This March is National Nutrition Month, an educational campaign sponsored by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The goal of the campaign is to teach people how to develop and maintain healthy eating habits such as how to consume the proper amounts of vitamins and avoid overeating.
Unfortunately, eating disorders take healthy eating habits (don’t eat too much, avoid junk food, get plenty of vegetables) and twist those habits into something dangerous. Individuals with eating disorders might cut back their calories so severely that they become malnourished, use purging techniques such as vomiting and laxatives to eliminate junk food from their diet, or focus so intensely on eating healthily that they avoid going to restaurants or spending time with their family.
So what should a person with an eating disorder do during National Nutrition Month?
1. Ignore it.
Thankfully, ignoring monthly holidays can be pretty simple, especially if you avoid certain corners of the Internet. If you’re in recovery from an eating disorder, chances are your doctor is already helping you maintain a healthy diet. Don’t try to switch up your diet, especially if you’re early on in the recovery process.
2. Speak with a doctor.
If you don’t yet have a doctor treating your eating disorder, find someone who is willing to help you out. Dietitians are specially trained professionals who may be able to guide you through the process along with your therapist. (Nutritionists, on the other hand, are not accredited by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and may be less equipped to deal with eating disorders.)
3. Accept that a relapse is not the end of the world.
If you find yourself lapsing into old behaviors this month, try not to go too hard on yourself. Even if you take all of the right steps, you may still relapse. Eating disorders are not simply bad habits — they’re brain disorders. Seek help from your loved ones and make sure to keep attending your doctor’s appointments.
The most important piece of advice, however, is to stay cautious. While most people without eating disorders can participate in this campaign without worrying about developing unhealthy habits, people with a history of eating disorders might run into some unexpected triggers that cause a relapse. In the end, individuals with eating disorders should be cautious about following the advice of someone who is not their doctor.
The Sovereign Health Group is a leading treatment facility for addiction, mental health and co-occurring disorders with locations all over the country. Our eating disorder program provides patients with cognitive behavioral therapy, nutrition education, monitored and appropriate physical exercise, equine therapy and regular meetings with a dietitian. For more information, please contact our 24/7 helpline.
About the author
Courtney Lopresti, M.S., is a senior staff writer for the Sovereign Health Group where she uses her scientific background to write online blogs and articles for a general audience. At the University of Pittsburgh, where she earned her Master’s in neuroscience, she used functional neuroimaging to study how the human cerebellum contributes to language processing. In her spare time, she writes fiction, reads Oliver Sacks and spends time with her two cats and bird. Courtney is currently located in Minneapolis. For more information and other inquiries about this article, contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.