Video-chat apps aim to make grocery shopping easier for people with eating disorders
For people living with or recovering from eating disorders, the grocery store can be an intimidating place. Being surrounded by nothing but food, many proclaiming they are “low-carb” or “low-fat”, can be overwhelming and cause intense anxiety, even years after recovering from a clinical eating disorder.
Thankfully, a new form of telemedicine is aiming to help by providing on-the-go video-chat with nutritional counselors while shopping for food.
The apps provide a form of exposure therapy that allows people to face their triggers or anxieties by gradually introducing them to feared stimuli.
“The eating disorder treatment world has adapted exposure therapy to help people face their food fears. Grocery store therapy can be beneficial by allowing individuals to confront their anxieties with the support of a trusted health-care provider,” Kelsey Latimer told Juli Fraga of the Chicago Tribune.
Latimer is a clinical psychologist at the Center for Discovery, a treatment facility for eating disorders in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.
In the past, some dieticians and counselors would provide similar forms of exposure therapy by accompanying individuals with eating disorders to the store. However, this type of treatment was relatively rare, and practically impossible to access for individuals living in rural areas.
Anecdotal evidence from patients and medical professionals suggest telemedicine exposure therapy could potentially make a highly-useful but hard to access form of therapy into a widely used treatment for eating disorders. But, there has been relatively little research into the recent practice’s effectiveness.
One of the most notable recent studies on the subject, presented at the International Conference on Eating Disorders in April, included just 34 participants.
In the study, clinical psychologist and eating disorders researcher at Stanford University connected 34 participants with individual and group therapists, as well as nutritionists, using a similar video conference platform.
“Our initial results show a clinically significant reduction in eating disorder symptoms,” Robinson said. She added that future research will examine long-term effectiveness.