Peter's story: Excessive exercise, unusual eating habits
Josey is the parent of Peter. Josey is worried because Peter seems to have become obsessed with what he is eating and has become extremely committed to his martial arts class in a way that seems excessive compared to the class expectations. Peter is running in addition to 5x/week classes and asking Josey to buy special foods for him – low fat, low sugar, low carb, high protein kinds of foods. He doesn’t really eat with the family anymore, but that’s not so unusual because they are all so busy and often not home at the same time to eat together. He’s lost a significant amount of weight, but he was at a higher weight, so Josey isn’t sure if that’s a problem, or not. Peter is talking about wanting to get “six-pack abs” and seems unhappy with his appearance. Josey has even wondered if he might be throwing up after eating and has tried to watch for behaviors that might indicate that, but so far, she isn’t sure. Peter seems withdrawn and down, but irritable and anxious when engaged in conversation about his day. Josey is worried Peter might be developing an eating disorder, but she doesn’t want to overreact. But, as Peter’s mom, she just knows in her bones that something isn’t right.
Eating disorders affect approximately 30 million people in the United States and have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. With the majority of that population using social media daily, it’s not hard to see why the use of social media can prompt or exacerbate disordered eating. With celebrities like Kim K. promoting thinspiration to “health” blogs pushing fitspiration, researchers sought to answer the question, “Does constant exposure to body image posts have a positive effect on fitness, nutrition, and making healthy choices?”
The passage of a federal mental health parity law nearly a decade ago was an important step in ensuring that people struggling with mental health issues received the insurance coverage they needed. More progress came in the form of the 21st Century Cures Act in 2016, which included the first instance of eating disorders language in legislation, clarifying that it is not acceptable to exclude eating disorder treatment—specifically residential programs—from insurance coverage.
Every day we are faced with “now or later” decisions. Should I buy that piece of clothing I want now so I can wear it right away or should I wait and hopefully get it on sale? These types of decisions involve the concept of immediate or delayed gratification. Brain research is showing that people’s tendencies in this area often end up being expressed in their eating disorder.
Eating disorder treatment can be lengthy, complicated and may even take several treatment attempts for someone to fully recover.
We know early recognition and rapid intervention is the ideal standard of care and, in many instances, increases a patient’s chance for long-term success. So it’s critical that medical providers become experts at recognizing, referring and treating patients with eating disorders.