The first time I called a dietitian to make an appointment for Kate she had been showing strong eating disorder symptoms for close to six months.
She’d lost a noticeable amount of weight and had already cut a significant number of food types from her diet. Even still, we had no idea what we were dealing with. It’s a sure sign of our culture’s critical condition that this kind of behaviour is seen as normal, even healthy, and goes ignored every day.
Neither of us had ever been to see a dietitian and the voicemail I left after that first call reflected that. It might actually have been funny if the situation wasn’t so grave and my misguided view so common. I told the dietitian we were looking for a one-off visit to get some advice—and maybe a diet plan—to help Kate maintain her figure in the lead up to our wedding.
Kate was 10 kilograms below her healthy weight and we wanted a dietitian to tell us how to keep her there. It’s unbelievable to me how crazy this seems now, but at the time we didn’t know any better (this widespread misunderstanding of the role of dietitians is part of the reason we’re so committed to raising awareness of what they do here at mindfoodly).
A few weeks later, sitting in the quiet waiting room—surrounded by posters and pamphlets about anorexia nervosa, bulimia and body dysmorphic disorder—we were nervous. Kate didn’t have an eating disorder. Were we in the right place?
It quickly became clear that we were. While we wanted to see an expert so they could tell us what to eat and what to avoid, our dietitian was more interested in helping us understand the gravity of our situation and just how desperately Kate needed to act.
She told us stories of women and girls losing their periods, being hospitalised and even dying as a result of eating disorders. We were shocked when so many of the symptoms of disordered eating matched Kate’s recent behaviour. Slowly, it all started to make sense.
What was initially planned as a one-off visit has now become regular appointments where Kate is able to share her fears, ask all her questions and receive reliable information from a qualified source, based on her unique circumstances (as opposed to the unhelpful and often dangerous one-size-fits-all advice pushed by some social media ‘health gurus’).
We’ve come to realise eating disorders love to make you believe you can handle things on your own because that attitude allows the ED to remain in control. They thrive on your isolation, and they’ll do whatever they can to keep you from getting help. That’s even more reason to visit your GP, an accredited dietitian or a psychologist and show the ED who’s boss!
Admitting you need help doesn’t make you weak, it makes you human. We are meant to be in community with each other. We’re stronger when we stand together.
Sadly, it took us a long time to appreciate this. Kate’s eating disorder, and the secrecy and shame that surrounded it, meant we both became isolated—from our friends, our family, from everyone—for a long time. I wasn’t prepared for the effect this would have on me as Kate’s carer. And I didn’t realise until it was almost too late…
This post is part of an ongoing series in which Matt shares his experience caring for Kate. Stay tuned for more confessions of a clueless carer.