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Table 3 American Psychiatric Association (APA) guidelines for anorexia nervosa

From: Nutritional rehabilitation in anorexia nervosa: review of the literature and implications for treatment

Nutritional Rehabilitation  
The goals of nutritional rehabilitation for seriously underweight patients are to restore weight, normalize eating patterns, achieve normal perceptions of hunger and satiety, and correct biological and psychological sequelae of malnutrition. I
In working to achieve target weights, the treatment plan should also establish expected rates of controlled weight gain. Clinical consensus suggests that realistic targets are 2–3 pounds (lb)/week for hospitalized patients and 0.5-1 lb/week for individuals in outpatient programs. II
Registered dietitians can help patients choose their own meals and can provide a structured meal plan that ensures nutritional adequacy and that none of the major food groups are avoided. I
It is important to encourage patients with anorexia nervosa to expand their food choices to minimize the severely restricted range of foods initially acceptable to them. II
Caloric intake levels should usually start at 30–40 kilocalories/kilogram (kcal/kg) per day (approximately 1,000-1,600 kcal/day). During the weight gain phase, intake may have to be advanced progressively to as high as 70–100 kcal/kg per day for some patients; many male patients require a very large number of calories to gain weight. II
Patients who require much lower caloric intakes or are suspected of artificially increasing their weight by fluid loading should be weighed in the morning after they have voided and are wearing only a gown; their fluid intake should also be carefully monitored. I
Urine specimens obtained at the time of a patient's weigh-in may need to be assessed for specific gravity to help ascertain the extent to which the measured weight reflects excessive water intake. I
Regular monitoring of serum potassium levels is recommended in patients who are persistent vomiters. I
Weight gain results in improvements in most of the physiological and psychological complications of semistarvation. I
It is important to warn patients about the following aspects of early recovery: I
As they start to recover and feel their bodies getting larger, especially as they approach frightening, magical numbers on the scale that represent phobic weights, they may experience a resurgence of anxious and depressive symptoms, irritability, and sometimes suicidal thoughts. These mood symptoms, non-food-related obsessional thoughts, and compulsive behaviors, although often not eradicated, usually decrease with sustained weight gain and weight maintenance. Initial refeeding may be associated with mild transient fluid retention, but patients who abruptly stop taking laxatives or diuretics may experience marked rebound fluid retention for several weeks. As weight gain progresses, many patients also develop acne and breast tenderness and become unhappy and demoralized about resulting changes in body shape. Patients may experience abdominal pain and bloating with meals from the delayed gastric emptying that accompanies malnutrition. These symptoms may respond to pro-motility agents. III
When life-preserving nutrition must be provided to a patient who refuses to eat, nasogastric feeding is preferable to intravenous feeding. I
  1. Legend:
  2. I: Recommended with substantial clinical confidence; II: Recommended with moderate clinical confidence; III: May be recommended on the basis of individual circumstances.