Coronavirus Chronicles — It’s Hard to Maintain

Nobody knows yet how this crisis is going to play out. But we do know a few things about human nature. One of them is that in a fraught situation, a person will grab for a solution that “worked” in the past — even if that “working” represented the epitome of dysfunction. As Dr. Lauren Muhlheim more elegantly phrases the concept,

During times of stress, people automatically tend to revert to their past coping strategies. For those with eating disorders, these often include eating disorder behaviors.

For instance, people will stock up on food, which in these times is not a totally irrational response. But confronted with skimpily-stocked grocery shelves, they might easily cross the line into extreme acquisition mode and become capital-H Hoarders. And then, with the home cupboards bursting and the coronavirus headlines ratcheting up the tension, it might make a lot of sense to go ahead and eat the food. Because what if you die next week? It would be really irresponsible to let all those good provisions to go to waste.

A certain number of problem eaters have found a way to prevent themselves from going off the deep end. That methodology involved making peace with an adequate but narrow range of foods. But nowadays, people cannot always get the specific food items they want and/or need, or believe they need. The unavailability of those acceptable items could be a dangerous trigger. It might sound farfetched, but as professionals know, no two patients have the exact same eating disorder, down to the last detail.

Snares are everywhere

In the course of struggling with food issues, someone who never before experienced an alcohol or drug problem could develop one. Conversely, someone who spends every ounce of mental and emotional energy to deal with a longstanding alcohol or drug problem could now face a blossoming eating disorder.

A lot of people’s exercise opportunities have been curtailed, and for many of them, that translates to an acute sense of deprivation. Even if weight control is not the primary objective of regular exercise, an awful lot of folks depend on it for mood adjustment and a general sense of accomplishment and well-being. Journalist Gabby Landsverk spoke with Melainie Rogers, executive director of Balance Eating Disorder Treatment Center:

Rogers said potential warnings signs of excessive anxiety include irritability, feelings of being overwhelmed, or constant feelings of being on the verge of tears.

“Try to objectively gauge what’s going on in your thoughts, if you’re having obsessive thoughts about weight, food, exercise,” she said. “If you’re weighing yourself more frequently, for example, that can be a barometer of your internal state.”

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Eating Disorders During the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic,”, 03/30/20
Image by Isaac Mao/CC BY 2.0

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OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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