The Intersection of Chronic Illness, Eating Disorders and Body Image

We have very little research that explores the impact of more rare, chronic conditions on issues of food and body image healing.

But I can tell you from both personal and professional experience, complex chronic illness takes a significant toll on both. That is why I am so passionate about educating and supporting others.

There are many effects that poorly supported and treated chronic illness can have, and here are the top ones:

  1. Erodes self and body trust
  2. Negatively impacts mental health
  3. Leaves you feeling isolated and alone
  4. Leaves you feeling gaslit by medical providers leading to questioning if your symptoms are real

But with compassionate and competent support, the above symptoms can be vastly improved.

This month I am traveling to Florida to deliver a talk for the Periodic Paralysis Association on the treatment of this lesser-known condition, periodic paralysis.

You may be thinking, “I have never even heard of this condition. Why is this information something I should read about? What does this have to do with me?

First, I’ll explain a little about this rare condition and then bring it back to YOU.

Periodic paralysis is a group of disorders where folks become temporarily paralyzed due to a variety of triggers such as certain foods or exercise.

If you’re a science geek like me, you may be interested to know that these individuals are born with mutations in the genes that encode for potassium, calcium and sodium channels. A large part of this illness is managed through diet modifications.

It’s important to note that:

  • Nutrition management is individualized, and triggers vary greatly from person to person.
  • Individuals with this condition may have to strategize their carbohydrate, sodium, and potassium intake. (More detailed information below, if you are interested.)
  • The added focus on food and body functioning can create added body image pressure.

Even if you don’t suffer from a rare chronic condition like Periodic Paralysis, your needs are also highly individual.

And if you suffer from a chronic condition and/or an eating disorder, your triggers are personal to YOU. You can’t just follow an influencer on TikTok to know what’s right for you.

chronic illness and eating disorders healing

Healing requires evidence-based information, sustainable and trustworthy solutions, and interventions which hold your mind, body, and emotions all together. These are the types of solutions that feel empowering and actually strengthen body autonomy and body image.

If you or someone you know is struggling to manage a chronic illness, don’t hesitate to reach out. I’d love to discuss how working with someone like me, can help you manage your symptoms and heal.

Now, If you want to geek out on the medical nutrition therapy for Periodic Paralysis, let me explain this some more.

There are two main types of Periodic Paralysis (PP), which are hypo or hyperkalemia.

It’s important for the patient to know what type they have because interventions are different. Triggers vary greatly from person to person, which is why an individualized approach is needed.

  • Folks who have Hypokalemic Periodic Paralysis will want to be mindful of their carbohydrate intake, limit excess sodium, and consume more potassium rich foods, when possible.
  • For those who have Hyperkalemic Periodic Paralysis, they will want to limit foods high in potassium and avoid skipping meals.

You can learn more about periodic paralysis here.

Weight Stigma in Dietetics Practice

Weight Stigma in Dietetics PracticeAs dietitians, we entered the field of nutrition to help people live healthier. It is at the forefront of the work we do. But how would you feel if you knew that your personal beliefs and attitudes were negatively impacting the health outcomes of your clients?

How would you feel if you learned that your clients’ beliefs and attitudes about themselves were also a major risk factor for poor physical, psychological, and emotional health? I would imagine that you would want to do anything in your power to improve your client’s health rather than jeopardize it.

Click here to download a copy of Marci’s  ebook, Weight Stigma in Dietetics Practice, to learn to define weight stigma, identify how it impacts your perception as a clinician, and provide concrete tools to help you combat weight stigma in your nutrition counseling work.

And please, if you are struggling with a chronic illness and/or an eating disorder, reach out and let’s put a plan together to help you stop that struggle.

Anita Dharwadkhar
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist with Marci RD Nutrition