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A Conversation With The Author Of 'Famished: Eating Disorders And Failed Care In America'

Rebecca Lester is an associate professor of sociocultural anthropology and a licensed clinical social worker.

According to Washington University’s Rebecca Lester, eating disorders are among the most misunderstood medical conditions. For instance, she says, there’s an assumption that eating disorders are only a problem for upper-middle-class white girls — while that’s not completely off base, it’s just a sliver of the story.

In “Famished: Eating Disorders and Failed Care in America,” Lester looks closely at the impact of common misconceptions of eating disorders, as well as the way the U.S. health care system often fails to provide the types of treatment needed.

“Their ideal patient is somebody who comes in with a clearly defined problem, where there are clear interventions,” she said Tuesday on St. Louis on the Air.

“And that is often not the case for a number of psychiatric conditions, but particularly eating disorders. … It’s difficult to be in the process of recovery and be seen as a good patient when you are struggling, when you’re relapsing, when you’re not comfortable with interventions and pushing back — all of these things that are perfectly understandable in the course of treatment, but that, in the insurance company framework, renders somebody a bad patient.”

During the show, Lester also discussed her personal experience overcoming anorexia nervosa. 

Hear the conversation:

Lester is an associate professor of sociocultural anthropology and a licensed clinical social worker.

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill, Lara Hamdan and Joshua Phelps. The engineer is Aaron Doerr, and production assistance is provided by Charlie McDonald.

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Emily is the senior producer for "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.
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