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How an Interaction in a Shoe Store Reminded Me Why I Share My Eating Disorder Story

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My dog ate my tennis shoes, again. It was time for them to go anyway, honestly. I’d had that pair for over a year and tennis shoes are my go-to when I’m leaving the house.

I got my sister up and we went to the specialty running store across town. I can’t run right now due to chronic illness, but this store sold me the last four pairs of tennis shoes I’ve owned. They’ve seen me at my best and my worst in terms of mental and physical health, and I trust them to not be judgmental and find what I need.

The interaction I had with the woman helping me at the running store today is not one I will forget.

She answered every one of my questions about shoes, even after I said I couldn’t run right now and I wouldn’t be doing much outside of walking in them. She listened to what I wanted out of a shoe, namely a shoe that would allow me to walk as I regularly do without any correction, and found a shoe I loved.

Beyond that, though, she listened to me. She asked me about what I like to do and where I work, and we got on the topic of writing. After being asked what I write about, I made the split-second decision to share I write about being in recovery from an eating disorder. I don’t always respond with honesty — sometimes I lie — but she felt like one of those people I could tell.

My intuition about her was right.

She engaged me in conversation about the local eating disorder treatment facility, where she’s hoping to do her dietetic internship in the next year. We talked about what treatment looks like and the premise of intuitive eating.

Despite her being a personal trainer and nearly at completion of a degree in dietetics, it was the most food-positive conversation I’ve had in a long time. Not once did she say something invalidating or aggravating. Not once did she try to give suggestions for eating. It was simply two people discussing an issue that is widely under-discussed.

I’m not going to be running in my new shoes anytime soon, but I have the most comfortable pair of shoes to walk around campus in, now. Even beyond that, I have faith there are people that will understand me and not judge me because of my struggles.

Today, I was reminded there is kindness in places I don’t even know. I was reminded in order to change the conversation around mental health, we have to talk about it more often. Today, she impacted my life and reminded me you can never know what others will say unless you start the conversation to begin with.

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.

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Thinkstock photo via ThilakPiyadigama.

Originally published: May 10, 2017
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