Why is Nutrition Important to Recovery? With Dr. Anna Flores

It’s Eating Disorder Awareness Week, and we sat down with Sanford Behavioral Health’s Doctor of Clinical Nutrition, Anna Flores, to talk about the role of nutrition in recovery. At Sanford, we incorporate nutrition education and dietician-guided meals into all our programs. We place great importance on the healing power of nutrition and supporting a healthy relationship with food and the body. At Sanford, all foods fit, meaning that all foods, no matter how society labels them, are okay to eat and include in our daily lives. Thanks to Dr. Flores for imparting the following information about how food can impact recovery from a mental health condition.


chart listing importance of food in recovery

Why is nutrition important to recovery?

Dr. Anna Flores – Our nutritional priorities are adequacy, balance, variety, flexibility, and enjoyment. We encourage clients to explore each of these while receiving treatment at Sanford and beyond in their recovery. Every day at Sanford, our dietary team strives to provide each individual with adequate, balanced nutrition from a variety of foods while integrating enjoyment and real-life circumstances to support skills of flexibility and resilience. 


Nutrition is Paramount to Healing

Nutrition is paramount to the healing process of recovery, not just for the body but for the mind and spirit as well. Behavioral health conditions such as eating disorders and substance use disorders force the body into a maladaptive state that is detrimental to overall health, well-being, and, ultimately, survival. Additionally, the negative changes to our body systems and functions due to substance use and eating disorders also drive nutritional deficiencies as a result.


The nutrients lost due to substance use and eating disorders need to be repleted. Otherwise, the healing process will be incomplete, especially in the brain. A malnourished body struggles to remain alert, oriented, and present during treatment. Additionally, a malnourished brain is not able to process all of the mental and emotional work essential to lasting recovery. Consistent energy from food throughout the day is a straightforward way to address these challenges. Ensuring loved ones get enough food and are eating a variety of foods is a great way to support their recovery. 



Sanford Comprehensive Treatment for Eating Disorders

Dr. Anna Flores – Food is paramount in the healing process,so at Sanford Comprehensive Treatment for Eating Disorders, weprovide individualized care to meet the unique nutritional needs of each client.  As stated, our nutritional priorities are adequacy, balance, variety, flexibility, and enjoyment. In that regard, we help our clients unlearn disordered thinking, such as labeling foods as “good, bad, healthy, or unhealthy.”


We also assist them in viewing food as being morally neutral. They identify their food rules, rituals, and behaviors, and Sanford programs help individuals begin to push back against the distorted rules and maladaptive coping mechanisms of their eating disorders. They will challenge the foods their eating disorder has labeled as uncomfortable or off-limits. This restorative process helps create a more resilient and flexible viewpoint around food choices and eating situations. Most importantly, we support each individual in our care to become a more active and full participant in their life. 


Sanford Behavioral Health is licensed and accredited as an addiction, eating disorder, and co-occurring mental health treatment facility, serving all of Michigan and beyond. Each of Sanford’s facilities in Greater Grand Rapids is carefully and diligently crafted to create a welcoming and comforting environment. Sanford is led by a psychiatrist-led team of medical, clinical, and support personnel providing medication-assisted, evidenced-based treatment to residential, outpatient, and telehealth patients. For more information, visit www.sanfordbehavioralhealth.com.