Looking for an outpatient registered dietitian (RD) can be difficult for any client with an eating disorder (ED). The search requires follow-through and commitment to recovery that may be difficult to tap into at times. Engaging the help of another treatment team member to find a suitable dietitian will make the task easier. The search can be complicated by two factors:
1) limited dietitian choices in the area in which you live and
2) financial resources that are available.
Many dietitians do not have the option of taking insurance due to limited availability to do so. Finding one that understands eating disorders adds another strenuous part of the endeavor. However, the importance of having a dietitian that understands eating disorders is vital to the recovery process.
When screening and discussing your goals with a potential dietitian, it is necessary to be honest about your struggles. It is also important to ask your prospective RD about her or his experience with eating disorders. Treating EDs requires extensive training and experience that not all dietitians have. It is absolutely appropriate to ensure that your provider can help you in the way that you need. Dietitians that are not familiar with EDs may view some of the thoughts or habits of the eating disorder as harmless or “healthy” for you. This can further perpetuate behaviors and reinforce beliefs. The RD may also not know what questions need to be asked to properly address the struggles you may be experiencing. The requirements of a nutrition session for an ED are different than what is needed in a session for another nutrition-related topic. It requires the ability to tie behaviors to triggers, understand coping skills, experience with working through negative body image, and meal planning in a way that offers flexibility and challenges. Finding someone that you can built trust and rapport with is equally essential. There are amazing dietitians out there that do not treat eating disorders and refer to those that do. You can always ask if the RD knows of anyone that specializes in ED. Please make sure you find the one that fits you best by asking for what it is that you need.
Chelsea Martin, RD, LD, CEDRD
Director of Clinical Services- Residential
Alsana Treatment Center