The Value of Seeing a Dietitian in ED Recovery

By Remie Jaggard and Gabriella Barclay

When an individual is in treatment for an eating disorder it is important to establish a team of professionals to help support a full recovery. There are many psychological, physical and social effects of having an eating disorder and therefore it is important to engage in treatment with professionals who specialise in the treatment of eating disorders (EDs).  A basic treatment team should include a medical practitioner (GP or Paediatrician), Psychologist and Dietitian. Each person in the ED recovery team has a unique and vital role. The Dietitian’s role focuses on working with the symptoms of an eating disorder, with an understanding and appreciation of the underlying causes, to help sufferers relearn how to eat well and nourish their bodies.

What do Dietitians do?eating

  • Help clients to navigate the transition to normalised eating patterns
  • Help clients to navigate distress around food; including thoughts, emotions and physiological symptoms
  • Assist clients in exploring and challenging fear foods, food rules, food rituals and other disordered behaviours around food
  • Assist clients in challenging their belief system around food, weight, health and diets

How to choose a Dietitian that is going to work for you?

Find a Dietitian that:

  1. Is accredited (an Accredited Practicing Dietitian, registered with the Dietitians Association of Australia).
  2. Has experience in eating disorders (for example, has worked on an inpatient unit, works with other eating disorder clients, is recommended by your other professional team members).
  3. Has a philosophy that is going to help you (for example, a Dietitian that practices in a ‘non-diet’ approach or weight natural approach).
  4. You have a good connection with (having a good connection and rapport with your team members is essential. If you feel that you are unable to connect with any of your treatment team it is important to talk about this and see if this can be resolved before switching to another practitioner).

Credentials and Experience

  • There are many different types of nutrition credentials and certifications in use today, and therefore it can be very challenging to decipher and assess the quality of someone’s education and experience.
  • Ensure that when you are choosing a dietitian that they are an Accredited Practicing Dietitian.

Coaching Skills

  • Different dietitians use different approaches. In the ED field these might include food intake and food journals.
  • Some professionals can be very detailed in their instructions while others can opt for a more generalised and habit-based approach that will be most beneficial to you and your needs.

Counselling Skills

  • Food can sometimes be a difficult subject to discuss and therefore many of the best dietitians are also good counsellors. Food is often personal and can be connected to other issues such as self-image, depression, eating disorders and addiction.


  • It is important to try and find a dietitian whose philosophy matches your own. Are they open-minded when it comes to nutrition? Do you want someone who is open-minded or perhaps not?


  • While there are many factors that can help you to choose the right dietitian for yourself, it undoubtedly does come down to rapport. Having a good rapport and the ability to connect with your dietitian is a vital factor in you achieving success in your treatment.
  • If you don’t feel like it’s the right fit between you and a dietitian you can potentially consider consulting another one. However it is important to try to resolve this directly with your dietitian before considering switching. Sometimes it may be the “unhealthy” or “eating disorder” part of you who does not like the dietitian.

Dietitians are valuable team members and can help support you on your path to recovery. Engaging with a Dietitian means you have the space and platform to talk about all your food concerns with a specialised professional.

If you want to find a Dietitian, have a look online, ask your other team professionals for a recommendation and make sure they are an Accredited Practicing Dietitian.

You can read some personal stories about how dietitians have changed people’s lives here.

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