The Center for Eating Disorders Blog

Updates & Evidence-Based Nutrition Guidelines in the Treatment of Eating Disorders, with Marcia Herrin, EdD, MPH, RD, LD

On September 25th, Dr. Marcia Herrin will be one of six multi-disciplinary experts to converge in Baltimore as featured speakers for the highly anticipated professional symposium, Eating Disorders: State of the Art Treatment. This event is a unique opportunity to learn directly from some of the field’s most knowledgable and innovative professionals from around the world.

Marcia Herrin, EdD, MPH, RD, is the founder of Dartmouth Colleges nationally renowned nutrition programs and has served as a nutrition consultant to a variety of universities and school systems, including the school of the American Ballet Theatre. Currently, Dr. Herrin conducts a busy private practice in Lebanon, New Hampshire where she specializes in children and adults with weight issues and eating disorders. Dr. Herrin is the author of several books including, Nutrition Counseling in the Treatment of Eating Disorders, a detailed treatment manual for professionals. On September 25th, Dr. Herrin will provide a training entitled, “Updates and Evidence-Based Nutrition Guidelines in the Treatment of Eating Disorders” which will be of great interest to novice and veteran treatment providers alike. In advance of her presentation, we asked Dr. Herrin about the significance of nutrition therapy, important indications for the treatment team and a little preview of her upcoming presentation! Dr. Herrin’s answers follow:

Q & A with Marcia Herrin, EdD, MPH, RD LD

Can you provide a brief description of the impact of nutritional deficits on cognitive and/or emotional functioning?

MH: Research shows that many nutrients, such as vitamin B12 and iron, are essential to human brain function and that deficiencies in these nutrients and others can lead to impaired cognitive function and impaired memory and concentration. Nutritional deficits are also directly related to impaired emotional functioning, i.e., irritability; apathy; withdrawn behavior; decreased ability to focus, to listen, and process information; and to fatigue. Deficits in nutrients and calories lead to preoccupation with food. We also know that nutrition deficiencies affect cognitive function and can be associated with anxiety, depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

What are the overarching goals of nutritional counseling for patients and families affected by eating disorders? Who is qualified to provide nutritional counseling for this population?

MH: The most important goals of nutrition counseling are to correct disordered beliefs and behaviors about food and exercise; enhance motivation to restore healthy eating; and to establish a normal, carefree approach to eating and weight control.

The fundamental credential for practicing nutritionists is the RD (registered dietitian) degree. Registered Dietitians are uniquely qualified to provide medical nutrition therapy in the treatment of eating disorders. RDs are skilled in nutritional counseling, able to recognize clinical signs related to eating disorders, assist with medical monitoring, and are cognizant of psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy treatments. While other health professionals may be able to assess dietary intake and identify areas where change is needed, the expertise provided by RDs adds impact and credibility to the nutrition information and advice. Unfortunately, the therapeutic skills required to provide effective nutrition treatment are not routinely included in dietetic education programs.

Why is it important for all members of a treatment team to have a thorough understanding of nutrition and the metabolic processes involved in eating disorder treatment/recovery?

MH: When relevant scientific facts are disclosed and explained by all team members to eating-disordered patients it can motivate patients to discontinue eating-disordered thoughts and behaviors. To have the most impact, team members must have accurate information delivered in a confident manner. Enumerating the health consequences of unchecked eating-disordered behaviors indicate that providers take eating disorders seriously. It is motivating when providers can point out that most, if not all, the physical symptoms patients suffer from can either be avoided or reversed with weight restoration or cessation of purging.

What are the mains topics you will be expanding upon during your September 25th presentation for professionals in Baltimore, Maryland?

MH: I will be discussing specific nutritional approaches for patients with anorexia nervosa, bulimia, and binge-eating disorder and nutrition techniques derived from Motivational Interviewing, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, and Family Based Therapy.

Many thanks to Dr. Herrin for her time and clinical expertise in providing these responses. You can visit our blog to find out more about Dr. Herrin and the other symposium speakers.

If you would like to register to attend the September 25th symposium in Baltimore, please visit Don’t delay! Space is limited and early-bird and student discounts expire on September 17th.

You may also download and print the PROGRAM BROCHURE (pdf) or call (410) 938-4593 with any questions.

*Eating Disorders: State of the Art Treatment is approved for 7 cme/ceu credits for physicians, nurses, psychologists, counselors, social workers and registered dietitians.

Read our other 2010 Speaker Q & A Blogs here:

Cognitive Process & Remediation in Anorexia Nervosa – Q&A with James Lock, MD, PhD

Utilizing Transference & Countertransference to Deepen the Treatment of Eating Disorders – Q&A with Kathryn Zerbe, MD

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