I get questions all the time from other dietitians, family and friends about what a typical day looks like for me as an eating disorder dietitian. I suspect potential and current client’s might be interested as well. So what does an eating disorder dietitian do all day? Read on to find out!
7:20a Wake-up and cuddle with my pup, Blue
I have had the luxury of working from home over the past couple years and, personally, I love it. I appreciate the later wake up time and ability to have some extra time to myself before logging on for the day.
8:00a Intensive outpatient orientation
Well, I jinxed myself, this is a day where I pretty much roll out of bed and get to work. I work in our intensive outpatient (IOP) and outpatient (OP) programs. IOP runs 4 days a week, 3 hours/day.
In a client’s orientation, I talk with new clients about the schedule, what therapeutic supported meals look like, group expectations, and answer any questions. Getting treatment for an ED is scary, so oftentimes there are lots of emotions that come up in these initial sessions.
I try to offer them words of encouragement and support before they enter programming on their first day.
9:00a IOP breakfast
That’s right, eating my breakfast is part of what I get paid to do with my clients! Therapeutic supportive meals play a big part in higher levels of care, and dietitians are front and center to lead them. We also have the support of a therapist in each meal to help facilitate conversation and jump in if a client needs them.
I check in client’s meals to make sure they meet their individual nutrition needs and then lead the group through a deep breathing exercise. Deep breathing has been shown to decrease anxiety and prepares the body for digestion. Since many clients are anxious during meals and oftentimes experience GI distress, this practice is a ritual we complete before each meal.
Afterward, we all eat (staff + clients) together and have some lighthearted conversation or possibly offer support for any clients struggling that day. Sometimes we play table games if some helpful distraction is needed.
10a Meet with dietetic team
Jessi and I work with two other, wonderful dietitians. We meet weekly to coordinate care, consult on cases and plan out coverage if any is needed.
Having a team of caring and intelligent dietitians to work with has really allowed me to grow as a clinician. We learn so much from each other and we all offer something different to our clients and this is so needed as a “cookie cutter” approach to treatment will never be sustainable in this field.
11-12p Complete session notes and reply to emails
This administrative time is so necessary. During this hour I will message coworkers via Teams in case they have client/general questions and catch up on charting notes. Putting admin time in my schedule helps me keep up throughout my day rather than playing catch up after all of my clients, groups, and meetings end for the day.
12p IOP team meeting
When you work in the field of eating disorders, you work within a treatment team. This includes therapists, nurses/nurse practitioners/doctors, and dietitians. It is crucial for the client’s care and recovery that we provide a holistic approach to their treatment. We discuss current client’s successes, barriers, and progress each week in an effort to continue to help them during their journey towards recovery.
1p IOP lunch
Same thing as breakfast. Today, we shared the worst hairstyles we’ve ever had. Some of us even had pictures to prove it!
2-4p Individual client sessions
Depending on the day I usually see 3-6 clients/day for individual sessions. These appointments are 30-60 minutes long and are individualized to meet their specific needs.
Today, I talked with one of my clients about ways to meet their meal plan with lower volume foods to help avoid some of the GI distress they are experiencing.
Another session involved planning ahead for eating out over the weekend. Going out to eat is a fun and pleasurable experience for some of us. For others, it is a huge source of anxiety and trigger for engaging in eating disorder fueled behaviors before, during, or after the meal.
In my final session, we talked about how to transition from following a structured meal plan, to a more flexible approach. My hope for most of my clients is that we can work together to get to a place where they can intuitively eat and trust their own bodies to tell them what and how much they need!
4-4:30p Grab a snack, finish up notes and emails for the day
Since I started on the earlier side, I try to wrap up a bit sooner as well. The risk for burnout in professionals who work in the eating disorder space is high. Most people who gravitate towards this field are genuinely caring and compassionate individuals.
I’ve learned throughout my career that I need to set boundaries and not let myself keep working, working, working. Some tasks can be saved for tomorrow.
5p Log out and unwind
At this point in my day I will take Blue for a quick walk before it gets dark outside. Plans for the rest of the evening include making dinner (breakfast tacos), watching The Bachelor (I’m not embarrassed to admit this!), and simply relaxing on the couch.
Being a dietitian in the eating disorder space is so unique. No day looks the same and I love that. Of course there will always be some harder days. However, there are wonderful days that make up for them and give me so much joy.
This setting is so special in that we get to truly see our work saving someone’s life or giving them back the life they deserve to be living.
I hope you have enjoyed this post, I thoroughly enjoyed writing it! Maybe we can get Jessi to write a day in the life post next?
Stay well and f*ck diet culture!
Are you a nutrition professional looking to learn more about working with eating disorders? We’ve got you! Check out these awesome resources:
Nutrition Counseling for Adults with Eating Disorders-7 week comprehensive professional training
Dietitians Working with Eating Disorders-Free mini course