Life in recovery and after treatment for people with anorexia nervosa can be extremely difficult. Gaining weight — one of the biggest fears they experience — is something they must accomplish in treatment to achieve recovery. While gaining weight is only part of the recovery process for patients with anorexia, the reluctance to maintain a normal body weight is what often makes life after recovery so difficult, and it is a major reason why so many people return to their destructive eating habits and behaviors when they return home following their treatment.
Nineteen-year-old Nicola Davis battled anorexia nervosa throughout her teenage years. For two years, she survived off of minimal calories and excessively exercised until she became dangerously thin. Inspired by her personal battle with co-occurring anorexia nervosa and depression, she wrote a recipe book called, “My Super Sweet Recovery Cookbook,” designed to help people in recovery for eating disorders eat more healthily. Unlike conventional cookbooks, Nicola’s recipe book doesn’t include caloric or nutritional information, as she wanted to avoid calorie counting and other eating disordered behavior.
Nicola’s cookbook shares the recipes she used in her own recovery in hopes that she can help others overcome their eating disorder. “I never had anything physical to help me. I went to therapy and I had doctors and things like that, but there was nothing I could really relate to. I want this book to be a resource that people can go to and engage with. It was written by a young person like them, who has been through what they are going through,” Nicola said.
Consequences of anorexia nervosa
Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder that involves an intense preoccupation with body image, size and weight coupled with the refusal to maintain a normal body weight. People with anorexia devote much of their time and energy in everyday life to controlling what they put in their bodies, restricting caloric intake and doing what they can to avoid gaining weight, yet following treatment they must learn to accept the very weight gain they fear.
Anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder, according to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD), as many of these individuals are 15 percent or more below their ideal body weight and are severely malnourished due to their severe reduction of food and caloric intake. The self-starvation inflicted by these individuals deprives their bodies of calories and essential nutrients they need to function and survive, leading to excessive thinness, and eventually their body begins to shut down to conserve energy.
Consequently, these individuals may experience severe health consequences including menstrual irregularities or lack of menstruation, low blood pressure, anemia, electrolyte imbalances due to dehydration, irregular heartbeat, swollen joints and brittle bones, lanugo (i.e., growth of hair all over the body and face to keep the body warm), hair loss and other potentially fatal health problems. In addition, depriving the body of food intake for long periods of time has emotional and psychological consequences on these individuals — nearly 50 percent of all people with eating disorders develop depression and many others experience co-occurring anxiety disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder, substance abuse and obsessive compulsive disorder.
Treatment and recovery
Eating disorders are treatable and recovery is possible. Learning proper nutrition is an essential component in the recovery process, and developing healthy eating and dietary habits can be beneficial for long-term maintenance of recovery. Nicola’s cookbook provides a much needed resource for those battling these disorders. Released earlier last month, her cookbook includes recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks, and can be purchased on her personal website. Ten percent of the profits from the sale of the book will be donated to Beat, a U.K. charity that supports people with eating disorders.
Sovereign Health of Rancho San Diego provides behavioral treatment programs for adolescents affected by substance abuse, mental illness and co-occurring disorders. The Sovereign Health Group recognizes Eating Disorders Awareness Week on Feb. 21-27, 2016. Patients with eating disorders are treated at our San Clemente, California, facility by a clinical treatment team comprised of psychiatrists, medical physicians, psychologists, nurses, marriage and family therapists, case managers, certified counselors, yoga instructors, equine therapy instructors and a registered dietician. Our highly trained staff is dedicated to providing quality, compassionate treatment and care for every patient. For more information about the eating disorder program offered at Sovereign Health, please contact our 24/7 helpline for further assistance.
About the author
Amanda Habermann is a writer for the Sovereign Health Group. A graduate of California Lutheran University, she received her M.S. in clinical psychology with an emphasis in psychiatric rehabilitation. She brings to the team her background in research, testing and assessment, diagnosis and recovery techniques. For more information and other inquiries about this article, contact the author at email@example.com.