Healthy Eating for Anorexia Nervosa

I’ve worked in the field of eating disorders for about 10 years. It’s an area that both frustrates me and brings me to life. I find it challenging work, emotional at times and I have to constantly remember to celebrate every small thing. Yet I absolutely LOVE this work.

In a world where obesity is on the increase, healthy eating and low fat eating predominates. The Eat Well plate has been developed as a way to demonstrate healthy balanced eating. I use this visual guide as a talking point but with the emphasis that this is aimed at a healthy population trying to maintain weight or at overweight people trying to lose a little weight. Therefore the proportions may not be correct if you are trying to gain weight.

 

Here is my walk through the Eat Well Plate for Anorexia Nervosa:

 Fruit and Vegetables:

Most people with anorexia nervosa I come across have no problems in meeting the 5 a day target, in fact they can have the reverse issue and be eating too many portions!

  • These foods should make up about 1/3 of your plate at each meal and no more.
  • It’s important to eat a range of colours and types so you get the full range of nutrients.

Dietitian UK: Healthy Eating in Anorexia Nervosa, Fruit and Veg

 

Starchy Foods/Carbohydrates:

These foods are often thought to be the villains. Yes over-eating these will lead to weight gain, but not eating them will mean your body does not have enough energy. Carbohydrate foods (bread, rice, pasta, cereals, potatoes etc..) are the bodies preferred energy source so that means it will choose to burn them off as fuel over anything else.

  • Include them at every meal.
  • Go for wholemeal, whole grain versions where possible.
  • The more active you are the more you will need.

 

Dietitian UK: Healthy Eating for Anorexia Nervosa

Dairy Products:

Dairy foods are important as they provide the body with calcium, protein and in some cases Vitamin D. Super important for your bones. When you are a low weight and not eating enough the kidneys remove calcium from your bones to supply the body with needed calcium, leaving your bones weakened. This needs replacing!

 

  • Eat 3-4 portions per day (e.g. 1 glass milk, 1 small yoghurt, 30g cheese).
  • If you are weight gaining steer away from the low fat options, often these just have more sugar and additives in them anyway.
  • Think about the long term impact of having weak bones, it’s a great motivator.

 

Dietitian UK: Healthy Eating for Anorexia Nervosa

Meat, Fish and Other Proteins:

This includes eggs, tofu, soya, beans, pulses, lentils, nuts and seeds. Include these foods twice a day in your meal plan either as a main meal or a snack.

Dietitian UK: Healthy Eating for Anorexia Nervosa

 

Fats and Sugars:

These are included as part of healthy eating. Your body needs fat and sugar in order to function. There is a layer of fat around your internal organs acting as insulation and protection, there are essential fatty acids that your brain needs to function well and monounsaturated fats are good for your heart – so fat is not all bad.

 

  • Work up to including healthy fats in your diet – avocado, olives, oily fish, rapeseed oil, nuts and seeds.
  • Build in a challenge each week to eat a “scary” food.

Dietitian UK: Healthy Fats

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4 Responses to “Healthy Eating for Anorexia Nervosa”

  1. Katherine
    25 June, 2013 at 20:04 #

    I found this very helpful, I’m currently “in recovery” from anorexia however I’m also gluten intolerant and am finding it very hard to find foods which are neither scary nor gluten-containing. I have four weeks to put on or at least stabilise my weight at home before I have to go to a specialist clinic, but I’m struggling a lot. I’ll try and follow your advice. Thankyou.

    • 25 June, 2013 at 20:41 #

      Hi Katherine, thanks for your honesty and your comment. I know how hard recovery is from working with so many others in your situation. Keep going as it will be so worth it in the long term and you really can beat this! If you need any extra help I offer Skype and phone consultations. Wishing you all the best with recovery. Let me know how you get on.

  2. Liam
    21 November, 2013 at 19:57 #

    Hi, I’m currently going through a recovery stage also.

    I didn’t eat well for the first 9 months of this year and i became weak, fragile and gaunt. It was only until August when i finally went to the doctors but i’m still waiting for a referral to a nutritionist.

    I’ve recently started to cook my own food with quorn and other healthier options, as well as eating healthier choices. But my family, such as my Nan and granddad, are critical of this and always question my eating habits and why i look so thin and how much i weigh, which always goes back to my parents who question me.

    I’ve recently found this site useful as i take some of your ideas for foods and make my own version of it.

    I would really like some more help on overcoming this disorder as i feel ive gained too much weight and i’m scared to even touch fried or fatty foods. I want to go back to how i was, but without the weight gain and constant worrying about how i look.

    Thanks

    • 21 November, 2013 at 20:36 #

      Hi there, thankyou for your comment. Recovery is so hard but so worth it in the end, so well done on working through it. I’m so pleased my recipes have been helping you. Thankyou for telling me.

      It’s all about slowly building those scary foods back in, pushing past the anxiety and gradually you will find the weight gain is bearable and you can enjoy food. Eating healthily is absolutely fine, but that does include eating treat foods too. I’d suggest you write a list of the foods you are anxious about and list them in from scariest to least scary. Then pick a couple to work on adding in and plan in how you can try small amounts of them.

      I work with people via Skype/email/phone so if you want some extra advice please email me and I can let you know my charges, it’s priya@dietitianuk.co.uk

      Good luck, keep going 🙂

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