Individuals with anorexia nervosa, commonly called anorexia, are more than simply overzealous dieters. Anorexia is a serious illness with special needs during recovery. Part of recovery includes a healthy diet, and individuals recovering from an eating disorder should work closely with a health care professional or dietitian to construct a healthy and balanced diet plan that will meet all the necessary nutritional needs.
Approximately 0.6 percent of the adult population in the United States will be diagnosed with anorexia, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Women are three times more likely to be diagnosed with anorexia than men. The National Alliance on Mental Illness states that up to 1 percent of women in the United States develop anorexia at some point in their lives.
Anorexia nervosa is more than simply a very restrictive diet; it is a serious mental illness that can be fatal. It is a disease in which an individual refuses to maintain a healthy body weight within 15 percent of a normal weight for her height. The disease also involves an intense and irrational fear of gaining weight, distorted body image, absence of at least three consecutive menstrual cycles and denial of the seriousness of the situation. While it is a difficult condition to treat, recovery is possible.
Recovery and Diet
Recovery from anorexia involves diet and lifestyle changes, including establishing regular eating habits, a healthy diet, adhering to meal plans, not weighing oneself and establishing a support system. Working with a dietitian who specializes in individuals with eating disorders can be a good support. Vitamin or mineral supplements may be prescribed for recovering anorexics, including potassium or iron supplements.
Features of a Healthy Diet
Avoiding caffeine, alcohol and tobacco; drinking at least six to eight glasses of water daily; avoiding refined sugars and consuming protein from sources like eggs, meat, whey proteins and vegetable proteins can all be part of a healthy diet plan for recovering anorexics. A daily multivitamin, omega-3 fatty acids and a probiotic supplement may also be suggested for overall immune and gastrointestinal health. If muscle weakness or wasting is present, creatine may be suggested.
Individuals recovering from anorexia or another eating disorder should consult with a health care professional and a dietitian during recovery to develop meal plans and diets that provide enough calories and nutrients necessary for survival and to address any deficiencies that may be present. Working with a dietitian specializing in eating disorders can help with easing into healthy eating and adding calories gradually to reduce the risk of an individual becoming overwhelmed during recovery and help ensure a healthy and balanced diet.