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What My Therapist Said to Me After Eating Disorder Treatment

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Editor's Note

If you live with an eating disorder, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “NEDA” to 741741.

After 10 grueling weeks of eating disorder treatment, I anxiously walked into my therapist’s office building, unsure of what to expect.

Would we spend the entire session rehashing my treatment experiences? Talking about my eating disorder thoughts? Would she notice my weight gain? Would she care?

Fifteen minutes later, after listening to an incessant stream of classical violin float through the waiting room, I was no less nervous about my first appointment post-treatment. As my anxiety peaked, my therapist finally entered the room and beckoned me into her office.

No sooner had the door closed behind us and I showered the resident therapy dog in loving attention did my therapist enthusiastically speak the words that left me spiraling.

“You look gorgeous! You look so healthy!”

Immediately, my mind reeled and my eating disorder screamed:

She’s really saying she can see your weight gain. You obviously look too big for your body type, and does she think you looked ugly before treatment?

I spent the remainder of the session barely registering my therapist’s words, fighting to reassure myself that nourished bodies truly are beautiful at any size and my therapist simply wanted to express I finally looked alive.

Eventually, tormented by the dissonance in my mind, I blurted out my thoughts. I shared that my therapist’s comment left me feeling insecure about my appearance. I explained that for many people with eating disorders, hearing comments like “you look healthy” or “you look beautiful” often reinforces a fear of weight gain. And I requested she not share appearance-related comments with me until I’m strong enough in my recovery to accept them as they are.

She nodded in understanding, and together, we unpacked my disordered connection between health, weight gain and fear. I was secretly glad that my first major post-treatment trigger presented itself within the secure walls of the therapy office instead of an environment that would make coping with my disordered thoughts more difficult.

Last week, as we delved into yet another round of eating disorder thoughts, I impulsively proclaimed, “I look healthy, right?” Upon realizing my question walked a dangerous line, I immediately looked over at my therapist.

Her silent, soft smile in response to my sudden inquiry spoke volumes. In that moment, I realized I wasn’t going to receive an answer, but that was just fine. My therapist made it clear that she finally understood how to cope with my disordered thoughts, and she knew that “healthy” or not, I am so much more than my appearance.

Photo by Lindsay Ferris on Reshot

Originally published: August 14, 2019
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