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5 Pivotal Ways Registered Dietitians Aid Eating Disorder Recovery

5 Pivotal Ways Registered Dietitians Aid Eating Disorder Recovery

Written by: Kayla Wilson, MS, RDN, LDN, Director of Nutrition, The Renfrew Center of Philadelphia-Spring Lane; Samantha Goss MPH, RDN, LDN, Director of Nutrition, The Renfrew Center of Florida & Becky Mehr MS, RDN, CEDS-S, LDN, Director of Outpatient Nutrition

Nutrition counseling is an ongoing process in eating disorder treatment in which a health professional, usually a registered dietitian, works with an individual to assess his or her usual dietary intake and identify areas where change is needed. In this article, we look at the role of the registered dietitian and how they can support you during your eating disorder recovery. 5 Pivotal Ways Registered Dietitians Aid Eating Disorder Recovery

What is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist?

Registered Dietitian Nutritionists are accredited with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. These individuals must complete a bachelor’s degree from an accredited program, a 1200-hour internship, and must pass a professional licensing exam to achieve this certification. Renfrew’s Nutrition Department is comprised of professionals with a certification as a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who provide individualized care and treatment to the patients at Renfrew’s various programs.

Why Is it Important to Work with a Registered Dietitian While in Recovery?

Registered Dietitians are trained professionals skilled in helping you meet your nutritional needs. Adding a Registered Dietitian to your team ensures that you are adequately nourished throughout recovery. This is a task that can be challenging as our nutritional needs can fluctuate.

Registered Dietitians provide sound nutrition education and dispel nutrition myths or misbeliefs. Registered Dietitians have years of training and practice in the nutrition concepts, equipping you with the knowledge needed to read nutrition information and determine whether it is accurate.

What is Renfrew’s Nutrition Approach?

Renfrew focuses on building a foundation of emotional awareness, variety, education, and balance. The Nutrition Department works with you to develop nutrition plans using current nutrition research and USDA guidelines. These plans incorporate a mix of the macronutrients and micronutrients you need. These plans are designed to maintain your progress after program.

In addition to the meal plans, each patient receives an education on nutrition fundamentals, including the advantages of incorporating all foods. This knowledge helps you reappraise any misinformation about nutrition, challenge the harmful messages rooted in diet culture, and establish evidence-based beliefs about food.

What Does a Registered Dietitian Nutrition Provide in Eating Disorder Recovery?

1. Individualized Meal Planning (Including Variety and Balance)

Upon meeting with a Registered Dietitian, they will obtain a background about your nutritional history. They may then assign you a meal plan with accommodations based on your nutritional needs, religious requests, allergies, and/or medical conditions. They may also educate you about the “ins and outs” of your meal plan so you can eventually create meals on your own. Registered Dietitians can work with you one-on-one to neutralize food beliefs and create a balance of all foods.

At Renfrew, the Registered Dietitians assign you a meal plan on day of admission. This meal plan changes throughout your time in treatment to meet your needs as they change. The Registered Dietitians also educate you about the exchange system method for tracking food throughout your stay. This helps you learn how to plan and portion your own meals.

2. General Nutrition Education

In session, Registered Dietitians utilize their knowledge of medical nutrition therapy to provide accurate, evidenced-based information on fad diets, social eating, metabolism, and basic human nutrition.

At Renfrew, education is provided in the group setting and during individual sessions. Handouts are also utilized frequently to help explain a variety of concepts.

3. Exploration of Eating Environments and Eating Patterns

Registered Dietitians explore your history with food and eating. Together you and your Registered Dietitian work to rebuild a positive relationship with food. You do this through a mix of nutrition therapy, coached meals, mindful awareness, food emotion journals, and food exposures. The goal of this is to identify barriers to recovery and put solutions in place. You will also learn how to implement alternative coping skills in place of the eating disorder.

4. Education About Weight Theory and Body Positive Thinking

Another component of Nutrition Therapy centers around body and weight neutrality. You and your Registered Dietitian may unpack internalized beliefs rooted in diet culture, reappraise judgmental thoughts and body image and establish how your body image impacts your ability to nourish yourself.

At Renfrew, we help you overcome emotions associated with your beliefs about your body. The Registered Dietitians use Renfrew’s Unified Treatment Model to process the complex emotional experiences around food and weight in order to heal your relationship with them.

5. Education on Emotional Awareness

Registered Dietitians help you identify your emotional patterns at meals and suggest skills that can be utilized.

The Registered Dietitians at Renfrew invite you to explore your emotional responses to food and examine how this translates into your eating experience. Registered Dietitians also utilize motivational interviewing to encourage you to set recovery-oriented goals that you want to achieve both in and out of treatment.  

How Can I Find a Registered Dietitian?

Individualized nutrition treatment with a Renfrew Registered Dietitian is available for you in most levels of care.

For more information about outpatient nutrition resources, you can search-


Registered Dietitians are a valuable part of your treatment team and can be essential for a successful recovery. Registered Dietitians help to ensure nutritional needs are being met while giving you the tools to challenge misinformation. These members of your team help you to discover individual plans and find recommendations that work for you. By collaborating with you and your treatment team, your dietician will help you create achievable goals to help sustain a successful recovery.


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