Patients are people, not just a disease.

April 26, 2016

Self-Paced Course: Non-Diet Academy


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A Certified Eating Disorders Registered Dietitian (CEDRD) with a master's degree in dietetics & nutrition. My passion is helping you find peace with food - and within yourself.

Meet Katy

This is why I refer to my patients as "clients" because to me the term client humanizes them.  It sounds less pathological.  I will never refer to a client as a "bulimic" or "anorexic" or "binge eater."  That would be such a demeaning way to reduce their identity to their illness.  

Our healthcare system (more accurate would be "diseasecare") increasingly looks at patients as their disease to be treated via an algorithm of tests, procedures, and medications.  It is about treating the disease as quickly and cheaply as possible.  Most people don't interact with their doctor unless they are being treated for a malady.  Very little preventative medicine takes place.  Ironic when you consider that many (if not most) of the diseases that doctors are treating could be prevented through lifestyle interventions.  The point we are missing is that the absence of disease does not equate to health.

Health is a complex web including the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual components of a person.  You cannot look at one aspect in a vacuum without acknowledging and factoring in the others.  This is abundantly clear to me every day that I work with individuals struggling with eating disorders.

Part of what makes eating disorder treatment and recovery so difficult is the complexity of the illness that, while categorized as a psychological illness in the DSM-V, it very much is medical and spiritual in nature too.  I actually see this as a blessing for those who seek treatment for an eating disorder.  If they showed up at their doctor's office with diabetes they would be treated solely by the medical model.  There would be no discussion about their emotional health and no referral to therapy.  The doctor and patient would be increasingly frustrated if the patient was "noncompliant" and the disease progressed.  But with an eating disorder the standard treatment includes a doctor, therapist and dietitian.  The client's physical, emotional, and spiritual health are all addressed.  Many of my clients say that they are grateful for their eating disorder because it helped them heal and grow as a whole person – body, mind and spirit – a gift that most people never receive.

What if the healthcare system started looking at the whole person?  How many more people would find true health?  This won't happen as long as we keep training medical students to become doctors who treat their patients as a disease.  

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