Not One More | Within Health
I studied my mother’s face as the doctor explained the “problem” with my body. He handed us each a shiny pamphlet with fruits and vegetables on the cover detailing the “simple way” to change me: eat less and move more. Even at twelve I knew what it meant to be told I needed to lose weight. The shame on my mother’s face, that may or may not have even been there, and the humiliation I felt was something I promised I would never do to myself again. That day started my decade long tangle with an eating disorder…. Not one more.
I sat in a small conference room packed with people. It was my first eating disorder conference as a clinician. At the end of the presentation a man rose as he began to speak. “I am an orthopedic surgeon. I have blamed ob*sity for so many of my patient’s problems. I told them to lose weight at all costs. But now I have a daughter with an eating disorder and I wish I could go back. Eating disorders are deadly, and zap the opportunity for joy, peace, and quality of life. The painful consequences of weight stigma, and embedded shame, far surpasses those of ob*sity.” Tears ran down his face as he described the pain and fear he was experiencing and the regret he felt as a professional who had lacked awareness of eating disorders…. Not one more.
The notification lit up on my screen. I looked down to read a message from a woman. She shared she had bariatric surgery years ago and had gained most of the weight back. “I can’t get my eating under control,” she wrote. She blamed herself, her lack of willpower, her lack of character, her lack of discipline, her lack of worth, as the reason why she was struggling. She didn’t understand her body’s normal protective response to starvation and malnutrition. She discounted the medical price she had paid for the bariatric surgery, including a nutritional deficiency she had struggled with as a result, that had caused her extreme fatigue, which she mislabeled as her own “laziness”. She was translating the short-sightedness, and lack of support from the medical community into her own personal moral failings. It was a narrative I had heard so many times. The search to find worthiness and love-ability through body size that turned up empty… Not one more.
Tears welled in my eyes as I read the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations for weight loss interventions for children as young as twelve. I felt the pain of the years of struggle I endured that initiated from my own experience with a doctor’s guidance. I felt the pain of the hundreds of families I’ve worked with whose lives have been devastated by an eating disorder. I felt the pain for the parents who will be forced to make decisions for their child’s welfare that may invite a deadly mental health diagnosis with irreversible medical and emotional consequences. I felt the pain of doubling down on interventions for our most vulnerable population. Interventions that have NOT proven their effectiveness, sustainability or safety. Interventions that have shown us that they are harmful to adults. I felt the pain of a career of bearing witness to these effects and partnering with patients on the long journey back to wholeness. The pain of knowing the tsunami of work that awaits me and my colleagues at Within Health from these recommendations despite loving nothing more than to no longer be necessary… Not one more.
Today I consider myself lucky to work at Within Health, a virtual care program for eating disorders staffed by people who stand with me in saying “Not one more.” My colleagues and I are actively fighting every day against the damaging effects of weight stigma in our society. So many of us sadly have stories like the ones I’ve shared above. Stories that motivate us to be more compassionate to the patients we work with, and undo the damage of the medical community that came before us. At Within, we are your personal eating disorder team, and we operate from a place of radical self-love, and trauma-informed healing. Always remember, recovery is possible, and help is available.
Rebecca Brumm, LPC, CEDS-S is passionate about healing the mind/body connection and the programming she creates reflects this philosophy. Though she has helped clients through a variety of challenges in her practice as a therapist since 2005, Rebecca specializes in helping people work on improving their body image, and overcoming eating disorders. Her expertise in this area comes from a variety of perspectives. Rebecca served as the clinical director for a prestigious nationally recognized eating disorder treatment center, and has been providing eating disorder treatment since 2008. She is a certified intuitive eating counselor, a Health At Every Size (HAES) practitioner, and she has a national health presenter for Cigna Health. For more information about Within Health, please visit: withinhealth.com.