RAVES in Eating Disorder Recovery: Eating Disorder Nutritionists
RAVES IN EATING DISORDER RECOVERY
RAVES is an evidence-informed framework that guides the nutritional management of eating disorders and disordered eating. Put simply, it’s a tool in a clinician’s toolkit to help people begin moving towards a more positive, healthy relationship to food.
RAVES was born in 2006 when Australian Dietitian Shane Jeffrey, APD wanted a simple way to communicate what exactly “recovery” from eating disorders would look like. Keyly, it gives insight to the road ahead, which builds a trust between clinician and patient/client that there is a path they are following.
The acronym RAVES stands for:
R - Regularity
A - Adequacy
V - Variety
E - Eating Socially
S - Spontaneity
These five principles inform the key principles that guide eating disorder nutrition management, with a focus on supporting a positive relationship to food. RAVES is unique as it values and supports people to become intuitive with their food choices, over time.
The hope is that people don’t just recover from their eating disorder, but also develop a relationship to food that feels right for them - as EDRD Marci Evans describes it, “your own food, body, and exercise philosophy.”
RAVES and other treatments
The five principles of RAVES align well with the objectives of evidence-based eating disorder treatments including CBT-e and FBT. In fact, Shane Jeffery’s RAVES framework is included in therapists training in Australia to help understanding of nutrition management of eating disorders.
The principles of RAVES are also very well-aligned with the Non-Diet Approach, which includes Intuitive Eating and weight-inclusive care. RAVES is non-prescriptive, person-centred, and has no emphasis on weight.
PHASE 1 of RAVES
Principle 1. Regularity
Regular eating is usually the first step in eating disorder and disordered eating recovery; it provides the foundation to a normal relationship to food. Regular eating for most people involves eating 5-6 times per day, e.g. 3 meals and 2-3 snacks. Depending on your nutrition needs (e.g. if you need to weight restore) your eating disorder nutritionist or dietitian may support you with a food plan, to meet your needs. The importance of the Regularity includes:
A foundation to re-integrating food and eating into everyday life
Establishes what “normal” eating looks like
Assists in reducing binge eating episodes
Supports metabolic improvements
Supports reduction of digestive disorder symptoms
Helps maintain blood glucose levels
Helps to “bring your brain back online” so there is the brain power for other aspects of treatment, like therapy
Principle 2. Adequacy
Adequate eating supports the broader goals of nutrition and wellbeing - it ensures enough food is being consumed, enough of each food group, and enough food to support medical and nutritional rehabilitation (e.g. weight restoration.) The importance of Adequacy includes:
Sufficient food intake to support nutritional needs
It allows space to start exploring food beliefs and rules, when appropriate
PHASE 2 of RAVES
Principle 3. Variety
The Variety principle, combined with Regular and Adequate eating, starts to improve those with eating disorders and disordered eating’s quality of life. It lays the ground for “normal” activities involving food, for example eating with others and picking up food on the go. The importance of Variety includes:
Introduces a greater variety in food choices
Explores food rules and beliefs - the idea that food is “just food” is important here
Challenging the eating disorder views from the healthy self views
Exploring trust and permission with food
Relearning what foods taste good
Develops a hope for recovery - there is a glimmer of hope that you will gain a healthy relationship to food…
Principle 4. Eating Socially
Those with eating disorders and disordered eating are often isolated and have lack of time spent with others, especially where food and eating are involved. The Eating Socially principle involves establishing social connectedness and confidence around eating in day to day life. The importance of Eating Socially includes:
Getting back “into” life, rather than being on the side-lines of life e.g. socialising with people
Developing trust around food that’s prepared by other people
Principle 5. Spontaneity
A disordered relationship to food includes rigidity, rule-based thinking, all or nothing thinking, and often striving for “perfection.” A more intuitive, healthy relationship to food includes flexibility with food and eating. This principle adds in a new framework, Intuitive Eating which is essentially a self-care and nourishment framework encouraging trust in one’s body. The importance of Spontaneity includes:
Adapting to the day to day variation and variety of food environment, i.e. being a realistic with food: some days with food will be different
Begins to bring confidence and trust in the bodies natural hunger and fullness signals, which are usually not trusted and not used in those with eating disorders
More connection to the body and less time being preoccupied with food and eating
Ultimately, coming into a more natural and intuitive way of being around food...
PHASE 3 of RAVES
What comes after RAVES?
The final part of RAVES actually isn’t “RAVES” at all - you might have noticed we’ve run out of principles. Phase 3 of RAVES is Intuitive Eating - RAVES is often said to be a precursor to Intuitive Eating. RAVES hopes to bring eating back to basics, it’s the unlearning stage that brings eating back to “normal.”
Intuitive Eating and RAVES
I often meet clients who ask “why can’t I go straight to Intuitive Eating?” and the answer is pretty simple. If you have an eating disorder or disordered eating, it’s really difficult to tune into your body signals like Intuitive Eating encourages. That means a more structured approach like RAVES is needed before beginning to listen to your body. As you can see, RAVES is linked with Intuitive Eating - RAVES is like the building the foundation and structure of a house, and Intuitive Eating is like doors, windows, and furniture.
A summary of RAVES
Phase 1: Regularity & Adequacy
Priorities nutrition rehabilitation, and medical stability
The foundations of the work - you need a good base before you move forward
Phase 2: Variety, Eating Socially & Spontaneity
Where a lot of “true” recovery happens:
Starting to enjoy food
Improved quality of life
Social engagement and reconnection
Starting to reconnect with internal body signals like hunger and fullness
Increasing trust in your food and body
Phase 3: Intuitive Eating
Sustainable eating pattern that follows no rules, compensations, or food guilt
Eating to nourish your body, but also honour your taste buds
Food is a part of life, but not a huge part
Implementing the Intuitive Eating framework… An introduction to Intuitive Eating can be found here.
I really hope this summary of RAVES was helpful to understand a bit more about what the road looks like in the food/nutrition side of eating disorder recovery. I welcome any questions if you have them, and I’m available for a free chat to find out if I might be able to help you heal your relationship to food.