Medical care providers have been conditioned to identify individuals who are above average weight. Like broken records, we tell our patients, “Eat fewer calories. Exercise more.”
Obesity has serious complications, including diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease, which can lead to shorter life spans. And it is increasingly affecting teens and adolescents, which is setting up young people to live a majority of their lives with chronic health conditions that, in the past, didn’t develop until later in life.
But there’s an unintended consequence of focusing so intently on reducing the risk of obesity that we often overlook: eating disorders.
Eating disorders can arise when people are pushed to lose weight but not given the proper tools and support to do so safely. Eating disorders are among the deadliest psychiatric illnesses, second only to opioid addiction. While obesity may contribute to death later on, an eating disorder can kill right