Anger is not an emotion I gravitate towards or experience often. This morning while I was working at a coffee shop, I overheard a conversation. I felt like I was going to explode! I wanted to lean over and say, “You are misinformed!”.
When I work in public, the conversations around me are nice background noises. At times, I listen, and I am mostly curious. Then, I go back to work. Today, I was fully invested in the conversation next to me between a man and woman. It was none of my business, but I kept listening.
It started out casual. I’m assuming two friends who hadn’t caught up in awhile. They were chatting about their families and significant others. I went back to work. The woman mentioned she is a wellness coach. I couldn't help but listen to the next part of the conversation. The man began talking about his daughter’s diagnosis of depression. How they are trying everything to help her, and she is taking medication. I didn’t catch all of the next part. Then, the wellness coach then said, “It’s like when people know their diagnosis they start overthinking, and it feeds into the disorder, like with eating disorders.” I thought I was going to have to put my hand over my mouth. She went on to talk about the medication his daughter is on and said, “If your daughter is taking medication for depression, her body is being pumped with drugs like a pharmacy…” I mean…the anger is about to explode from my body.
To make matters worse, yes it gets worse. She begins going into detail about each gym she belongs to and the different minutia of each kind of workout she is doing. She said she was consistent for weeks. Then, she got sick and was so “nervous about not working out and gaining weight because she has to be careful because she used to have an eating disorder”.
These are the moments in life where I really want to say something or casually drop my business card. Diet culture influences from health and wellness professionals, who are not trained in eating disorders or mental health can do so much harm. People who are struggling with mental health are trying their best sifting through shame and seeking help.
As you can imagine, I left fired up and super angry. I quickly passed judgment on the woman in my head and thought, “You probably still HAVE an eating disorder if you are terrified of gaining weight because you missed some workouts!”. After calming down and having the thought, I had to think back on my own journey. There were times when I was in stable recovery and still afraid to gain weight. And, when my body changed into a larger body, I swore I was doing something wrong in my recovery. My meal plan was wrong or I wasn’t moving enough? I, too, was misinformed.
This post could be two separate blogs. Here’s what I want to say. If you are a professional and you are not trained in eating disorders, diet culture, fatphobia, or mental health, please don’t share your personal opinions, what you saw on TikTok, or one article you read many years ago.
If you are in your eating disorder or in recovery, please know that the journey isn’t linear. There are many ups and downs. You might be where this woman was in her journey, or where I have been too. Wherever you are, it’s ok! There are many opinions from professionals on what is the best thing for you. Make sure your provider is trained in eating disorder recovery and diet culture in addition to formal therapeutic training. Make sure you’ve done your own work around diet culture and body image.
No matter what the intention of the conversation I overheard today, I was judging and wasn’t being curious. Gaining weight in recovery is really difficult. Gaining weight and doing all the recovery things like following a meal plan, cutting back on the time and intensity of movement, not engaging in behaviors, reaching out for support, and trusting our teams is really difficult work. Loving or just accepting your new body is difficult. We can speak our own truth of our eating disorder journey and recovery, however, that doesn’t mean it aligns with eating disorder informed RDs, therapists, psychiatrists, and doctors. Our experience if not challenged or vetted can cause harm to others, as in the case with this wellness coach.
Let’s take responsibility and do our own work on ourselves, explore trained professionals as our providers, and find researched-based, scientific journal articles that are mental health and trauma informed and not information found on TikTok or The Today Show or from untrained doctors and professionals.
Everyone is trying their best. We are doing what we know and have learned.
At some point, we have all been misinformed.