BY: ASHLEIGH PARTIN
Good morning Simply Sisters family! Big thanks to Sarah and Ashley for letting me take over the blog today. I love the honest community cultivated here, and I am stoked to share with y’all a little bit about where my heart is and how it relates to YOU!
Let me introduce myself: My name is Ashleigh Partin, and I am a Registered Dietitian living and working in west Texas. Before your eyes get hung up on the word “diet” in my title and you assume you know what I’m here to say, take a deep breath and give me a chance to prove you wrong! I own a private practice, Ashleigh Partin Nutrition, where I specialize in nutrition counseling for eating disorders and disordered eating. I proudly denounce all things diet, and I work with my clients to relearn how to use their bodies’ internal cues to guide their eating. I firmly believe all foods (yes, ALL foods) can fit into a healthy life.
This week, February 26th through March 2nd, is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. I could talk all day long about eating disorders (just ask my husband), but I have a few specific myths that I want to bust with you guys today. Let’s jump in!
MYTH #1: I am not sick/thin/small enough to deserve help.
TRUTH: Do not be held captive by this lie!! First of all, NO ONE can identify an eating disorder simply by looking at a person. When I say eating disorder (I’m going to start using ED to abbreviate), your mind probably goes straight to a very thin, emaciated white teenage female. While this CAN be an image of someone with an ED, it is only the tip of the iceberg. EDs occur in petite frames and broad frames, small bodies and large bodies, men and women. And even outside of the diagnosable EDs, there exists a whole spectrum of disordered eating that needs to be addressed as well. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but some signs of disordered eating may include skipping meals, omitting foods/food groups without medical reason, strict food rules, hiding food, exercising as repentance for eating, or even (get ready for this one) an obsession with “perfect” or “clean” eating. To put it simply, if guilt and shame over food or body image are affecting your life, YOU DESERVE HELP!
MYTH #2: This is normal.
TRUTH: Excuse me while I leap through my computer to grab you by the shoulders and say DO NOT BELIEVE THIS SHAM! Diet culture has normalized so many unhealthy, dangerous behaviors, and just the thought of this gets my blood boiling (not just a mild simmer, more like full on ready-to-pour-over-your-ramen-boiling). Food is intended to be enjoyed (why do you think we have taste buds?!) and used for fuel. Food is NOT intended to be a source of shame. When we let disordered eating take over our lives, we miss out on meaningful experiences. You skip a dinner out with friends, afraid of having too many “cheat meals”. The memories of your son’s first birthday party are overshadowed by your anxiety about being around cake. Moral of the story: Living in a prison of food guilt is not normal, and there are people (like me!) trained to help you overcome your struggles!
MYTH #3: Anything worth doing is difficult. It’ll be okay as long as I lose weight.
TRUTH: Hark the herald angels singing NO NO NO NO NO. EDs are incredibly dangerous. Some of the common health consequences of EDs include fatigue, hair loss, poor skin quality, muscle wasting, and heart failure. EDs actually have the highest fatality rate of ANY psychiatric illness. Let that sink in. Whether you are in a full-blown ED or somewhere on the spectrum of disordered eating, seek out help! Losing weight or fitting into a dress may seem worth the world to you now, but I promise, they are NOT worth your health or your life. Do I sound too harsh? Are you thinking that I probably need to take a chill pill and not be so hard on diets? I beg to differ. Want to know the #1 precursor to an ED? Any guesses? DIETING.
MYTH #4: If I abandon my rules, my weight will spiral out of control.
TRUTH: If you have been living with restrictive food rules and forcing your body to a lower weight than is appropriate for you, then yes, giving up your food rules may include weight gain. In other cases, abandoning food rules may lead to weight loss or no weight change. I like to explain to my clients that my goal is to help them find their “natural body size”, the size they are able to comfortably maintain. This means the weight where your body rests (usually a 10-15 pound range – scientific term is set-point weight) when you eat and move intuitively. Your body is wicked smart, and when you start trusting it, you will find a far more peaceful, complete form of health than dieting could ever provide you.
I hope that this post challenges you to think about your own food behaviors. If you identify with any of the myths above, please do not feel foolish. When it comes to figuring out how to eat and take care of your body, I think a quote by Maya Angelou says it perfectly: “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” If it is time for you to start doing better, here are a few resources that you might find helpful:
CONNECT WITH ASHLEY
*Located in Midland, TX, and taking long-distance virtual clients on a case-by-case basis. Please call for more information.
National Eating Disorders Association
Helpline: (800) 931-2237
Find an Eating Disorder Dietitian in your area: http://www.eddietitians.com/treatment-finder/
*Disclaimer: This post is intended for the public and is not meant to replace professional treatment. The goal of this post is to increase awareness of eating disorders and provide resources for struggling individuals to seek appropriate care.