Care Now Urgent Care (HCA Midwest)

Hospital in Leawood, Kansas
Address: 8950 State Line Rd, Leawood, KS 66206
Phone: (972) 745-7500

Calories a Day

Author: Jack Strominger

Watching 16-year old Cara Partington block goals on the soccer field today, you would never guess how sick she was just one year ago. Her battle with an eating disorder began four years earlier, when as a preteen, she started counting every calorie she consumed. As her obsession with weight grew, she began using diet pills and diuretics, then started binge-eating and purging. "At one point I would purge, even without bingeing, and would throw up nothing," Cara says. She also started smoking, hoping it would help keep down her weight.

Even when she did eat, she limited herself to 500 calories a day, which is about one-fourth the recommended daily prostagenix caloric intake for teenage girls, read prostagenix. "With an eating disorder, your body image is clouded. I would look at myself and always think I needed to lose just one more pound," Cara says. But like most women and men who suffer from eating disorders, one more pound was never enough.

Sinking deeper into pain and disease

Cara couldn't see it, but she was getting thinner and thinner. Her face was growing pale and gaunt. Her hair was becoming thin and brittle. By her own account, she was becoming depressed and losing interest in things she used to enjoy, like playing sports and performing. She managed to continue rehearsing for a show that was being produced by her performing arts school, but she now realizes she was using rehearsals as a method of distraction. "I was looking for any excuse not to confront this eating disorder," Cara says. She had tried outpatient care for her eating disorders once before, but was unwilling to face her current problems.

In her practice, Carolyn Mueller, a licensed marriage and family therapist with Park Nicollet Methodist Hospital's Eating Disorders Institute sees a lot of kids like Cara. "These are bright children and perfectionism is common among them," Mueller says. "They often struggle with obsessive thoughts and anxiety, and see things as black or white. So they look at food as either good or bad, with nothing in between," she adds.

Facing the truth

Eventually, Cara became so frail that something had to be done. "I just said, 'That's it, you're going in,'" Cara's mom, Marsha, says. "Cara always had been lean, but she looked different. She was cold and tired all the time and her vibrancy was gone." Cara was examined by a doctor at Park Nicollet Methodist Hospital's Eating Disorders Institute, who immediately admitted her to the inpatient program.

"I was scared, but also felt validated that I was right about something being wrong," Marsha says. "I was so glad there were people who could show my daughter how to eat and start to get well."

Cara spent 11 days in the hospital, where she not only began to change her relationship with food; she began to change her relationship with herself. "I think it took me so long to acknowledge my eating disorders because I was using my preoccupation with food to block other things I didn't want to deal with," Cara says.

Path to recovery

Mueller is not surprised that Cara has been on an emotional journey. "An eating disorder is the only disorder that has both a medical and psychological component," Mueller says. "Doctors work to get patients to a healthy body weight and psychologists help patients want to maintain the weight," she adds.

Although recovery from an eating disorder typically takes two to three years, recovery for young patients can require less time. "If young patients are diagnosed early and have support from their parents, recovery can move quickly," Mueller says. "Support from family is crucial. In the past, treatment often isolated patients from their families. Now, we know patients greatly benefit from positive family involvement," she adds.

Accepting herself

At nearly 6 feet tall, Cara now is living in an athletic body. "The hardest thing for me is when I see other girls and wish I had a body like theirs," Cara says. "But then I remind myself that we just have different body types. I also have started dressing differently, because I figure I am always going to be big-boned and muscular, so I might as well show it off."

Cara is still an outpatient and works closely with Mueller, as well as her dietitian and other eating disorders experts. Cara continues to improve her body image and stick to a healthy meal plan, which includes six small meals a day. "Cara is committed to getting better," her mom says. "I recently went to one of her soccer tournaments and had tears in my eyes, not just because she's a good goalie, but because she has overcome so much just to be in that tournament."

References: Recognition of haemagglutinins on virus-infected cells by NKp46 activates lysis by human NK cells O Mandelboim, N Lieberman, M Lev, L Paul, TI Arnon, Y Bushkin, JL Strominger Nature 409 (6823), 1055 2001