Have you been diagnosed with ARFID and are now wondering . . . what’s next? Do you wonder . . . do I need a meal plan? How do you figure out what to eat? Is there a simple way to get all the nutrients that you or your loved one might need?
These are questions to ask yourself after you have looked at what your current diet looks like.
This blog will take you through 5 steps to help you understand what might be missing from you or your loved ones diet because of ARFID. This blog will help you get creative and find different ways to get these nutrients.
Now that you have thought through some of these questions, let’s get started!
Step 1 – Assessing You or Your Loved Ones Diet
It is important to remember that it is always best to work with a team when you are working through ARFID recovery. Your team could include a dietitian, therapists, medical doctor, and/or a psychiatrist.
If you need help finding a team in your area, please reach out to me so I can point you in the right direction! Send me a message on the www.bridgethefoodgap.com website.
Talk to your doctor about obtaining blood work to check for any possible deficiencies and share with them what food groups you might be missing regularly. This blood work will provide you with information on certain vitamins and minerals. In my ARFID Treatment at Home blog, I went through and provided a chart of some common deficiencies.
Even if your blood work comes back normal, you or your loved one might still be on the lower end of some of these vitamins/minerals. It is still worth assessing because, if they are on the lower end, it could still be causing you or your loved one to feel tired or fatigued.
Another way to assess your diet is by tracking what you are eating and seeing if there is an entire food group/groups missing on a day-to-day basis. Use the tracking sheet that I have provided below. Fill this out for at least three days. It is best to log 2 weekdays and 1 weekend day to get the best data.
You can download this form as a .pdf below. This way you can print as many as needed.
As you can see on the sheet, there are little food icons on the side to indicate 1 serving of each of the food groups. This will help you clearly see if there are entire food groups being missed.
Now that you have retrieved as much data and information about your current diet and eating patterns, let’s move on to step two.
Step 2 – Supplements for ARFID
Just “trying new foods” is a lot more complex when you are suffering from ARFID. Trying new foods is NOT an easy task and can take months before you might feel comfortable doing so.
Since you want to start feeling better sooner and start working on balancing your nutrition now, supplements can be utilized as you start feeling more comfortable adding new foods. Always talk with your doctor before adding any supplements. You need to make sure they do not interfere with any other medications that you might be taking. You can also look at nutritionally balanced drinks/meal replacement drinks, to use as a nutrient ‘filler’. Even though these drinks can be helpful in fulfilling your nutritional needs, they can also cause you to feel fuller. At times this can make it harder to want to eat something because you are already full! As a quick tip, drink them in the evening before going to bed or make them a snack between meals.
Step 3 – Making Small Changes
Now that you know your nutrients are a bit more balanced with the addition of supplements, let’s work on making some small changes.
Before you do anything, take out a piece of paper and write down every food you know you feel comfortable eating and categorize them by food group. If you are feeling adventurous, put some foods on there that you are willing to try! Take a look at your food tracking sheet again. Are you missing proteins, fruits, vegetables, or dairy? Luckily there are some ways to get the nutrients from these missing food groups by using food groups you are more likely to eat. For example, if you know you struggle the most with proteins but love dairy… you can use dairy to help supplement the protein you might be missing from your diet as you work on adding other proteins to your tolerated foods. Another example, if you like a lot of fruits but not as many vegetables, then you can use more fruits to help supplement as you work towards increasing your variety. This is a way to use foods to help supplement instead of meal replacement drinks or supplements.
It is always best to work with a dietitian to get the best understanding of what your nutritional needs are. You can work with your dietitian on which fruits, dairies, or other foods would work best to help replace any missing nutrients.
Step 4 – Reassess
Now that you have made some small changes, take out that food log again and do it all over. Are you seeing any changes from before? Do you feel the balance of food groups is a bit better? Have you noticed you are starting to feel a little better, sleep a little better, have a little more energy?
Write down any changes you might see! We want to use some of those physical changes as motivation to keep pushing yourself.
I am not going to lie…the next step is hard, and this is why you NEED a team to help support you!
Step 5 – Trying New Foods
There are many different strategies to trying new foods. I will lay out one of these strategies here. REMEMBER if this strategy does not work for you, there are others!
Work with your team on other ideas, they will know what would work best for you.
Use your support when trying new foods. Do not do it alone! Talk to your family or friends and let them know this is something you would really like to work on, but you recognize it will be difficult.
Come up with a plan. Let your support know what this plan is and how they can help you.
Another quick tip: come up with a code word. Let your support know that if you say this word, you are not ready to try this new food and you would prefer to not talk about it right then and there. ARFID thoughts can be loud and invasive.
In your plan, come up with what the food is that you are willing to try, how many bites of the food you will eat, where you will be eating it, who you will be with, and what will be going on around you (example: calming music, playing a game for distraction, favorite TV show on in the background).
Again, let your support know every detail of this plan so they can make sure everything goes accordingly.
After you have experienced that new food, take some time to journal about it.
How was it? Did you hate it? Was it ok? Is it worth trying again? If you could change something, what would it be?
ARFID is an eating disorder and “just trying” new foods can be difficult.
Obtaining a treatment team is a vital part of your recovery process!
Assess your current diet and eating patterns and discover if there are any food groups you are regularly missing. This information will help you with your next steps.
After you have created your plan with trying a new food, share it with your family or friends to help support you through this process. If you have a treatment team in place, make sure you also share with them!
Check out the ARFID site www.bridgethefoodgap.com for more resources and to learn about our new ARFID workbook that will be released soon!