What is an eating disorder dietitian?

You might be wondering, what does a dietitian even do and what does an eating disorder dietitian do? First of all, if there’s been some anxiety and fear about seeing an eating disorder dietitian, I don’t blame you because of course, the word dietitian has the word “diet” in it. It also has the word “die”. So, it probably feels like a really scary experience coming to see us.  

I want to give you an understanding though, that an eating disorder dietitian really has no interest in trying to change your food or make drastic changes that you feel will be something that you just can’t do. Our goal is to really meet you where you’re at right now in whatever phase of recovery that might look like and work with you in what we consider a co-pilot relationship. You’re the pilot, we’re flying the plane together on your journey to recovery. We’re sitting next to you and we’re providing advice, guidance, science information, fact checking information along the way on how to navigate some of those tricky situations when it comes to eating.  

So again, eating disorder dietitians – we are an ally, a friend and a co-pilot to you. We’re really not after trying to control the situation, that is your job.  


What does a dietitian do for eating disorders?

Dietitians can really help with the different phases of eating disorder recovery. In the beginning when you might be struggling with under nourishment and not simply getting enough good nutrition, we’re going to work with you on what we call mechanical eating. Mechanical eating is really where we teach you to be able to trust us first before we can actually get you in a place where you can trust those hunger cues and your ability to make choices that are going to be conducive for your health. We work with your family, support person or maybe just one-to-one to really build that plan together and execute it on a structured schedule… but we don’t want you to live there for life. 

In time, what we’re going to find is that your ability to detect hunger and fullness cues and to be able to trust your healthy self versus some of those eating disorder thoughts that are obsessive and relentless when it comes to your eating choices. We’re going to move you more into what we call an intuitive eating approach to eating. That’s really where things are going to be a lot more flexible. They’ll still be a little bit of structure, but there’s going to be a lot more sort of gray in terms of what, when and how much you’re eating over time. 

At the end of the recovery phase, we really start to get you to be in the driver’s seat and we throw some challenges at you because we know you’re ready for it: different social situations, different food, fear challenges and these types of things. If that sounds overwhelming, don’t worry, you don’t have to get there overnight. This process is going to be slow and it’s going to be step-by-step at a time that you’re ready for it. 


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