Why I Hated My Nutritionist's Self-Care Question While in ED Recovery


Recovery has been hard. Really hard. And it’s not the type of thing I feel like I can talk about all the time. I have a supportive husband and friends/family, but at some point I’m tired of saying, “eating stuff, or my weight, or eating disorder stuff” when someone asks me what’s going on in my mind. Sometimes I just want to say, “everything is fine.” As exhausting as it can be to be inside my own head, I worry about my husband; I worry it’s too much for him. I want him to be with someone who is happy all the time and who is not burdened by issues and so many feelings. As a therapist, I know that person doesn’t really exist. Everyone has feelings. Some people are just better at unhealthily hiding them. I (fortunately/unfortunately at times) am a bad hider of feelings.

Speaking of hard stuff… going to my nutritionist has been the hardest part of this for me so far. I’m not very far in, six months or so, but I have cried every single time I’ve attended a nutrition appointment. This deeply surprised me. As a therapist, and someone who has attended therapy for many years, I know it can be commonplace to cry in therapy. I expect for others to cry in therapy, and I expect I will cry at times. When I started meeting with my nutritionist, I believed all we would talk about was food, diet, exercise, health. And… this is what we talk about. Who knew that food, diet, exercise and health were so loaded and so damn emotional? Maybe they aren’t for people who have normal eating habits and patterns, but for someone like me, it felt/feels very, very emotional.

When I started meeting with her, it became apparent I did not do self-care very well. She asked me what I did for fun, what I did to nurture and take care of myself. I hated when people asked me these questions. I had some generic responses ready: exercise, taking baths, napping, watching TV, but nothing that really felt fun or special or enjoyable or thrilling. My nutritionist was not surprised by this; she told me it can be common for people with eating-related issues to not have hobbies or nurture themselves when they are solely and constantly focused on food, weight, numbers, anxieties, insecurities, fears. This was me. I used to do things, I think? I don’t really remember if I did or not. If I did, it has certainly been a while.

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If you or someone you know has an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorders Association helpline: 800-931-2237.

My nutritionist asked me why I hated this self-care question so much. When she asked, I broke down. I knew why. I didn’t believe that a bigger, heavier me deserved to have self-care or be nurtured. To me, only skinnier, well-behaved, accomplished, restrictive, determined me was allowed to be nurtured. In my mind, self-care was a reward — getting my nails done was allowed if I lost those remaining 3 pounds. But getting my nails done now? After gaining 10? No way. I didn’t deserve that. I didn’t deserve anything. All I was doing was fattening myself up. All of that work has gone down the drain. Now, I know this is Ed talking. For those of you who haven’t read Jenni Schaeffer’s “Goodbye Ed, Hello Me” or “Life Without Ed,” you know what I’m talking about. “Ed” is our eating disorder; it is that inside voice that tells us we are not worth the epsom salt bubble bath unless we leave the potatoes on the plate. Ed is the one who tells us if we had only lost more weight, we would’ve been more accepted. Ed is the one who tells us “eat that last piece of pizza, you’ve already ruined your diet.” I had been listening to Ed, and Ed felt like me. When you’ve been a certain way for so long and have had these thoughts for so long, how do you know who is Ed and who is me?

Well y’all, I’m finding out. And I know, today, six months later, that heavier me can have an epsom bath if I want. And it may sound small, but for me, it was everything.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

Thinkstock photo by Central ITAlliance

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