Road to recovery from eating disorders

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Recovery from an eating disorder is often a long process that usually requires the help of professional health care providers, as well as the support and understanding of family, friends and even co-workers.

Patients with eating disorders often talk about an “eating disorder voice” that compels them to restrict, binge and purge or practice other unhealthy behaviors to control weight.

When in the grip of this disorder, it’s nearly impossible for a person to “just eat.”

The best health care team usually includes a physician to monitor medical status and prescribe medications as needed, a registered dietitian to help the patient learn what represents a balanced diet and how to meet energy needs, and a therapist to help the patient work on issues such as self-acceptance, depression, compulsivity and anxiety.

The first step in recovery is often re-feeding a patient so his or her brain starts functioning more normally.

Talk therapy and even medications may not be effective under conditions of malnutrition.

Almost 50 percent of patients with anorexia nervosa, for example, also suffer from depression. However, until they gain some weight, which indicates an improved nutritional status, progress on their depression is likely to be limited.

There are different levels of care for eating disorders:

1. Strictly outpatient - when the patient has individual appointments with a therapist, dietitian and physician.

2. Intensive outpatient programs - in which the patient participates in therapeutic groups and educational programs, usually Monday through Friday during the day only.

3. Residential or inpatient programs - where the patient is essentially hospitalized, and participates in individual and group therapies and education sessions.

Cone Health has an exceptional network of behavioral health specialists, dieticians, primary care physicians and other related healthcare providers, as well we as intensive outpatient and inpatient programs, that are dedicated to providing proper treatment to individuals in the community dealing with eating disorders.

Spokesperson Background:

Dr. Jeannie Sykes is a registered dietitian at Cone Health Family Medicine Center.

She received a Bachelor of Science in nutrition from the University of Vermont in 1976, and a Masters of Public Health Nutrition from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1980.

Dr. Sykes earned a PhD in Nutrition from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in 1986. She has worked at Cone Health Family Medicine Center since 1990.