5 Ways a Dietitian Can Help You Manage Your Child’s Eating Disorder

By July 26, 2019 July 30th, 2019 Brenna Denhardt, Nutrition Counseling

Does Your Child Suffer from an Eating Disorder? Here Are 5 Ways a Dietitian Can Help!

Hello! My name is Brenna and I am a registered dietitian at Integrated Care Clinic! I specialize in working with adolescents and teens with eating disorders. I have been working with this specific type of illness for about the past year and a half and have seen a variety of types of eating disorders, ranging from mild to severe. The initial diagnosis of an eating disorder can feel extremely overwhelming. As parents, you may feel lost after your child is diagnosed with an eating disorder. You may not know where to start, or what professionals your child will need to see. One beneficial person to have on your team is a registered dietitian. A dietitian is a nutrition expert who will help your child meet his/her nutrition goals. As a dietitian specializing in eating disorders, I understand the underlying issues that lead to disordered eating habits like restricting, binging, purging or other disordered behaviors. I have the tools, skills, experience and knowledge to help your child develop a more positive relationship with food. Here are some of the specific ways I can help your child on his/her path to recovery:

Mother and Daughter eating on kitchen counter

  1. Provide guidance on what to eat: The brain needs nutrition to function properly; if it does not have enough nutrients, this does not help your child think clearly and can make him/her less receptive to therapies. I am a food expert who can help you and your child plan meals and snacks that provide him/her with all the nutrients the body needs to facilitate proper cognition, growth, and development. Your child might be restricting intakes, overeating, or purging daily. As an eating disorder dietitian, I can help you determine the best eating schedule and foods to include in his/her diet to achieve balance. I can help you develop a plan to help eliminate restriction, binging and purging. Whether this involves a specific meal plan or support with intuitive eating, I will meet your child where he/she is and work together to ensure proper nutrition.  
  1. Identify and face fear foods: Your child might have certain foods that he/she cut out of his/her diet. This could be a variety of foods that are perceived as “unhealthy.” Examples of such foods could be carbohydrates, fats, sugary beverages, fast food, or foods with a certain number of calories. These foods likely will cause your child an increase in anxiety or stress when presented with the food. The truth is that all foods are just matter that provide energy; there is nothing inherently good or evil about food. All foods can fit into a balanced diet that supplies the body with everything it needs to function properly. As an eating disorder dietitian, I can help you and your child identify what foods cause these negative thoughts/emotions and why. I can help you to challenge your child to slowly integrate these foods back into his/her diet. Ultimately, we want all foods to be a part of your child’s diet again. 
  1. Identify and alleviate mealtime rituals: Some adolescents/teens with eating disorders have specific mealtime rituals such as cutting food into very small pieces, counting calories, hiding food, not letting food touch, meticulously measuring out portion sizes of food, spitting food out after eating, eating nonfood items, eating foods in a certain order, or purging after mealtimes. He or she might eat very quickly without control, or he/she could eat quite slow. Your child might even skip meals or snacks. These behaviors are not normal for healthy teens and can be a sign that your child is experiencing disordered eating thoughts. A child should be able to eat a variety of foods, not skip meals, eat when they are hungry and stop when they are full. I can help you and your child identify these behaviors and explore ways to develop healthier habits at mealtimes. These habits must be identified and changed in order to work towards a normalized relationship with food. 
  1. Provide nutrition education: As a dietitian, I am a qualified nutrition professional; in order to achieve this title, I was required to go through many years of training. I completed my undergraduate degree in food and nutrition at Purdue University, then completed a yearlong internship after graduation at Montana State. After this, I passed a comprehensive exam in order to be a registered dietitian. I then obtained licensure with the state of Florida. All this information is meant to reiterate that dietitians are highly trained nutrition professionals, so we have a wealth of knowledge when it comes to food and eating. We understand exactly how the body processes carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals. We know how hormones, stress, exercise, and restriction can affect the body. We understand what changes need to occur with nutrition in order to be in a healthy place, physically and mentally. As a dietitian, I can provide you with valuable education on why our bodies need a variety of nutrients in order to work properly. We can help identify and help dispel myths about food and fad diets that the media lies to us about on a daily basis. There is a lot of false information presented in our digital and physical world about food and nutrition. Big industries market food as “good” and “bad” in hopes that their product will make you feel or look a certain way, which often ends up giving us false hope. As a nutrition expert, I can help clarify these myths with science and help you and your child better understand nutrition.
  1. Help you develop a healthier relationship with food: Food plays a big role in our life. It can be the center stone for culture and tradition. It can bring families together, or inspire our creativity in the kitchen. It can nourish our bodies and minds, and provide the fuel we need to be successful in life. As an eating disorder dietitian, I want to help you and your teen restore his/her relationship with food. To make mealtimes enjoyable and a positive experience. Dietitians are vital in working towards the ultimate goal of recovery: having a healthy relationship with food. We are here to help your child view food in a different way. We seek to help your child identify and change negative thoughts and habits surrounding food, mealtimes, and body image. We don’t believe that any food in innately evil and all foods can fit into a balanced diet. We want to help you have a positive relationship with food and your body!

Dietitians are the food experts. We go through years of schooling and training to be qualified to help people change their eating habits and relationship with food. We are an integral part of your child’s treatment team to help him/her reach recovery. We can offer you and your child the tools, resources, support, and knowledge necessary on the path to recovery. We can help your child be at peace with food. Whether your child has just been diagnosed with an eating disorder, or is currently in recovery and seeking additional support with eating habits, I look forward to helping him/her achieve his/her nutrition goals!

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