Posts Tagged ‘Nutrition’

Making Sure that “All Foods Fit” Includes all Foods

Plates of various foods

One common symptom of an eating disorder is the perceived need to eliminate or restrict certain foods. Extreme restriction of certain foods may indicate the presence of a disorder such as Anorexia Nervosa or Orthorexia. Restricted food groups often include processed foods, fast foods, or foods that are higher in sugar and fats (snack items, sweets, and desserts).

Alternatively, someone struggling with Compulsive Overeating or Binge Eating Disorder might alternate between periods of severe overconsumption and total restriction. It is important that intensive work is done in treatment to normalize both one’s attitudes toward and intake of such foods when working to reintroduce that person to the variety, novelty, and pleasure of eating.

The term “all foods fit” is often used to emphasize that there are no “good” foods or “bad” foods. The idea that no food has a moral value is an important concept in removing judgments and distortions that often form in disordered eating beliefs and practices. 

Unfortunately, it is also common for foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to become associated with eating disorder patterns. For example, a client once said “Focusing on eating vegetables was something I did when I was restricting or I started focusing on clean eating. If I was having salads, it meant I was dieting, denying, or punishing myself.”  In a situation where food is restricted, working on accepting and practicing the idea that all food has a place in a healthy diet is essential. By re-incorporating all of the vital components of a balanced diet, individuals can develop an eating pattern free of eating disorder behaviors.

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Five Ways to Identify Problematic Restrictive Eating

Cutting crackers with knife

With the prevalence of diet culture and restriction-based diets like paleo, keto, and whole 30, it can be challenging to identify when restrictive eating becomes disordered. While certain restrictive diets can be healthy and not imply further eating disorder concerns, other restrictive eating patterns can be a warning sign of an eating disorder. To understand when eating becomes disordered, it’s important to be aware of the five ways to identify problematic restrictive eating.

1. Refusing to eat certain foods

An obvious way to identify restrictive eating is if an individual is refusing to eat certain foods. While not eating certain foods is restrictive, it is not always a red flag, which is why it is important to understand why the food is being restricted. For example, if a person abides by a vegan diet and refuses to eat meat or dairy, that could be healthy for them or it could be a sign of disordered eating. To understand which it is, it is important to ask why an individual is eliminating certain foods. For example, if someone refuses to eat dairy because they are lactose intolerant, that is restrictive and it is a healthy choice for them because if they ate dairy, they would feel ill. If someone avoids dairy, but when asked why responds by saying that it has too many calories or causes fat, that may be a sign of disordered eating.

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Eating Disorders: The Brain-Gut Connection

Tea leaves in tea cup

Eating disorders are biologically-based brain illnesses that are noted by changes in food behaviors, eating, and self-perception. Eating disorders are complex illnesses that often become increasingly severe.

Over the last decade, we have seen a new area of research take shape as investigators have studied the brain, personality traits that are mediated by how the brain is wired, and how the brain processes reward. Recently, fMRI studies have demonstrated differences in the experiences of reward in individuals with eating disorders compared to controls who have never had eating disorders as well as people who had an eating disorder but are now recovered.

These studies found that people with Anorexia Nervosa experience less stimulation of the reward pathways of the brain, while people with bulimia seem to experience more active reward pathways. Early research examining reward processing in individuals with binge eating disorders shows data similar to those with bulimia. Additionally, there is emerging research on the gut’s connection to mood and brain function that may illuminate our understanding of eating disorders.

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Understanding Weight Gain in Recovery

Two blue jeans on hangers

For many individuals with a restrictive eating disorder, weight gain is an essential part of recovery. Gaining weight after intentionally restricting food intake and increasing exercise can be scary and challenging—and it also requires a thought pattern change. Individuals can no longer think of weight loss as the goal, they have to start thinking about weight stabilization as the goal.

Understanding restrictive eating disorders

There are five types of eating disorders: anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, other specified feeding and eating disorder (OSFED), and avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID). However, out of these five categories, providers typically see that anorexia, bulimia, and ARFID involve both restrictive eating and notable weight loss.

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