The role of a dietician in managing eating disorders.

Psychologists play an integral role in the path to recovery for those people with eating disorders, or disordered eating. A psychologist’s role typically involves developing a collaborative understanding of the function of an individual’s eating disorder and supporting the development of alternative coping methods.  What has been commonplace in more recent times is the increasing importance and role of a dietitian. This allows for the management of a person’s eating disorder to be more integrated with psychologists, medical professionals and the dietian all working in an integrated fashion to work towards the common goal of remission of the disease.

What is the role of the dietitian in eating disorders?

  1. Challenging diet culture – Fad diets and restrictive eating is something that is normalised in today’s society. It is constantly brought up in the media as well as in day to day conversations with friends and family, making it very hard to escape. A dietitian can aid in helping identify between behaviours that are actually benefiting your mental and physical health and those that are doing more harm than good.
  1. Understanding weight and its complexities – Weight has been portrayed as something that can be modified with exercise and diet, when in reality, there are myriad factors that contribute to your body size. A dietitian can fully explain these factors but, also allow their clients to observe this for themselves, if they choose, with weight monitoring. A dietitian can also shift the idea of healthy solely being measured by weight. There are many other measures such as nutrient levels, blood pressure, blood glucose levels, mental health, plus many others, that form the picture of health.
  1. Supporting flexible eating – Dietitians attend tertiary level study for 4 or 5 years and in that time gain an extensive knowledge in food and nutrition. This makes them experts in explaining the “big picture” on how we use nutrients in the body rather than just the kilojoules and energy they provide. Being able to eat spontaneously is a crucial part of remission of an eating disorder, and therefore the concept that food is neither good nor bad, is an important distinction for people to understand and therefore give themselves permission to eat.
  1. Listening to what our bodies want – Dietitians teach their clients to tune into their physiological cues of satiety (feeling full) and hunger, and eat to intuitively. Through doing this, those who experience disordered eating can fully understand why food restriction is unnecessary.  They can identify when their bodies are demanding food and, most of the time, what type of food. These cues are autonomous and listening to them reduces the amount of thought we place on our food choices. What was previously a burden can become a simple decision.

A dietitian complements the psychological therapy that is taking place by providing expert nutrition education while targeting the physiological side of malnutrition and starvation that is occurring. We mustn’t forget that people need food and energy to be able to focus and participate in psychological therapy, just like physiotherapy! If you have concerns over yourself, or a friend or relative, speak to a dietitian in Camberwell at Instinct Health, GP or psychologist to establish the safest and best way to help.

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The role of a dietician in managing eating disorders.