I 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.