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The 'Harmless' Comment My Therapist Made About My Undiagnosed Eating Disorder

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It all started out as a diet. I had just finished my first year of college and had wanted to start losing weight. Innocent enough, everyone did it. I picked up some diet book with “extreme” and “quick” in the title and quickly spiraled out of control. Fast forward a year later I had lost a significant amount of weight, was obsessed with exercise and having regular panic attacks, usually related to what I was/wasn’t eating.

I finally gathered up enough courage to tell my parents what was going on, and ended up in a therapist’s office talking about my recent panic attacks. It was my first time ever in therapy, and I was so desperate for some relief from the misery. Towards the end of the session, I casually brought up the concerns I was starting to have with my dieting. She asked me just one question about my eating, which was, “Well, how many calories are you eating?”

When I responded with the number, she kind of shook her head, and told me, “Oh, that’s not too bad. You’re not really restricting enough to be concerned about.”

The session ended with her telling me to completely stop counting calories (after a year plus of obsessive calorie counting) and to just try to eat “normally.” This lead to another year of out of control eating disorder behaviors, including bingeing, going vegan and finally back to restriction.

It took me almost two years from the time I started dieting obsessively to the time I finally got an eating disorder diagnosis. I had to eventually start advocating for myself that the constant thoughts I was having about food and my body didn’t feel normal. I had to express, even when I was uncomfortable doing so, how miserable I was feeling all the time because of these thoughts. And even still, when I got the diagnosis, I didn’t believe it. It was really hard for me to accept that I could possibly be sick, because again, it was “no big deal.”

Her response truly invalidated my concerns, lead to a delay in my diagnosis and perpetrated the belief that I wasn’t “sick enough” to get any help for my eating disorder. When I tell therapists about this experience now, I am continually met with shock and anger. People can’t believe a trained professional completely disregarded like that.

This goes to show that just because someone seems “healthy” or is just “dieting” or trying to be “healthy,” they can be really struggling, especially if they reach out for help. It’s important that we validate all struggles, because what may not be a “big deal” to some can be the difference between getting life-saving diagnoses and treatment.

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Originally published: September 21, 2018
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