Monthly Archives: December 2014

Only Rich White Girls Get Eating Disorders

The road to recovery leads to beautyI tend to shy away from talking about what I do for a living when meeting someone in social situations like at parties or on an airplane. The phrase “I am a psychotherapist specializing in the treatment of eating disorders,” is met with either awkward silence, or uncomfortable reactions such as, “I wish I had an eating disorder, but I could never stop eating…” or someone telling me in detail about their friend/college roommate/friend’s daughter’s eating disorder… or other conversations that are potentially difficult to get into at a party. But this week, at a Holiday Party, when I told someone what I did, he responded, “Oh so you talk to selfish snotty rich white girls all day long…”  Ugh. I sat for a moment to think about whether or not I would be willing to continue my conversation and decided against it. I said to him, “that’s actually really not accurate…”  and excused myself.

But I began to think about that stereotype, that eating disorders only touched a certain demographic. And the truth is that eating disorders transcend race, age and gender.  Unfortunately though, the stereotype remains for a variety of reasons. First off, because of the stereotype, men and women who do have eating disorders who don’t fall into the category or white, young, female, or rich might have trouble identifying that they have an eating disorder. They might also feel that it’s not okay for them to go to treatment because they won’t fit in or because they are not the typical patients.

But lots and lots of people suffer with eating disorders. Because we believe that our bodies are our external manifestation of what is going on inside, that our bodies tell the world who we are. And for some dumb reason, society has decided that what makes us good is being skinny. And so when someone feels bad or insecure about him or herself, he or she tries to change their body, and usually to make it smaller, because they believe that they will then be worthy or be treated better or be allowed to go out into the world. And often this plan backfires. They diet and diet and diet and disordered eating ensues. And then they cease to be out in the world. They stop doing what they were meant to be doing. They don’t dance or sing or preach or write poetry or teach aerobics or teach literature or go to Africa or go to medical school because they feel that they are not good enough. They feel that they don’t belong. They feel that they can only participate in the world once they lose the weight that they need to lose. And then the world misses out on them. The world misses out on all those amazing men and women out there because they don’t think they are good enough. They become embroiled in a power struggle with their jeans, with their diet plan, their treadmill and with food and don’t leave that cage.  And we miss out on them. We miss all the joy and learning they could have brought. We miss the gifts that they were meant to share. We miss the fun we could have had with them. We miss the smiles on our children’s faces for being around them. We miss out on all that.

And that is why I treat eating disorders. Because the world should be a better place and you should be in the world. I want to help you get out of the cage of despair and into the world of joy, life, expansion and happiness. Who knows, you could cure cancer! You could make peace in the Middle East. You could save a child from a burning building. Or you could simply go swimming with the dolphins in Hawaii and have fun because it’s okay for you to be in a bathing suit. It’s okay for you to be out in the world.

Happy Holidays to you.

Have a Safe and Wonderful Holiday.

Going Home For the Holidays When you Have an Eating Disorder

dealing with binge eating disorder during christmasIn my first semester of graduate school, right before we left for Thanksgiving break, one of my professors asked who was headed home for the break. Most of us raised our hands. “Well,” he said, “I don’t care how much therapy you’ve had, I don’t care how much you meditate, I don’t care how much healing you’ve done, when you go home, you are going to be that same twelve-year old kid that you used to be. Same family of origin issues, same role in your family… so be prepared and expect it when it happens.” Well. I think that was a little harsh, but there is some wisdom in it. When I think about family systems, I imagine a giant machine with gears that all work together to create one fluid movement. This is what happens in families, we all have an agreed upon role. If one person were to change, it would gum up the works and the machine would begin to move differently… not necessarily worse, just differently. And not everyone has agreed to change so we wind up just back in our old fixed gear position, no matter how many changes we’ve made. Being back at my childhood home, I noticed some phantom urges. It was weird. Out of nowhere, I noticed very old thought patterns just popping into my head, like, “when everyone goes to sleep, I will turn the television on and sit by myself and eat…” but it wasn’t an overwhelming urge, nor was it attached to desire. It was just like passing old junk that went through my mind because I was back in the same physical place that I was when I acted out with food more than twenty years ago. It did not feel as though it was anchored to anything and it did not feel threatening or scary. It was just an old thought triggered by being in an old situation with the same old smells and sights and people and feelings. The phenomena of phantom limbs is when someone feels pain in a limb that has been amputated. This was the same thing- feeling a pain that had no attachments or groundings. In this time of travel and family, you might find yourself having lots of old urges coming up again and again. It’s okay. This is to be expected. Ask yourself, “is this a present day urge or is this old material presenting itself.” It’s like this, let’s say you went home and found your seventh grade diary and started reading through it. You come to the part about your big crush– the boy who sat next to you in sixth period. You read about how he ignored you or never noticed you and how you felt so sad and rejected and how more than anything you just wanted him to notice you. When you read that, you might notice some old feelings of pain and longing come up, but you wouldn’t feel the actually desire to be with this boy. That’s because the feeling no longer exists, it’s just old material. When you go home, you are confronted by a lot of old material that triggers old feelings. Remind yourself, “this feels really real, but it’s old, it’s no longer a valid truth, this isn’t relevant to today’s circumstances…” You might go home and feel like a twelve year old, but you won’t actually be a twelve year old. You are an intact adult who can handle the difficult emotions, even if they are difficult. Remember to breath and tell yourself that just because the old energy is coming back, you can still bring in the new energy just by breathing it in and remembering that it is there for you.