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Helpful Advice - Managing an Eating Disorder

written by: micsan07 • edited by: Paul Arnold • updated: 8/30/2010

Eating disorder management is key to effectively treating an eating disorder. Without constant supervision and medical and emotional support systems in place, the patient won't get the treatment they need to get better.

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    Helpful Advice - Managing an Eating Disorder

    Eating disorder management is all about ensuring all support systems, medical supervision, and nutritional needs are being met.

    Different eating disorders may have different medical needs; however, all eating disorder sufferers require support systems and specific nutritional plans for optimal recovery. The management of all of those requirements may be done by a parent, spouse, friend, or medical personnel. Severity of the condition and individual circumstances will differ in each case and may dictate who will be overseeing the management of the treatment.

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    Nutritional Needs

    All eating disorder treatments, no matter which eating disorder it is, will require a nutritional plan for the patient to follow.

    One helpful tip that makes it easier to follow a strict nutritional plan is to have it on a spreadsheet; print it out, and have it easily accessible for the eating disorder sufferer and the person who is helping them manage their treatment. Checking off an item(s) that was/were eaten with a note as to the time this was accomplished will help both persons keep on track of food needs.

    For an anorexic, foods need to be checked off to ensure enough nutrition is ingested throughout the day to build up a starving body. Add supplements and protein drinks to the list to ensure that these are taken every day. This list needs to be looked at first thing in the morning. If not enough is eaten or drunk in the morning, some adjustments may need to be made in the afternoon or evening.

    For a bulimic, there should be a space on the spreadsheet to place the number of times they purge during a particular day. There is nothing like the feeling of pride at seeing either a very low number in that spot or even a zero for helping bulimics feel better about themselves and their treatment. Seeing it in black and white on paper gives the accomplishment a bigger punch, possibly because others can also see it. It's a very tangible way to see progress being made while being in treatment.

    For a binge eater, portion control is very important. Sharing mealtimes is a big help for a binge eater as they tend to eat less when others are nearby. It is also more enjoyable to share a meal than to eat alone and that helps the binge eater to start enjoying food again instead of feeling guilty because of eating. A moderate exercise plan or taking up a new hobby that encourages them to be active will also help them feel good about themselves.

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    Psychological Needs

    Each eating disorder has its own psychological needs, however, they are similar enough in that sufferers all need to discover their self worth and develop or build up self esteem.

    Getting rid of negative influences in the home is something that everyone in the family can help with. No more fat jokes or making snide remarks about bone bags in an environment that should be nurturing an individual, not tearing down confidence. Emphasis should not be on food itself, but on health, activities, and family sharing.

    The eating disorder sufferer should be left alone very little during treatment. Keeping busy is a good way to stay positive and energetic. Quiet time when no one is around makes it too easy to start thinking negative thoughts and this erodes whatever self confidence strides have been accomplished up to that point.

    Rewards are important, but they should never be food-based. Instead, activities such as going to a movie, getting together with friends, or shopping for new shoes are good ways of giving a pat on the back.

    Everyone involved needs to realize that not every day is going to be a good day. There will be days when the eating disorder sufferer seems to slide backward into bad behaviors. Don't make the person feel bad. Acknowledge that it wasn't a good day, that tomorrow is another day, and that tomorrow WILL be a better day. Help that person ensure the next day is a great day by keeping them very busy, especially right around meal times. Stay positive, supportive, and bolster them up. The very next day after a backwards day is a very shaky time for a person with an eating disorder. Putting them back on track with their treatment plan is crucial for their mental well being and the success of the treatment.

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    Social Needs

    People with eating disorders have a need to be accepted. Part of the eating disorder is that they feel that they don't fit a mould of acceptance and it starts a downward spiral.

    Eating disorder sufferers need to learn that social acceptance isn't all about a perfect body, but about being unique. They need to learn to find the few, and sometimes many good things about themselves and focus on those aspects. A great personality often makes a plain person look beautiful. A smile can make people look at you in a different way. Clothes make the body, not the body makes the clothes. Talents like singing, drawing, writing, or being able to swim fast attract others who start to see the person in a different way.

    Learning to attract others through personality or talents is a great way to build a busy social life. Being around people who accept who you are and what you are builds self confidence and self esteem faster than anything else. Smarts, personality, and talents don't depend upon a certain expected body image, but upon strengths that each person possesses. Learning to focus and depend on those differences, on those strengths, will go far in helping to build up self worth.

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    References

    National Institute for Clinical Excellence - Eating Disorders: http://www.nice.org.uk/nicemedia/live/10932/29220/29220.pdf

    Mayo Clinic - Eating Disorders: http://www.mayoclinic.org/eating-disorders/familytherapy.html