An eating disorder (ED) is wide term for several types of disorders related to a person’s eating habits and behaviors. EDs include eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder, explained in this article, but may also encompass other conditions that do not fit neatly into these specific categories.

EDs are characterized by a dysfunctional relationship with food and may involve obsessive concerns about body weight, body image, and eating. These disorders can affect both a person’s physical health and mental health and often require professional intervention and treatment.

Some additional examples of eating disorders that may fall into the category of EDs include:

  • Orthorexia: An obsessive focus on food choices considered healthy, with extreme restrictions and anxiety around "unhealthy" foods.
  • Vigorexia: Also known as muscle dysmorphia, this is an obsessive preoccupation with being muscular and strong, which can lead to excessive exercise and supplement consumption.
  • Nocturnal eating disorder: People with this disorder have episodes of excessive food intake during the night.
  • Pica: A behavior of eating things that are not food, such as dirt, chalk or hair.
  • Rumination: The involuntary repetition of regurgitating food, which may then be rechewed, re-swallowed or spit out.

It is important to note that TCAs can be dangerous and have serious health consequences if not properly treated. It is essential to see a doctor for an initial assessment of the situation, as well as a nutritionist who can help us to cope with and overcome our eating problem.

¿Cómo se aborda un TCA desde el punto de vista nutricional? 2

How is a consultation with a nutritionist like to overcome an ED?

A nutritionist plays a key role in the treatment of eating disorders as part of an interdisciplinary health care team. Their goal is to help individuals establish a healthy relationship with food, improve their nutritional intake and address the physical aspects of recovery. Here are some of the main actions a nutritionist performs in the treatment of an eating disorder:

  • Nutritional assessment: The nutritionist begins by performing a detailed assessment of the patient's medical history, eating habits, exercise patterns and body composition. This assessment helps to understand the severity of the eating disorder and to determine the specific nutritional problems.
  • Meal planning and dietary guidelines: The nutritionist works with the patient to develop a balanced and personalized meal plan. This involves setting caloric intake goals, macronutrient distribution (protein, carbohydrates, fats) and healthy food choices.
  • Nutrition education: Provides education about nutrition and the importance of a balanced diet. Helps the patient understand how food affects their physical and emotional health.
  • Monitoring and support: The nutritionist works closely with the patient to regularly monitor progress and adjust the meal plan as needed. He or she also offers emotional support and reinforces the importance of maintaining healthy eating habits.
  • Gradual introduction of foods: In some cases, especially in eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, the nutritionist helps the patient gradually reintroduce foods they have avoided or restricted for a long time, making sure they do so safely.
  • Managing food anxiety: Helps the patient develop strategies to manage anxiety and fears related to food, which may include gradual exposure techniques.
  • Teamwork: Work closely with other health care professionals, such as therapists, psychologists and physicians, to ensure a comprehensive approach to treating the eating disorder.
  • Self-care education: The professional Teaches patients self-care skills related to eating and maintaining a positive relationship with food over the long term.
  • Relapse prevention: Once stabilization and initial recovery have been achieved, the nutritionist works with the patient to prevent relapse and maintain long-term healthy eating habits.

It is important to emphasize that the treatment of eating disorders is a multidisciplinary process, and that nutritional therapy is only one part of comprehensive care. Medical and psychological care are also essential to address the physical and psychological aspects of eating disorders.

¿Cómo se aborda un TCA desde el punto de vista nutricional? 3

Is it important then to work with a nutritionist and a psychologist at the same time to address an ED?

The relationship between nutrition and psychology is very close and complex. The way we eat, and our diet can have a significant impact on our mental and emotional health, and in turn, our emotional and psychological states can influence our eating habits and dietary choices. This is why the joint work of a nutritionist, and a psychologist is essential in the treatment of eating disorders and other food-related problems. Both professionals bring their knowledge and skills to address both the nutritional and psychological aspects of these disorders.

After an initial evaluation, where both professionals analyse the situation, they contact each other to coordinate the treatment. The nutritionist and psychologist work together to develop a comprehensive and coordinated treatment plan. This involves setting nutritional and emotional goals, as well as a joint approach to addressing the patient’s needs. It is important that there is regular communication to share relevant information about the patient. This allows them to adjust treatment as needed and ensure consistent care.

Emotional support from the psychologist is critical to help identify and manage feelings and emotions related to eating and the eating disorder. On the other hand, the nutritionist will educate the patient on the importance of balanced nutrition and the relationship between physical and mental health with tools provided by the psychologist.

¿Cómo se aborda un TCA desde el punto de vista nutricional? 4

To sum up, detecting an eating disorder can be challenging, but it is essential to pay attention to signs and symptoms that may indicate the presence of a problem. Early detection and intervention are crucial to recovery.

It is important to remember that recovery from an ED is a gradual process and that each person is unique. Recovery may take time and effort, but it is possible. It is crucial to seek help as early as possible and to maintain an ongoing commitment to treatment and support along the road to recovery. Full recovery is an attainable goal, and many people have been successful in overcoming EDD with the right support.

In these types of cases, the relationship between nutrition and psychology takes on significant importance. Eating habits and mental health are closely interconnected, and the two can influence each other in a variety of ways. It is critical to understand how psychological factors can affect our eating patterns and how our dietary choices can impact our mental and emotional health.

About the author

Adriana Martín is a clinical nutritionist at Sinews. She treats adults, adolescents and children seeking to improve their health through nutrition. She specializes in public health and also treats TCA, SIBO, chronic diseases and other pathologies, as well as muscle mass gain or weight loss. Her approach does not consist in providing closed menus, but in making people understand the importance of nutrition at every stage of life through different tools.

Adriana Martín Peral
División of Nutrition
Adriana Martín Peral
Children, adolescents and adults
Languages: English and Spanish
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