Anorexia nervosa, or anorexia as it is more commonly known, is a disorder in which a person’s intake of food is lesser than is required by the body to meet its daily nutritional requirements. Over a period of time, this nutritional deficit may translate into other symptoms such as weight loss, pallid or blotchy skin, loss of muscle mass, and reduced immune function, to name a few.
The causes of anorexia are surmised to be a mixture of social, psychological, and genetic factors. Treatment methodologies may involve a combination of medical treatment, counseling, and a specific diet plan.
A diet for anorexia nervosa should be prescribed by a doctor or dietician. Such a diet will have to work on two levels. It will first have to address the nutritional deficiencies that have been caused in the body as a result of this disorder.
Secondly, an anorexia recovery diet plan will focus on gradually increasing the calorific intake of the patient so that eventually he or she becomes accustomed to consuming the proper quantity of food that is required by the body. Generally the aim is to increase the patient’s bodyweight by half a pound to one pound per week until it is back to normal.
Foods to eat
Let us take a look at some of the foods that should feature as a part of an anorexia recovery diet plan. Do keep in mind that this list is by no means exhaustive and it is best to consult a professional nutritionist.
- The most important thing to keep in mind is that any diet for anorexia nervosa should include food items from all the major food groups. It is essential to include the major macronutrients and the essential micronutrients as well.
- Protein will play a major role in helping re-build lost muscle mass. Opt for healthy sources of protein such as chicken breast, tuna, turkey, and egg white.
- Whole grain breads and cereals will help to provide your body with much needed energy. Ideally, an anorexia diet recovery plan should also incorporate exercise. Whole grain foods will provide you with sufficient energy to sustain you through your workouts.
- Anorexia nervosa also deprives the body of the essential micronutrients. This deficit should be made up by taking prescribed supplements and vitamins.
- Many anorexics gravitate towards alcohol. If this is the case, vitamin B supplements should be taken when following an anorexia recovery diet plan to offset the imbalance caused by excess of alcohol in the system.
- Antioxidants should also be included in an anorexia diet plan as they will help the cells regenerate.
Foods to avoid
- While protein is important for the repair and growth of muscle tissue, try to avoid unhealthy sources of protein. Anorexia nervosa, when prolonged, may even affect the muscles of the heart and it is best not to put additional strain on these muscles by eating unhealthy red meat.
- Avoid consuming processed foods which may provide an initial spike of energy but are also accompanied by a subsequent fall in blood sugar levels.
Anorexia diet chart
Here’s a sample anorexia diet chart. Keep in mind that this list is only indicative and you should follow the recommendations of your doctor, dietician, or nutritionist.
- Breakfast: One serving of egg and whole wheat bread. This may be washed down with a glass of fresh fruit juice or skimmed milk.
- Mid-morning snack: A bowl of fresh fruit.
- Lunch: White meat such as chicken, turkey, or fish grilled and served with steamed vegetables and brown rice. You can also consume these in the form of a sandwich in whole wheat bread.
- Early evening: Fresh fruit, a handful of almonds or a slice of whole wheat bread.
- Dinner: Pick from a healthy source of meat such as chicken, turkey, or tuna, whether boiled or grilled or sautéed in olive oil.
- Before bed: A cold glass of skimmed milk.
Anorexia health tips
When you are following an anorexia diet plan, here are a couple of things to keep in mind:
- It would seem that the fastest way to gain weight when recovering from anorexia nervosa would be to eat as much as you can, but this is not the way you should go about your anorexia recovery diet plan. As your body has been deprived of regular food for so long, it will have a tendency to store extra calories as fat. The best way to combat this is to gradually increase your food intake until your diet is back to normal.
- It is also a good idea to consume any small meals throughout the day instead of just three large ones. This too prevents your body from going into starvation mode and storing fat needlessly.
- Exercise should also play a part in your recovery plan. Not only will regular exercise help your muscles to re-build themselves, the psychological effects of exercise will also help you to combat the depression that accompanies anorexia.
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