A theory on why reporting on eating disorders is improving

I had lunch with this reporter a few years ago, and enjoy seeing her byline again on a good piece on eating disorders.

A theory on why anorexics spurn food

I note a definite trend in mainstream reporting around EDs: the science is percolating to the surface. The 'narrative' is changing**, and in a good way. I really believe parents are now far more likely to get good, authoritative information than the hopeless, disheartening, victim-blaming stories of the past.

The illness is still just as hard, and getting good treatment is still almost as hard, but at least the starting point is changing.

** Just the accompanying photograph says volumes. It is a man, it is painful, and it doesn't involve a mirror.


  1. "I really believe parents are now far more likely to get good, authoritative information than the hopeless, disheartening, victim-blaming stories of the past."

    Unfortunately, the first comment after the story goes right back to the old "anorexia is really about control" story.

  2. oh god, the comments are horrible.

  3. Erica,

    I have found that following the advice of Ken Jennings and never reading the comments section in newspapers allows me to keep my Sanity Watchers points in line.

    And those comments were particularly atrocious.

  4. It's really nice to see the news shifting.

    What they're teaching us in med school.... not so much.

    Here's a practice board question:

    A 16 y/o ballet dancer.... [physical findings of low BMI, desire to lose more weight, osteopenia, hypokalemia, lack of menstrual cycle, hypothermia] Which of the following is most likely to characterize this teen?

    -Lack of interest in food
    -Embarrassment about her appearance
    -Lack of hunger
    -Conflict with her mother
    -Poor school performance

    You can probably see where this is going.... the answer is conflict with mother.

    "Anorexia is characterized by family conflicts, particularly with the mother, normal appetite, high interest in food/cooking and good performance in school."

    A flippant remark from a prof [whose wife is anorexic] was more spot on-- for step 1, we only need to know first line treatments. So he says, well, all you need to know about treating anorexia is this, "Make them eat."

    Being a med student has made me more understanding of the stupid things doctors have said to me over the years... they're been so many moments (relating to other diseases/txs too) where I've just had to laugh, seriously? This is how they're teaching the next generation of MDs? Super.

  5. Carrie,
    I should know better, but I constantly find myself scrolling down to read the comments...it always ends badly with my blood pressure going way up and my mood plummeting down!

  6. Chylo, that's appalling. Really, really sad.

  7. it is sad.

    our nutrition class includes guest lectures from a former biggest loser contestant.

    I don't know how to change things here, as I'm not recovered & sure as hell don't want to draw attn to myself wrt eating disorders.

    In our epi class, we learned about the hormone replacement fiasco- and how easy it is for doctors to become entrenched in one way of thinking w little or no definitive data. But they continue to do it, it's a gaping whole in the education system. We're not taught cutting edge medicine, we're taught what's gonna be on the board & what's in the textbooks....

    I'm also getting my PhD, and the way information is processed & sought out there is much better. I don't know why the scientist/curious mentality is so absent in medicine

  8. It is sad, and I feel like there's nothing I can do to change it.

    I'm not fully recovered, and I sure as hell don't want to draw attention my own issues. As a medical student my opinion doesn't really hold weight anyhow. [Even though it's not so much my opinion as erm... my observation of the available data?]

    Even w/r/t the non-psych aspects of the eating disorder, there's a lot of improper medicine being practiced. [Bone stuff particularly-- oral contraceptives & bisphosphonates haven't been convincingly shown to increase bone density and they have known side effects, some which continue years after discontinuing the meds. Still, a lot of docs still automatically hand them out when a T-score drops.]

    In epidemiology they teach us how wrong the medical profession was for years about hormone replacement therapy, how everyone just thought that it helped even as the studies saying that it was harmful piled up. They use this as an example of how as future doctors we have to be aware of how our biases & anecdotal evidence will impact our viewpoints blah blah.... and then continue to teach us outdated medicine.

    Best part? Our nutrition class has a series of guest lectures from a former biggest loser contestant.

    I don't know why the facts aren't sought out here, I don't know where the arrogance comes from, or what needs to change in medicine/medical education to fix that.


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