Eating disorder recovery requires an approach that addresses emotional, medical, and nutritional needs. A vital part of one’s treatment team includes a Registered Dietitian.
Midwest’s Hannah Gruenewald sheds some light on one issue that shows up constantly in our work with clients: difficulties with digestion.
Author: Hannah Gruenwald, MS, RD, LD
Disordered or chaotic eating can disrupt our digestion in many ways. Sometimes it can be hard to tell which came first: difficulty with digestion or changes to our food and intake. When digestion is disrupted, it can make eating and following a meal plan feel impossible. After all, no one wants to be in pain or rushing to the bathroom! You might think at first “I should avoid foods that lead to tummy pain, or only eat the foods that I know are ‘safe’.” The reality is, gut health thrives on abundance, regular eating, and a peaceful relationship with food.
Whichever came first, the gut discomfort or the disordered eating, they both have to heal together. So, how do we get there?
Abundance: This starts with a meal plan and gradual incorporation of a variety of foods.
Regular eating: You might eat based on the time of day, rather than relying on appetite cues that might not be consistent or reliable right now. This is often a gradual and individualized process, so it can be helpful to work closely with a Registered Dietitian for support on how to implement variety and regularity in your diet.
Peace with food: During recovery, we can often get stuck in “fight or flight” – reacting, surviving, overly monitoring. This is our stress response. Alternately, when we can tap into our calm response, or “rest and digest,” we reroute resources to our gut to support easier digestion, increased blood flow, and improved gut mobility.
There are some skills that can help access a more calming response. Try this: the next time you sit to eat, take a moment to pause. Place your feet flat on the floor. Breathe deeply through your nose (count 4-3-2-1), hold your breath (count 4-3-2-1), and exhale slowly through your mouth (4-3-2-1). Picture something soothing. Talk about this experience with your dietitian and/or therapist.
Interested in more information? Our extensively trained, highly skilled dietitians are down-to-earth, non-judgmental, and committed to helping you find the path forward on your journey. Hannah offers one-on-one nutritional counseling for adolescents and adults. To learn more or set up an appointment, contact Hannah at HannahG@midwestcounseling.com