Maintaining a Meal Plan Outside of Eating Disorder Treatment

hand-picked-and-squeezed-from-our-trees-florida-sunshine-150x150When a client enters treatment for an eating disorder, one of the first issues that is addressed is how to re-establish appropriate eating patterns. The tool that’s used to help you reach that goal is a balanced meal plan. Eating disorders dislike meal plans because they introduce structure to a chaotic life.  Individualized meal patterns are designed to not only meet nutritional needs but to offer a sense of security as you embark on what can seem like a frightening endeavor. It’s one thing to follow a meal plan while in treatment; but what happens when the support and accountability that you’re used to is no longer available at home or school?  Below are some helpful tools to keep you motivated to stay on track once you return home.

  1. Get in touch with a Registered Dietitian (they aren’t the enemy I promise!)
    Following up with an RD on an outpatient basis can be a great source of support for you. They can pick up where your inpatient dietitian left off and help you keep working towards continued freedom from food. Many times, clients require additional meal plan adjustments after leaving treatment and will need guidance as to how to proceed. A Registered Dietitian can work with you on making the appropriate changes based on your current nutritional needs. They’re a wonderful asset to your treatment team (And no, I’m not just saying that because I’m a dietitian myself :)
  2. Structure, Structure, Structure!
    I often find that by the time a client leaves treatment, they are itching to let go of a structured meal plan and try a more intuitive approach. Although my desire is always that my clients will reach a place of successfully transitioning from guided eating to intuitive eating, it doesn’t happen overnight. It’s also important to remember that structured eating doesn’t have to lead to rigidity. Structure involves planning a work or school schedule that accommodates meals and snacks. For most individuals, that will look different than the schedule you followed in treatment and that’s okay. What’s important is that you make meals and snacks a priority.  Structure also refers to the types of foods you use to meet your meal plan. Don’t allow your eating disorder to convince you that eating non-cohesive meals is okay. Challenge yourself to make time and space for your meal plan – haphazard eating can be a slippery slope that leads to disordered eating patterns once again.
  3. Social Dining
    Let’s face it – you will probably find that following your meal plan is more likely to be accomplished when you’re in the presence of others. You may not be comfortable with all forms of social eating just yet, but I can assure you that choosing to engage with others instead of isolating will lead to more successful meals and snacks. This kind of accountability could come from friends and family or from complete strangers sitting next to you in the school cafeteria. Sometimes just having someone else there is enough to give you the motivation and encouragement you need to keep pushing through one more meal. Before you know it, you may find yourself confidently going out to a restaurant with friends or attending a relative’s dinner party with ease. Now that sounds like freedom to me!

~Ashlee Overstreet, MS, RD
Director of Programs/Registered Dietitian

Call us today at 1-800-236-7524!

Canopy Cove’s Eating Disorder Treatment Programs offer compassionate, comprehensive treatment for females, males, adolescents, and adults, who are struggling with Anorexia, Bulimia, Binge Eating Disorders and Co-Existing Diabetes, Depression, and Anxiety. Equine-Assisted Therapy is an weekly part of the Recovery process at Canopy Cove.