The Day My Dietician Gave Me Life-Saving Chili Soup
Sitting in my dietician’s office I looked out the window at the overcast, gray Ohio day, thinking about how badly I wanted to bolt out of her office and go to the nearest park. Drowning in anxiety over not following my meal plan the week prior and trying harder than ever to see my weight she had written down, scratched out, and hidden under another paper, I wanted nothing more than to go running to burn calories. My right leg bounced up and down anxiously as my dietician looked over my minuscule meal log, concern filling her eyes. My stomach dropped when she looked up and asked what I had eaten before I arrived. Do I lie? Do I tell her I’ve eaten when, really, I haven’t had more than a few cups of coffee? I looked down at my legs, thoughts about their thickness racing through my head as I struggled to find an answer. When she asked if I had eaten anything at all, I slowly shook my head no, surrendering to the doom that would surely follow. My dietician’s eyes were full of compassion, “Oh, Lane…” she said softly, “What are you doing between now and your appointment with your therapist?” Tears filled my eyes as I admitted my intention to go running before my therapy session. Without hesitation, she pulled a can of Amy’s Organic Chili from a drawer in her cabinet and asked me to stay at her office to eat during the 90-minute break between appointments. Tears rolled down my cheeks as I refused at first but resigned myself to eating instead of running. Standing up, she surrounded me with a hug before heating up the chili.
The day I was given the chili soup was in early November 2014, the time when I finally hit rock bottom with the eating disorder that had been controlling my life for nearly 16 years. After I ate a little of the chili, I drove to my therapist’s office across town where she was waiting for me with a phone number to a nearby treatment center. My dietician called my therapist prior to my arrival to fill her in on the event that had transpired earlier in the day. I could not leave my therapist’s office until I had called the treatment center to schedule an intake assessment. After my therapist spent nearly the entire session coaxing me and even dialing the number for me, I finally spoke to the treatment center, choking back more tears.
If you or someone you know has an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorders Association helpline: 800-931-2237.
At the time I believed that cold November day was the worst day of my life. I was broken, angry, and hurting emotionally from the intervention by the two people who had done all they could to help me up to that point. On the drive home following both appointments I felt betrayed and completely worthless. If my dietician and therapist couldn’t help me, what could a treatment center do for me? In that moment I hated the soup and the decision not to go for a run between sessions, even though my body was weak and struggling to function properly. I thought I needed that run because now I would be forced to stop running and eat more. What I didn’t realize was the soup I had been given was life-changing and life-saving.
A month later, after my intake assessment and treatment center orientation, I began intensive treatment to nourish my body, mind, and spirit. Slowly, I began to realize the day I was given soup wasn’t the worst day of my life but one of the best. My dietician saw someone in me I had not yet seen — a woman with big dreams, lots of potential, and a beautiful life to live. When I felt I was the most worthless person in the world, the hug with which my dietician had surrounded me proved I was worthy of everything even when I did not see it. I was worthy of the food she was going to set before me and of the recovery journey on which I was about to embark. My life was more than numbers on a scale, and I deserved better than what I was giving myself. My dietician did not call my therapist to hurt me but to finally push me toward the help I needed most. She did not give me chili soup to make me fat but to help nourish my body and my mind to make the right decision to call the treatment center, allowing me to take the first and hardest steps toward true and sustained recovery.
On January 31, 2015, I pushed open the heavy wooden doors to the treatment center and walked out for the last time with a sure and confident stride and on a dedicated path toward complete recovery. While I was shaking inside, afraid I could not remain on the recovery road, I returned to regular appointments with my dietician and a new appreciation for what she did that day in November by giving me chili soup. She chose to help save me through nourishment and caring when I felt I deserved neither. The soup, a seemingly small gesture at the time, ended up being the pivotal, life-changing moment in my journey toward recovery and realizing I am worthy of a beautiful life.
Today I am walking with two feet firmly in recovery and living my life with the potential my dietician saw in me all along. There have been slips, stumbles, and setbacks along the way, but with each one I picked myself up and pressed onward, armed with the knowledge that I am worthy of living this life rather than existing in it. My dietician and I have kept in touch since I completed outpatient treatment, still celebrating the recovery victories as they come. Every so often I think back on that November day with fondness and a deep appreciation for the compassionate, caring professional who did not give up on me. Chili soup will forever be a symbol of the life-saving grace my dietician showed me when I needed it most. My life is beautiful and I am worthy of food, love, and recovery.
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Thinkstock photo Mariha kitchen