Dear medical assistant,

Thank you for being friendly. That’s really the only compliment I have for you after our brief encounter last week.

know that I shouldn’t have looked at my weight. As we walked back to the room it was all I could think about. I prayed that you would ask me to list my meds or symptoms or something, anything to distract me. Instead, you asked what my weight was because you had forgotten. I told you, and you immediately said you didn’t believe me. Instead of trusting that I really did pay attention, you walked out to recheck the scale.

You came back and told me what I weighed before (almost 2 years ago now) and the huge difference between then and now. At that point I truly wanted to cry. I didn’t need to be reminded of any of those numbers. I am controlled by numbers like those every single day.

I wish that was the end of the story, but unfortunately, it’s not. I breathed a little sigh of relief as you left, because those were a difficult 10 minutes. I pulled out my phone to distract when I heard you talking in the hallway. Loudly. About my weight. You named the two numbers and mentioned the difference between them. I don’t know who you were sharing this with or why, I just know it wasn’t my doctor.

I’ll admit, part of this problem could have been prevented by me. If I had done the right thing (recovery-wise), the first half could have been avoided. I would instead choose to turn around on the scale and ask to not be told the number because I have a history of an eating disorder. Because that didn’t happen, there was no caution around speaking the weight out loud.

The rest of this is on you, though. I don’t understand how you felt your comments would be helpful. Yes, my weight has changed. Yes, my doctor should know that (btw she did not mention it AT ALL). Did you really need to have that discussion with me? I don’t think so.

What really bothered me about our interaction is that it was just a one-sided conversation. There was no asking about anything that has changed between this visit and last, whether I was aware of the weight shift, etc. It didn’t seem like you wanted to know why my weight was so different. I, like many people with eating disorders, wasn’t about to give that information up unless you actually looked in my chart and asked specifically.

I’m not going to blame you for our private conversation. Yes, things could be better, but I’m used to this by now. Having an eating disorder means that weight will always be one of my least favorite parts of any appointment. I am always terrified of the comments that may come. I’ve had many people handle things worse than you did, and some better. I expect it at this point. It didn’t shake me horribly, but what came after did.

It makes me extremely uncomfortable knowing that any of the doctors or nurses (even patients!) out in the hallway could have heard your comments about my weight. The fact that they may not know my personal information doesn’t make this feel any better.

You shared something highly personal even if it didn’t include identifying information. My weight is not taken so you can provide your opinion about it and share that with the world. It doesn’t matter what the difference is, higher or lower, because making a huge deal about it isn’t okay.

I hope that you will realize that you are projecting your voice significantly when you talk. Maybe you simply don’t notice it, which is understandable. It’s hard to judge how loudly you’re speaking sometimes, I suppose. (That still doesn’t excuse talking about my weight out there in the first place, but moving on…)

I hope that you will aim to approach the topic of weight with some more caution. It’s okay to ask some questions when they are helpful medically. It isn’t bad for every patient to be told their weight (but respecting those who aren’t interested is important too). These type of measurements can be important to overall assessments at times but don’t need to be the focus of your responsibilities.

I hope that you will choose to keep your comments about a patient between you and their care providers. If there was one thing I want to teach you from this, it would be to stop and think. If you are announcing something about a patient, who is the audience? This includes anyone within earshot because they can tune in as well. Who is meant to be the audience? Who needs to know this information? How can you keep the information as confidential as possible? These things are truly HIPAA 1.0. It can be pretty annoying to go through all the training, but these regulations are essential when it comes to patient safety and trust. I honestly do not trust you now, and even finding comfort in the practice is tough. I am now terrified that this could happen again or that another office I go to will do the same thing.

Making a huge deal out of my weight, talking extensively about the changes, using a judgmental tone, and the excessive sharing of it made a simple trip to the doctor a very uncomfortable experience. I hope that if I ever return to this practice you don’t check me in. If it does happen, however, I’ll know what to expect and advocate for myself better than I did this time.

Dear Meijer,

Yesterday afternoon, I found myself perusing your store. This is nothing out of the ordinary. It’s rare for me to go a week without shopping at one of my two favorite locations. I truly enjoy spending time there and consider you my #1 go-to for groceries and just about anything else. Yesterday started off normally, until I walked by the kitchen area. I noticed some adorable looking jars and other miscellaneous containers. I just glanced over, until my eye caught one word: calorie. I seem to have laser precision in noticing anything to do with food, exercise, calories, and weight loss. Naturally, I went over to investigate further why this jar had calorie written on it. What I saw makes me sick to my stomach

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“Calories (noun): tiny creatures that live in your closet and sew your clothes a little bit tighter every night”

I’m sure the fact that you chose to stock this in your stores was harmless. A few people probably got some chuckles out of the definition here. Maybe there were some “oh yes, they’re terrible little things” or “I have to watch myself around them.” No matter how innocent or light-hearted the choice to include this was, it is not a laughing matter.

