Friday, March 23, 2012

The Role of the RD in Eating Disorder Treatment

The Registered Dietitian (RD) is often part of a multidisciplinary eating disorder treatment team, including doctors, psychiatrists, and therapists. Clients sometimes have the misconception that the only thing an RD will provide during treatment is a meal plan. However, the role of an RD in the treatment of eating disorders involves addressing much more. This role also includes discussing eating behaviors and beliefs in the context of the eating disorder. This is why working with an RD in addition to a therapist or doctor is so important.

Are you thinking about seeing an RD for disordered eating or eating disorder behaviors? Here are a few topics you can expect an RD to address throughout the counseling process:

Adequacy: Is the amount of energy taken in during the day adequate to support daily activities - from taking a shower to visiting the gym?

Balance: Does intake include every food group in a sufficient amount?

Variety: Does intake cover every food in way that vitamin and mineral needs are being met?

Autonomy: Is intake based on personal preferences or the expectations of others?

Confidence: Is intake based on internal cues or a fixed schedule? Is there ever regret surrounding food choices made? Are daily activities chosen based on what type of food will be available?

Legalization: Are there foods that are believed to be "bad" or "good"? What would it take to decriminalize foods so they are no longer in these categories, but instead seen as "supportive to my recovery" or "fueling/energizing for my body"?

Affect: Are beliefs about food and nutrition affecting physical and mental health or medication needs?

Rules: What misconceptions, harmful rules, or harmful beliefs exist about food and eating?

Sensory: How well does the client experience the sensory side of eating - the tastes, smells, and sounds?

Support: What activities can be provided to assist with the recovery process, such as cooking classes, therapeutic meal classes, or grocery shopping trips?

As you can see, the RD does much more than serve as the "food police". The RD's role in treating eating disorders and disordered eating cannot by filled by any other discipline, as the RD is truly the expert. If you or someone you know is struggling, encourage them to have the courage to find help.

Katie (Murtha) Davis MS, RD, CSSD, LDN
Owner, RDKate Sports Nutrition Consulting
Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics


  1. Your role sounds so supportive - and varied. Rather than just the food police I dreaded!

  2. Thanks Katie, this is so chock full of info. Thanks! Really amazing.

  3. Linda R WInter, JD, MA, LCPCMarch 27, 2012 at 2:40 PM

    What a great summary of factors to be considered related to healthy, balanced eating. Thanks for putting it together so neatly. I'm really glad you're part of the TAC treatment team!!