As InsideOut launches Meal Support in the Hospital Setting- a new online program to equip clinicians with the skills and confidence to effectively provide meal support - Ash explains what the experience is like for the patient.
Q: Clinicians often report finding providing meal support challenging, what is it like for the person with the eating disorder?
A: It can just be a very, very stressful situation, especially if it's a first time in hospital and it's your first time having supervised meals. It pretty much takes all the control that you once had away from you.
Q: What can clinicians do to support someone who's going through a meal plan?
A: Depending on the type of facility, you may be required to eat with the patients. For me personally, I found that very, very helpful when I was having normal eating mirrored back to me, because you're leading by example, you're demonstrating that no, this is totally normal. Because in your head, you're looking at your plate thinking, ‘this is such a huge amount of food – I don’t normally eat this kind of stuff.’ But if you're mimicking the same behavior, it can actually be really comforting.
Q: What words did you find helpful during meal support?
A: In terms of words of encouragement, I think one thing that was said that stood out to me was “food is medicine, and sometimes medicine doesn't taste very nice. There are going to be times when you don't want to take the medicine or it doesn't taste nice, but you just keep taking it because food is what will make you better.”
Q: What words were unhelpful?
A: Definitely mirroring your disordered behavior or not eating, for example, complaining about carbs in a meal or reinforcing anything that an eating disorder might believe.
Instead, focus on helpful topics, avoid trigger points and try not to make it feel like someone did something bad or they didn't finish a meal - really try and take the stress out of it.
Use positive reinforcement and positive encouragement - those are the kind of things that you need to be doing instead ‘you have to eat this, otherwise you will do x y z.' So, no threats.
It needs to be a safe and encouraging environment.
Q: What words of encouragement can you give clinicians?
A: I think it's really important to remember that people who are trying to break rules when they're dealing with their eating disorders, and trying to sneak food or hide food, that they're not doing it because they're trying to be bad. They're just really tormented inside of their head with the real negative thoughts that are constantly with them every second of the day - before meals during meals and after meals. It's an extraordinarily stressful time.
If reading this story has brought up any issues for you, contact Butterfly on 1800 ED HOPE or Life Line on 13 11 14.
Sharing personal stories challenges the stigmas associated with eating disorders and can inspire others in their recovery journeys. To share yours, head here: https://insideoutinstitute.org.au/get-involved/share-your-story** **