Friday, May 29, 2015

The truth about the rumors about me.

Yes, I'm direct.
Today I heard reference to me and how I practice, shared by a patient, spoken by a therapist. "She's extreme", the therapist reportedly said, referring, no doubt to my reaction to my new patient's eating disorder behaviors and her severely restrictive intake. I bypassed the "let's just wait and see" approach after a mere couple of visits, after noting the wac-a-mole pattern to her "recovery". Stop the laxatives, increase the purging, increase the food, double the exercise. And there weren't the necessary supports at home to help implement change and ensure her safety and her progress. 

It's not the first time strong descriptives have been used about me and my management of eating disorders. I've been called  "tough" and "not easy". It's a wonder anyone would choose to come to see me. I sound so scary, no?

So let me fess up. It's all true. 

My stand against eating disorder behaviors is extreme-- extremely intolerant. Not of the patient, but of the disordered behaviors. Purging and laxative abuse and severe calorie restriction has extreme consequences. Yes, eating disorders can and will kill, regardless of BMI. And in my view, there's no other stand to take than an extreme one, a zero tolerance for allowing the eating disorder to suck away the life of you or your loved one. 

A dietitian who tells it like it is and sets limits
isn't all that bad.

That doesn't mean my recommendations are extreme, although one's eating disorder may believe otherwise. 

Being told to stop exercising, yes stop exercising, when you consume too few calories to prevent damage from exercise can feel extreme.But so is the muscle wasting that results from starvation when your body tries to produce the fuel to sustain your workout or sport. And, the consequential reduction in bone density, the osteopenia and osteoporosis and resulting fractures. And the impact on hormone production, and mood, and energy level. Yes, the impact of eating disorders is extreme. 

When indicated, I will shake things up. I'll recommend moving from rigidity around foods and nutrients, but I'll guide patients on moving forward. I'll expect patients to be medically stable and low risk before supporting exercise. And if additional support is needed, I'll direct patients to a higher level of care when necessary.

Do families and those with eating disorders really want a provider who simply says what they'd like to hear? Someone who agrees that there's no need for a higher level of care if you don't want to go? Someone who speaks words the eating disorder prefers, shares messages that keeps the anxiety low, and placates those parents in denial about the eating disorder reality--even when things aren't going well? Colluding with the eating disorder is not therapeutic support and patients and their families deserve better.  So call me tough. 

It's my hope, though, that tough isn't equated with uncompassionate or insensitive. Because if that's the rumor something has to change. As I've written before, there needs to be support and compassion, and a sense that you and your disorder are well understood to begin to trust that recovery is possible.

Yes, I'd love to hear your thoughts! Thanks for reading. See more below:

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

All about the numbers.

If you share my frustration please share this post with those that need to see it.

Dear Insurance Company,

I wish you could see what I see. I wish you could know how much work it requires to motivate an adult living with an eating disorder to trust enough to agree to enter a program.

Everything is against their entering treatment—taking time off from work if their job will even allow it, getting coverage for their kids, telling people they know when their eating disorder is often their own secret, and enduring the shame of acknowledging that they are actually struggling with this disease—the shame of feeling that they ought to be over this by now. And the shame that comes with not fitting into society’s skewed perspective of what someone with an eating disorder looks like—because even those of normal weight and BMI can live silently with an eating disorder.

Image what it’s like to then have your patient dumped from program. Sound harsh? Well that’s how it feels, both to them and to us as their providers. A mere 2 weeks in a residential program (following years living with their disorder) and they’re required to step down, told they don’t need to stay there any longer, that it will no longer be covered.  And the patient? She is not happy at all. That very reluctant patient is finally finding her voice and stating loud and clear that she desperately needs to remain there. Her ED thoughts are so loud that the controlled environment of resi is the only thing that is resulting in the positive outcomes observed at program. So she is discharged because she has done well.

The premature move to partial day program, PHP sets her up for failure. And because her behaviors return, she is again discharged. Yes, now released because she’s not doing well enough, without a plan to move her to the more appropriate higher level of care. Can you see the absurdity?

Some numbers matter

We certainly do need to look at numbers—but not necessarily the ones that insurers like you are assessing. Weight may tell less than most other measures. Believe it or not, a weight may be completely in the normal BMI range (or even high) and an individual may be struggling with an eating disorder.  This is anything but rare, I’ll tell you. And weight may change little as eating increases significantly as metabolic rate increases in patients with anorexia. Patterns of restrictive eating followed by binging and even purging may have little impact on weight, or may support weight gain. So focusing on this number is truly misdirected.

These numbers matter

How about the EDE-Q score which assesses eating behaviors and disordered thoughts? It’s a quantitative test to measure change in recovery. Pulse, particularly lying, sitting and standing—that’s a number worth assessing. And self- reported number of skipped meals? Or frequency of purges? Or binges? Or number of hours or compulsive exercise? And of course there’s caloric intake relative to need. These are numbers that may tell you something about a patient. These numbers are worth counting.

I realize there are not unlimited funds for care. But perhaps listening to the professionals who can really assess their eating disorder patients—aside from relying on simple weight and BMI—might save you more money in the long run. You’ll collect no premiums from our patients who lose their eating disorder battle.