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Cookery lessons aid recovery from eating disorders

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Giving cookery classes to patients with eating disorders can significantly improve ability and motivation to recover, according to pioneering research by a trust in London.

The study, by staff at South West London and St George’s Mental Health NHS Trust, identified long-term benefits from providing meal preparation training, including meal planning, shopping, cooking and supported eating.

The St George’s Eating Disorders Service runs a meal cookery group for all adult day and inpatients who want to recover from their illness.

For the first time the effectiveness of the group has been measured and it has been shown to significantly increase the ability and motivation of participants, as well as improving eating habits.

The service’s head of occupational therapy Laura Lock said: “Patients are involved in menu planning, shopping, meal preparation and eating activities with support from a qualified occupational therapist. Clients are also encouraged to eat out in public places such as restaurants and cafes and practice eating meals such as take-aways, barbecues and buffet meals.”

She added: “Participants were assessed at their first, tenth and final sessions of the meal cookery group, plus one year later, and the results indicate that it is effective at all stages. Most importantly, one year later participants’ mean body weight suggests that their eating had considerably improved.”

The findings were presented at a College of Occupational Therapists conference held at Springfield University Hospital in south London earlier this month, and are due to published in the European Eating Disorders Review.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Was there a control group who didn't attend cookery lessons/ meal prep? Was the intervention provided to all clients or only those who wanted to attend (aka were already motivated to -more than half the battle) or only those above a certain BMI? Were other treatments occurring at the same time? I would presume so, meaning the ability to say how much effect occurred because of this intervention is limited. Research in anorexia nervosa is very difficult because of the ethical issues of witholding any intervention for a control group. I'm not saying I disagree with the story, but I think the reporting of this story is misleading, suggesting cookery lessons alone would lead to recovery in eating disorders.

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