Top 10 things a medical provider should know about eating disorders: from a patient's perspective

by Patrice Lockhart, MD

10. Don't judge a patient by his/her size. Think function, not form.

9. If a patient's family is worried about weight change, listen. 

8. "You look great! You've lost weight!" is a sure way to encourage eating disordered behaviors.

7. Recognize the impact that your own biases toward thinness affect your patients. If they feel that you treat them differently because of their weight, they are likely not going to be honest with you.

6. Do not assume that if lab values are normal, a patient's health is "fine." Look to vital signs, and especially behaviors: binge eating, restrictive eating, and purging of all kinds.

5. Purging is not just vomiting. It includes use of diet pills, laxatives, diuretics, and compulsive exercise.

4. 1 out of 3 patients with eating disorders do not get the help they need. Intervene early to make a difference.

3. If a patient presents to you for medical treatment of an eating disorder, see them often. This let's patients know you take them seriously.

2.If there is not progress in a patient's wellbeing, refer to a higher level of care quickly. It is not adequate care to let a patient continue in dangerous behaviors.

1.Screen for eating disorders as you would for substance abuse, sexual activity, and other general health issues. In our culture, you will be surprised at how much pressure there is that leads to eating behaviors.