Today, I would like to tell you the story of why I became a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist.
I’m going to start by being honest.
I have put off writing a blog post for weeks. I have blogged before and knew that I wanted to start this blog with my story. My ‘WHY’ for going into the nutrition field and offering nutrition counseling.
It’s probably not a ‘unique’ story as I know many in this profession have had similar stories. But, this is mine and I hope it helps you to understand a little more about me and to maybe even trust me with your story and your journey one day.
I started counting calories when I was 8 years old. Your eyes aren’t deceiving you, I said 8 years old. I honestly can’t say for sure what precipitated this event, other than your typical childhood bullying. Kids making comments about how you were ‘bigger’ than them or ‘fat’ or the reason why you weren’t cold is because you had ‘more insulation.’ Or maybe it was because I really hated how jeans fit me because I was bigger and I *hated* wearing anything that was even remotely constricting (still do).
Before counting calories, I would go to the local convenience store after school and grab some of my favorites: a Yoo-hoo drink & an oatmeal pie or a whatchamacallit candy bar (I’m telling my age here, but oh well). It all started innocently enough. I started looking into how many calories were in the foods I was eating. I wondered how much water I should drink a day. Eight glasses?! I would try to guzzle it all in one day, not knowing they meant eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day. Not eight 12-ounces or larger glasses that I was using.
I carried a book around with me that had all of the calorie and nutrition information for foods. I soon became an expert at knowing how many calories were in all foods and that you ‘should only have X calories per day to lose weight.’
I’m not sure when or how it got to the point that it did, but eventually I got to where I was eating less and less. Because it was nice to control something, lose weight, have clothes that fit and get compliments. But, I also didn’t know how to stop. That’s the thing about diets, right? How are you supposed to stop?
My breakfast became X. My lunch was X. I honestly don’t remember eating snacks or dinner and if I did, it wasn’t much. I would stay up late in the night doing crunches and sit ups to the point that my heart rate was up so high that I couldn’t go to sleep. (My heart rate is up right now writing this story for the world to see).
Between 4th grade and 5th grade, I lost over X pounds. That’s a lot of weight for a kid, by the way. There were some people who started asking questions and making comments about whether or not I was ‘anorexic’ and I remember getting so angry and offended.
I remember getting sick around my birthday in 5th grade and I got down to around X pounds and thinking I should probably not do this anymore. But, what were my other options? Then came the fateful day of an episode of Oprah where they were promoting awareness about Bulimia. I thought, wait, so I can just throw up the food I eat? I distinctly remember that night brushing my teeth and using my toothbrush to make myself sick. So, it began…
That was around the beginning of 6th grade. I went all through middle school like that. Exercising all the time, specifically the Billy Blanks Tae-Bo DVDs. I was an expert. I would do them for hours. I actually didn’t have a terrible middle school experience either. I just didn’t know how else to control it.
Eventually, I went to my parents with a magazine article to tell them what I was struggling with. We found an eating disorder treatment center and I went for treatment weekly. My first therapist was okay. She didn’t speak much, so we sat in silence a lot. She eventually left the center and I was put with a male therapist. I don’t believe I ever said a word during those sessions as he spent the majority of the time talking about himself… He then said I was better and could move on from the center…when in actuality I was not doing any differently. I share this part of my story to tell you this: If your therapist is not a good fit for you and you are not benefitting from your sessions with them, PLEASE find a therapist that is a better fit for you!
At this point, I was in high school. My freshman year. The worst year. I won’t go into all of the drama and details, but I will say this part. I was bullied. I was tormented on an almost daily basis by one particular person/group and their main mission seemed to be to make me hate myself & my body more than I already did. They would oink like pigs when I walked down the hall. Make loud comments any time they would come near me. And more. This was a dark time, my friends.
However, I survived, because if anything, those of us who have been through an eating disorder know this: WE ARE STRONG. Don’t let anyone tell you any different. I survived high school due to my family, my faith, my best friend, and my now husband. I know for a fact that if it weren’t for them, I would not be here. This is the part of the story where I remind you to let others in and let them help you.
Then came college. Nothing very dramatic occurred, but I delved deeper into my obsessions with the perfect foods, the perfect recipes and exercising for the perfect body. I obsessed about my calorie counts, still restricted, then binged and purged. I would often find myself at our apartment complex gym at 1:00AM working out. When it was my junior year and I moved closer to home to go to a bigger school, I hit bottom. I was eating vegan foods only. X for breakfast, a X at lunch, exercised for 2+ hours per day and then I would binge and purge at night. It was exhausting. I finally decided to reach out for help. This is the part where I refer back to my previous advice: find a therapist that works for YOU.
That’s what I did. It’s funny now because I actually requested not to have a male therapist when I did my intake work, but that’s what I ended up with and I’m so glad I did. The work I did with this therapist (and continue to do 10 years later, because maintenance is important!) is what changed my life. I did individual therapy once or twice a week and group therapy once a week. It was during this time that I truly did ‘the work.’ By the time I graduated college at 22, I was in remission/recovery. I am proud to say that I am still in remission/recovery. If you are struggling right now I want to let this be a beacon of hope fore you because you are strong. You are loved and you can love yourself.
My first degree was not in Dietetics. As you can see from my story, I was in therapy for an eating disorder and I knew better than to tempt fate by studying dietetics in that phase of my life. I took a year off and worked in another field before I came back to pursue my dietetics degree and my dream of becoming a Registered Dietitian. And I’m glad that I did. I often get asked why I have that first degree in a completely different field and I have rarely shared this story, but I think it’s important to know now.
Today, I can’t tell you the last time that I counted my daily calories. Or the last time I forced myself to workout to ‘burn off’ something that I ate. This is what practicing Intuitive Eating has helped me to do. It’s not always easy. But, it’s always worth it.
So, this is my WHY. Why I believe in wanting to help others heal from ‘diet culture’ and learn more about Intuitive Eating. Why when clients come to work with me they are so surprised at the fact that I am not the ‘food police.’ I’m not here to give you strict ‘food rules’ or dictate how you should live your life in regard to the food that you choose to eat. I am here to support you and guide you to learning about gentle nutrition and how it can help you heal your relationship with food and your body image. Life is more important than tracking every food that you eat and how many calories you burned. There’s a way to still feel good and have good health without restriction, guilt or shame. And I want to help you find that in your life because you are loved and you are important.
*Weights, calories and specific amounts of foods redacted to protect those currently in the midst of an Eating Disorder.
If you need immediate help, please call emergency services or the helpline at the National Eating Disorders Association.