Rehabilitation from a surgery – Not unlike making your body well again, Part II

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Joleen Wilson - Dietary Manager

Joleen Wilson, RD/LD, CNSC, CBIS

Written by Joleen Wilson, RD/LD, CNSC, CBIS, Dietitian for Pathway to Eating Disorders Treatment at Brookhaven Hospital

In the previous blog of this series, I discussed how recovery from surgery can be similar to the healing process associated with anorexia nervosa.  There are many points of inter-relatedness associated with the other eating disorders as well as lifestyle changes in regards to the steps you must take to find wellness.

During my first few days after the operation, I found it difficult to ask for the help I needed to do the most basic tasks such as showering and dressing. Everyone of us needs help at some point and I quickly became more comfortable asking those in my support system for assistance.

The surgeon instructed me to begin exercising my arm daily as soon as I returned home. Having to do my pendulum exercises several times a day is much like the requirement for an individual recovering from Binge Eating Disorder or Bulimia to eat on a schedule 3 times per day.  This is “therapy for the gut and the mind”, because starving yourself does not work with these disorders.  You will only have problems later.  I did my exercises religiously 3 times per day because I knew that if I didn’t get into the habit of rehabbing my shoulder now, I would not be able to do the things I want to do in a year’s time.

Scheduling pain meds was challenging, because I did not like the negative side effects. But it was important to stay on top of my pain, or I would be hurting later.  This is also true with “honoring your hunger” when you struggle from binge eating.  Keep your body biologically fed with adequate energy and carbohydrates, otherwise you can trigger the primal drive to overeat out of an effort to avoid starvation.  Once you reach the moment of excess hunger (or pain in my case), all intentions of moderate, conscious eating are almost impossible to overcome.  Learning to honor this first biological signal sets the stage for re-building trust with yourself and food.

One of the phases of intuitive eating is “Nutrition Rehab” and it typically includes a meal plan.  A meal plan is similar to the sling immobilizer used on my arm.  It serves as structure and support until there is biological (including weight) restoration.  It is not a life-long requirement, nor the destination for recovery.  Nutrition rehab is a necessary form of self-care. When recovering from an eating disorder, eating is necessary, regardless of the absence of hunger or the presence of fullness.  A meal plan is intended to contain “eating anxiety” by establishing a predictable schedule of what will be eaten.  Eating regularly helps foster body rhythms, including hormonal patterns that help the body gear up for digestion.  It also aids in desensitizing the individual to meal time anxiety.

During my first three to four weeks of my recovery, I had to neglect important parts of my life, including hobbies and social aspects, in order to get better.  I felt I missed out on a lot during those weeks, but I’m glad I chose to focus on my healing.  If you are struggling with an eating disorder and past attempts at recovery have failed you, please give us a call at 888-298-HOPE (4673).  Our program, Pathway to Eating Disorders Treatment, is designed to foster wellness in all aspects of life: physical, mental, and spiritual.  Although the program is 21 days long, this is a small sacrifice to make to regain your freedom from food. Our team of qualified clinicians will help you get in touch with gentle hunger and fullness, and the reward that comes with mindful eating.

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