Obesity and Eating Disorder Treatment in Medicine

Obesity treatment is an increasingly important field in public health. Many posts in this blog have explained the intersection between obesity and eating disorder treatment although there is little practical collaboration. The fields have very little overlap in research and clinical work despite a significant need for the two to work together. 

The obesity branch of medicine focuses on understanding overall metabolism through a biological framework. Research elucidates chemical pathways in order to produce medications to control weight. Patient education revolves around nutrition and lifestyle choices. Bariatric surgery is always an option when the general medical approach is ineffective. 

Eating disorder treatment does not focus on biology and medications since that treatment is minimally effective at best for recovery. Instead the clinical approach uses a psychological model to approach meal plans and food support to normalize eating. Psychotherapy helps identify emotional triggers that lead to eating disorder symptoms and allows patients to more easily adhere to normalized eating and cope with stresses in different ways. 

It's typical that these two disparate branches of medicine do not see how complementary the models could be. Chronic eating disorders cause significant damage to metabolism. Obesity research and medications can often help normalize metabolism faster, something critical for patents early in recovery after a long illness. Similarly, many patients seeking help for obesity need to better understand the interaction between food and their emotional states to have better outcomes in an attempt to regain health. 

It behooves both clinical worlds to see each other as collaborators to help the growing population who suffer from these illnesses. An increasingly coordinated understanding of the complex effect of abundance of foods and the onslaught of high fat, high sugar and processed foods in our diet will increase the overall health of our population.

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