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.
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.
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.
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.
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.