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ChooseMyPlate.gov and Eating Disorders: A Useful Tool for Recovery

Contributed Article by Debra Cooper & Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC

Tools play an important role in many aspects of life. A carpenter without a hammer cannot drive nails into a wall. An artist without a paintbrush is destined to stare at a blank canvas. In order for many tasks to be completed correctly, the right tools must be utilized.

Similarly, a variety of tools are critical to successful recovery from an eating disorder. Treatment, either outpatient or inpatient, is arguably the most important tool. A skilled treatment team can help a woman or girl understand the complex factors that may have contributed to the advent of her eating disorder. These include certain personality traits, a genetic predisposition, trauma, and such environmental factors as media influence, peer pressure and family dynamics. This support and information, combined with tools to deal more effectively with stress, feelings and relationships, can empower the eating disorder suffer to take steps toward health and healing. Additional tools such as therapeutic support groups, mindfulness, artistic expression, self-help books and spiritual connections, can provide important insight, coping strategies and support.

Nutrition counseling or input from a registered dietitian is beneficial. This is because, whether a woman or girl struggled with anorexia, bulimia or binge eating disorder, food was being used in an unhealthy and destructive fashion.  Her perception of food, nutrition, serving size, hunger and satiety has been distorted by the months or years she dealt with the disorder. Even the very idea of what “normal” eating is may be skewed.

Ideally, the individual struggling with an eating disorder will work with a treatment team consisting of a therapist, nutritionist and physician. It is also helpful for her to have resources available to consult, such as the ChooseMyPlate website. It contains important information about food groups, dietary guidelines and healthy eating.  Users of the site can even ask specific food-related questions.

The Interactive Tools on the ChooseMyPlate.gov website are highly individualized. These include:

The Food Planner
Users complete a form focused on such information as height, weight, age and activity level. This online service then calculates a food plan based on the profile of each person.

The Food Tracker
This is a dietary and physical activity assessment tool. It provides information on diet quality and physical activity status. It allows individuals to understand the balance between calories consumed and energy expended. Users can track their personal history for up to one year.
In addition to comprehensive information about food and nutrition, this website addresses the value of physical activity. This is relevant to everyone, especially those who struggle with disorders such as anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder. Just as their perception of food may have been altered, so has the concept of reasonable exercise. All too often, individuals with eating disorders exercise to an extreme, far beyond what would qualify as normal and healthy. The Physical Activity Assessment provides exercise education and evaluates each person’s activity level as compared to U.S. guidelines.

Because knowledge is power, it would then follow that the more tools an individual has to support their recovery, the better. This is not necessarily the case. Common sense must be used when considering any tool in the treatment of an eating disorder. If the potential tool is triggering, meaning it actually increases the destructive symptoms of the disorder, then it should be avoided or discontinued.

Recovery from an eating disorder is comprised of many components. A person’s tool box should be filled with many skills that can help her find more effective ways to cope, rather than turning to the dysfunctional eating disordered behaviors.  With the right treatment, tools and a determined heart, one canbe set free from the bondage of an eating disorder and go on to live a healthy, happy and productive life.

Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC is the Founder and Director of Eating Disorder Hope. Eating Disorder Hope is the one-stop eating disorder treatment, resource and information site. Eating Disorder Hope promotes ending eating disordered behavior, embracing life and pursuing recovery through implementing the best treatment available for the individual with anorexia, bulimia or binge eating disorder.

Debra M. Cooper, a graduate of Arizona State University, has worked as a professional writer for 25 years.  On staff at a prominent eating disorder treatment center for nine years, Debra is an expert in topics such as anorexia, bulimia and anxiety disorders.  She is the author of Behind The Broken Image, a novel that explores the impact of eating disorders on the individual and the family.

Last reviewed: By Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on 24 April, 2012

Page last updated: June 12, 2012
Published on EatingDisorderHope.com, Online Information About Eating Disorders

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