Perhaps most people won’t be ill-affected by this jar. I would guess that maybe a couple even notice it each day. What I want you to see is someone who would be hurt by it. This woman comes into your store and finds this jar. She doesn’t laugh at it, but instead believes the negative view of calories. She buys the jar and puts her favorite treat, chocolate chip cookies, inside. Every time she wants a cookie, the words on the jar deter her. She stares at that jar every single day, long after the treats inside have gone stale. All she can picture when she thinks of some of her favorite foods are tiny monsters who make her balloon out and gain weight.

The woman above may be hypothetical, but trust me there are many out there with similar thought patterns. I, for one, don’t need a jar to remind me of all the thoughts that takeover my mind much of the day. I don’t need anything to make my views of self, calories, and good any worse than it already is.

Calories are nothing but a unit of energy, just like an amp, volt, or watt. They cannot be inherently bad or good. They are a way to measure the energy in food we eat and activities we do. Why then, does this jar you sell give them such a negative view?

The answer is diet culture. Our society is immensely focused on size, weight, shape, good and bad foods, diets, cleanses, on and on. It causes us to be uncomfortable in our bodies and with ourselves. By stocking this jar in your stores, you are perpetuating diet culture and silently stating that thin is the best way to be.

I am not mad at you specifically, but I am angry at the culture that says this is okay. I know that you’ll probably never see my letter, but if you do, please consider what I’ve laid out here. Stocking this and similar items isn’t a joke. You will never know how many it will negatively affect. I urge you to really sit down and think before another item like this one is chosen for your stores.

Sincerely,

Emily

Dear younger me,

There is absolutely nothing wrong with you. God made you perfectly imperfect in His image. I know ow hard that is to grasp. All around you, people make comments about their body and other’s, dieting, self-hatred, and just in general tearing themselves down. While it may be the norm to talk negatively about your body, I challenge you to find the positives. This is your home and will be for your entire life. Treating it kindly is essential. Do not get distracted by the world of thin-ideal, diet culture, and discontentment with self. Every moment you spend dwelling on it is getting you closer to self-destructive patterns I truly pray you can avoid. Thin is not everything. You can be thin and get all the compliments in the world but be absolutely miserable. Diet culture is trying to tell you that you will always need fixing. If you only lose X pounds, follow this plan, or get fit, you’ll have everything and (not) a bag of chips. The closer you get to the thin ideal and your goal weight/size, the closer you will be to dying. Wasting away physically, like you wish for, cannot come without also becoming a shell of who you once were. Nothing will make that worth it. Instead, I challenge you to accept and appreciate your body. Loving it is very difficult in our culture, so that isn’t truly realistic yet. That’s okay! When you work hard to accept and appreciate your body, it will lead to treating it kindly and, one day, hopefully, beginning to love it as is. This is all probably hard to imagine or accept right now. I know how caught up you are in the thin ideal, diet culture, and what you’ll learn are ED thoughts and behaviors. Right now, you still have the control and that gives me hope. You can pull yourself out of this. Trust in your supports and believe God’s promises are true. He doesn’t make anything other than beautiful in His eyes. I’m rooting for you!

Love, Emily


This letter was last week’s assignment for a special group I’ve attended called The Body Project. Tonight was the last night and I’ve absolutely loved it. It’s helped me to think more about how our culture influences us, but more importantly what I can do to help change it. Also, my old therapist S led it so that’s a huge plus ❤ I think that every single woman and girl out there would benefit from this group so they can replace lies with truth and begin to fight back against these beliefs

A letter to my psychiatrist

I may have shaken your hand yesterday and thanked you for what you’ve done the past 2 years, but I promise that was not genuine. I did not just search for a new psychiatrist because of insurance (although that was part of the problem). I cannot be your patient anymore because you are a threat to my recovery.

The nurse knows to weigh me backwards and turn off the scale right away. It is in my chart, loud and clear (I assume). They won’t even place me in the exam rooms with normal digital scales. The office wants to protect me from the harm seeing my weight can cause. My real doctor doesn’t even mention it. She trusts that my dietitian knows and I don’t need to. You have the exact same information as they do but apparently just don’t care.

