Maybe you’ve found that your list of preferred foods has gotten a lot smaller over time. You might be struggling to engage in social activities for fear that you won’t be able to avoid foods that cause you distress.
You may feel as though you simply don’t care about food or eating, and find eating to be a chore that you’d rather avoid.
Maybe you’ve had negative experiences with food like vomiting, choking, or an allergic reaction and find yourself avoiding food for fear of those things happening again.
All of this food avoidance is starting to take over your life. Maybe you’re noticing signs of malnutrition like hair loss, feeling cold all the time, weight loss or inability to maintain weight, loss of a menstrual cycle or delayed onset of menstruation. Maybe you experience binge eating episodes with your preferred foods, or have difficulty identifying your hunger and fullness cues.
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Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID), captures a broad spectrum of restrictive eating behaviors that are not motivated by concerns about body weight or shape. ARFID behaviors may be present throughout the lifespan. The fear or anxiety that individuals with ARFID have about food differs from more “traditional” restrictive eating disorders like anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder.
The etiology (or root cause) of ARFID is not yet clear. Still, research indicates that the fear may stem from knowing they must eat when they have no interest in eating, fearing the temperature might not be what they like, fearing choking or becoming sick, or fearing the consequences of eating a new food. This fear and avoidance of food can lead to inadequate growth or weight loss, malnutrition, gastrointestinal complications, or developmental delays.
Researchers have identified three different subtypes of ARFID — but every individual’s experience with ARFID will be unique. Here are some possible symptoms and warning signs of ARFID in all ages
A short list of acceptable foods that often gets shorter over time. Food preferences may be specific to brand, shape, temperature, preparation method, etc.
Eating foods of similar sensory characteristics, such as crunchy in texture or colorless.
Avoidance of entire food groups (meat, vegetables, fruits, etc.)
Nutrient deficiencies and poor weight gain or growth (however individuals may also be of normal weight and growth)
Heightened anxiety or stress around unfamiliar foods
You don’t need to do this alone.
Working with a team of providers and finding specialized care is incredibly important in recovering from your eating disorder. The good news is that ARFID is treatable and many individuals are able to conquer their food fears over time.
We understand that food can be incredibly stressful, and recovering from ARFID is usually not as simple as following a prescriptive meal plan. That’s why your nutrition treatment plan will be tailored to your needs and goals.
Healing from ARFID at NourishRX will start by assessing your overall intake and nutrition status. You’re probably eating at least some foods, and we want to know what foods are feeling most safe to you. We’ll also want to understand what foods cause more anxiety and why. Importantly, we want to know what your treatment goals are which will help us create a clear recovery roadmap to follow.
You might expect to work on increasing variety in your diet, establishing a consistent eating routine, finding ways to make eating easier, and increasing your tolerance of foods that cause distress. Your Registered Dietitian will be working collaboratively with other members of your team to ensure that you’re fully supported throughout your entire recovery journey.
Our virtual platform called the PATH (which stands for Powerful Avenue to Healing) is designed to support the work you do with your team between sessions. The PATH is full of helpful downloads and worksheets, how-to videos, reflection prompts, and links to additional resources. You’ll be guided through topics like how to face fear foods, navigating social eating experiences, connecting with your values and challenging negative thoughts.
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Starting a recovery journey is a huge step, and one that can feel very scary. The fear of the unknown is real! While we can’t predict the future, we can say for sure that the only way to not make any progress is to never try. Some of the goals you set in recovery will feel super small in the moment, but it’s consistent, small changes that create big changes over time. We absolutely believe that you have the ability to change and recover.
Differentiating ARFID from developmentally appropriate picky eating can be tricky. Picky eating that interferes with your normal daily life, body functioning, or that seems to get more severe over time, is not something you have to live with forever. For more about differentiating picky eating from ARFID, read our blog here!
We completely understand that recovery is time consuming and you probably already have a busy schedule that’s hard to plan around. That’s why we’re proud to offer an array of virtual services designed to help recovery fit more easily into your life. Our PATH and Jumpstart courses are all 100% virtual and accessible from wherever you are. Recovery support coaching is open to everyone in all 50 states, and virtual nutrition counseling is available to individuals in Massachusetts, Colorado, California, Virginia, New York and New Hampshire.
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Contact NourishRX and book your services to get started today
If you’re ready to start healing your relationship with food and stop fighting your body, you’re in the right place. Reach out to us by following the steps below.
Start to make real changes to your relationship with food that will support your wellbeing forever
Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder Treatment isn’t the only option for healing your relationship with food at NourishRX. Our team of Registered Dietitians also offer one-on-one support in nutrition counseling for intuitive eating, binge eating recovery, bulimia recovery, anorexia recovery, and support for families of loved ones in eating disorder recovery.