Mealtime in Treatment: What to Expect
For many people with eating disorders, it can be difficult and even scary to eat regular meals. Eating is often seen as something to be avoided. At Eating Recovery Center, one of our goals is to support you in managing your anxiety around food and to help you be able to eat despite of any fears you might have.
In eating disorder treatment, the path to successful recovery requires addressing two major areas:
- Behavior change related to food, exercise, and/or weight
- Psychological and emotional issues
We discuss both of these areas below.
Seeing food as medicine
Nourishing your body will be critical to your recovery. To achieve this, you will create a personal meal plan with your dietitian. Your nutrition plan will feature balanced meals and snacks composed of different food groups.
We serve six meals and snacks daily. This amount of food can lead many patients to feel uncomfortably full, particularly if they have been restricting or not keeping food in for quite some time.
While it can be hard to eat this much in treatment, it is vitally important that you complete your meals and work towards proper nutrition and, if you are underweight, full weight restoration.
You may need time to adjust physically and emotionally to your meal plan, and we understand that. If you are unable to finish your meals or snacks, we will offer you supplements after meals. This is challenging and your doctors and therapists will be working with you and supporting you throughout each step in this process.
Learn more about meal planning at ERC.
Setting the environment
Meals are a crucial part of your therapy here. We have designed our dining areas to be as pleasant and welcoming as possible. During meals, you will dine with fellow patients and staff members, including nursing staff, therapists and dietitians. Conversation and table games (word games, trivia, etc.) will be shared to lighten the mood and make mealtimes more enjoyable.
Supporting you through challenges
In addition to supporting you during mealtimes, we provide support after meals through group therapy. In group therapy you will have opportunities to:
- Connect to your values
- Set intentions for the day
- Process thoughts, feelings, and experiences that come up during meals
- Reflect on the day’s successes and struggles
- Support your peers and also receive support from them
For the first hour after meals and snacks, we will ask you to either refrain from using the bathroom or allow us to supervise you in the bathroom. Direct supervision in the bathroom might extend beyond the one-hour post-meal point if you have a history of purging (symptoms of bulimia) or need extra support in the bathroom for any reason.
As you make progress in treatment, you may start to practice snacks or meals off the unit, usually with staff at first, and then with peers or family, or even on your own.
Moving toward recovery
Many of our patients come to our eating disorder treatment center with high levels of anxiety about food, and for many, eating may bring up lots of difficult feelings. Please know that we will be here to support you, to help you move in the direction of health and well-being despite those difficult emotions, and to help you move forward toward recovery.
A note about our program: We’d like to point out that this article discusses what to expect in our 24-hour residential care program. Your experience in other levels of care, including partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient and outpatient will differ. In addition, we have a number of centers in locations across the country. Therapy offerings and other details will differ by location. Let us know if you have any additional questions about what to expect when you arrive for treatment at ERC.