You may think that your words don’t hurt, because you follow or precede with something like “oh, I forgot I’m not supposed to talk to your weight.” That doesn’t change the fact that you said I have gained weight since last spring and that I can surely feel it in my waist and how clothes fit.

You probably don’t remember what happened last October, just about a year ago. I do, and it will probably stick with me forever. I came in for a routine, first of the school year med check and left with my BMI (and subsequently my weight, because computers and calculators are a thing). To top it off, you added a little tip: I could lose 5-10 pounds and that would be better. What came after was relapse and eventually IOP. You didn’t directly cause it. That doesn’t mean the seeds you planted were harmless.

I may weigh more than last spring. I may be weight restored. I may look normal. I am not normal. I JUST came out of an entire summer of intensive eating disorder treatment. I fought like hell to make progress there, but my recovery is far from perfect. I’m not to the point where seeing or even speaking about my weight is okay.

I don’t need you to tell me I gained weight. I don’t need you to talk about how I must feel my body is different and how my clothes fit differently. They do and I know. I struggle every day to live with that fact.

Even now, a day and a half later and after talking in group/therapy about it, your words linger. They play over again and again. The eating disorder ate it up and now doesn’t want me to eat. I am struggling. I wish it wasn’t the case and I wish I was stronger, but I was not prepared for this, not fully.

I know I’m not the first, but I want to be the last eating disorder patient that you ever hurt like this. I found out today that you’ve been saying these type of things for years and still haven’t changed. How could you not trust a therapist or dietitian who work exclusively with ED patients?

I’m sorry I didn’t speak up more or sooner, but tomorrow I am. I am going to tell someone who has more pull than you do and maybe that will keep you away from more ED patients. Even if it doesn’t I will have done my part to help prevent this.

I am not going to let your words bother me anymore. They don’t deserve any power. So, here I sit, crying over my night snack. I may be overwhelmed, ashamed, disgusted, anxious, and triggered but I am also angry and fighting like hell.

Emily

Dear ex boyfriend,

You hurt me. You took advantage of me. You abused me. You made me believe I was nothing.

I was 14 when it all started, and even now, at almost 20, I’m still dealing with some of these things. None of it was okay, regardless of what you think. I didn’t deserve what you gave disguised as love.

Even with all you did, I am going to heal. I am fighting. I am strong. I am resilient.

Part of my healing is going to come from forgiving you. God has forgiven me for my sins and I am going to give you the same. I can’t hold on to all of this anger and pain anymore. So, although I don’t understand why any of this happened, I forgive you. I am not going to hold on to anything you did to me anymore.

I’m not angry or upset anymore. I am making peace with you in hopes that I can make peace with myself one day.

Emily

How I look and feel are two very (very, VERY) different things.

A month ago, I was losing fast. If I had continued for even another week longer than I did in that extreme restriction, I would have been sent inpatient immediately. The ever-growing, disordered part of me wants to be back there. It wishes I didn’t decide to fight this like hell. It craves the bones, the emptiness in my stomach and soul, the sense of power.

Above all, I want to look sick. I want to be thinner. I want my outside to match this inner struggle I face all day, every day. I feel guilty that it doesn’t because that means I am not following through with restriction and ED behaviors. I feel dirty and gross and huge. I feel like I have cheated on this ED.

I know this is irrational. I realize that being thinner wouldn’t be any better than at the weight I am now. But te thing is, my ED tricks me into thinking it would change everything. It says that I’ll love myself more, won’t cry when I look in the mirror, will feel comfortable in a swim suit. Basically, thinness = happiness. I can look back at those times at my lowest and although I remember being more comfortable with my body, I wasn’t really happy. I was too exhausted and numb and near death to truly enjoy it.

The worst part about this period is that I’ve gained some weight back and fixed my eating patterns to a degree, but I am not okay. Far from it, actually. I don’t look sick though, so certain people (cough cough my parents) assume I’m fine. I guess there are “perks” to looking sick but the one I’m really missing now is that my mom doesn’t get how much I still need therapy and support. I am completely freaking out about next fall and finding treatment at college, but she barely feels its necessary. In fact, she told me I should only go once every coul\ple weeks. She figures that since I seem to be eating fine and look normal I should be healed. The words “mental illness” don’t register. It’s hard enough that my body is changing so much faster than my mind. I just wish others would realize my struggle now as much as when I was smaller. I still need help and support and encouragement.