reflect on your personal journeys, and point people to support and resources.
There is also a series of blogs available that provide information on a wide range of topics. It’s also important to remember that there are more factors than what you put into your body that contribute to your weight. Your environment, genetics, metabolism, family history, and habits and behaviors all can contribute to your weight.
Our guide “Know Your Numbers: Body Weight” provides a detailed explanation of those factors and additional ways you can get started down the road to maintaining a healthy body weight.