I used to play volleyball in college. It was my first time leaving home and I didn’t know how to feed myself while I worked out and played volleyball like it was a full-time job. I relied on my teammates and the people around me to help me figure out what to eat and how to take care of myself and there was definitely a lot of trial and error. This is one of the reasons why eating and body image issues are important to me and why I value working on a team to help individuals who experience these concerns.
In collaboration with Gina Mateer, Registered Dietitian (RD), Licensed Dietitian (LD), Certified Eating Disorders Registered Dietitian (CEDRD), with Nom-Nomaste, we wanted to highlight some reasons to visit a dietitian when a person is concerned about their eating and body image issues.
What is disordered eating?
Disordered eating is when a person’s relationship about food, weight, and body size lead to a variety of behaviors that jeopardize one’s health, happiness, and safety. Treatment for eating issues consists of working with a multidisciplinary team that includes, but is not limited to, a licensed clinician, dietitian, physician, and psychiatrist. Eating issues can be multifaceted and pose serious health concerns to an individual over a lifetime, so keep in mind there are also different levels of treatment.
The National Eating Disorder Association summarizes the emphasis on mental health and nutrition by describing that treatment must address the eating disorder symptoms and medical consequences, as well as psychological, biological, interpersonal, and cultural forces that contribute to or maintain the eating disorder.
What happens in therapy?
When I ask people to describe their relationship with food, there’s a lot that comes up for the person. It’s usually not something that is talked about and there can be shame and vulnerability around eating habits and body size. Therapy can help the individual understand their eating habits, interrupt the cycle of disordered eating, introduce healthier coping strategies into their life, and nurture a body positive approach.
Why do I have to meet with a dietitian?
There are so many different reasons to seek services with a dietitian. Some include having an unhealthy relationship with food, medical concerns, anxiety/depression, substance abuse/use recovery, low energy/fatigue, and general wellness. Dietitians specialize in a variety of areas that include specific medical conditions, athletic performance, weight management, and mental health and eating disorders.
Does a dietitian have a magic wand?
Maybe…But just to clarify, dietitians are not the food police, they will not judge a person for their food intake and tell them exactly what to eat, it’s all about collaboration, support, and education. There is no quick fix or SUPERFOOD that will solve everything, healthy eating and a healthy relationship with food takes time and is about balance not perfection. Dietitians are REAL people who enjoy all types of foods and have a variety of body types; they even eat dessert!
Trust Your Team
Treatment needs vary depending on the individual. It’s important to connect with licensed providers that can be trusted to help coordinate and oversee care. Remember, eating issues can be complex, so we hope that we highlighted the importance of mental health and nutrition in eating and body image issues to get a better understanding of what happens when a person meets with a licensed clinician and a dietitian.
Keep a lookout for Mental Health + Nutrition: Part 2 coming out mid-October where we look at the medical and psychiatric aspects of care.