Interview With Eating Disorder Expert
It is my belief that humanity is just getting started when it comes to understanding eating disorders. They are often defined as complex, which they are, yet I also find them simple from an energetic standpoint. To me, eating disorders are a language of their own. They say so much and from such a tender place. If we bring a loving ear and heart to the conversation, we will learn a lot about what is truly happening for the person suffering.
What Eating Disorders Do to the Mind
Eating disorders say things like:
- I am in pain but I cannot connect to it.
- I am scared but I don’t feel I should be.
- I am not enough as I am, I need to fix myself.
- I should feel and be different.
- I cannot handle this.
- I am “fine” no matter what.
- I cannot need.
- I am not allowed to speak or even own my truth.
- I am not worth helping.
- I am disgusting.
- I have to be loved and liked so I am okay.
- I am not allowed to have what I want.
- I have nothing to offer.
- I am so frustrated and angry but I have buried it.
- Things will never be any different, so what is the point?
As you can see, there is a simplicity in the statements, in the energetic of what is happening within someone’s body and mind. I have a lot of my own viewpoints on eating disorders and the underlying contributing factors, but I felt it would be beneficial to interview someone who can also provide insight from a therapeutic perspective. I have had my own journey, which still continues to unfold, with food and my body, so I deeply understand the internal world of someone who is struggling. The only reason I mention this is because I made some strong statements above and it’s important that readers understand I am coming from personal experience. I do not spit out theories. I speak from what I know.
A Talk With an Eating Disorder Expert
I did not have to look hard to find someone who would be a perfect fit to explore the ever-evolving field of eating disorder treatment. What I feel is often missing in the conversation related to treating eating disorders, is the celebration of these individuals. The beauty and the profoundness that dwells within them. I knew that my sister, Whitney Molitor, shares a similar viewpoint and experiences great success with her clients. As a successful LMFT who specializes in eating disorders, I asked her if she would share more about her approach and beliefs around healing from an eating disorder. It is a rare find to hear from someone who can relate both from life experience and a professional viewpoint.
I asked Whitney about her work with clients and the common qualities she sees in them. “The biggest thing I have realized in working with those who have the label of eating disorder or who have disordered eating tendencies, is that they tend to be the ones who have come into this world with such a deeper level of sensitivity. Many of them are the empaths of the world.” I find this to be very revealing and important. Those who are suffering are often not aware that their sensitivity is a gift that can actually be used for empowerment and strength, rather than the other way around. It is through understanding how to use it as a positive trait, that one can become more powerful. This is done through both experiential education and having someone who can reflect to you just how much this tendency is needed in the world.
Whitney shared that clients often come to her with experience in talk therapy, but less experience in somatic body work. She helps them establish a connection to their body that can support regulating their nervous system and learning how to work with the body rather than disconnecting from it. “Eating disorders are not so much about the body in the way that people think they are. One may think on the surface level that it is about looks or weight, but there is a much deeper story to tell. Ultimately, it is about the need for connection.” Whitney went on to share that there is often trauma work that needs healing, but that it’s not always an acute and identifiable trauma. She said that it’s often about attachment wounds and someone needing to feel as though they have a stable base in this world. It is about feeling loved and supported. Evidently, the work of attachment therapy and healing is quite profound and runs deep.
Tracing the Connections
Related to attachment theory, as well as the language of an eating disorder bullet points in the beginning of the article, there is the consideration of positive connection and secure attachment to be had. We all need to feel seen and understood, but to heal from an eating disorder one usually needs this experience to a very high degree. There is much to work through and a deep desire to know that others can actually relate to what is being shared. Eating disorders are incredibly isolating as they often tell the person that they are nothing and their mind is on overdrive all day. It can be difficult for the outside world to understand what it is actually like to live with this day in and day out. There are examples given, little bits of ideology drawn. Words like “obsession” paint a picture, but these are just images in an experience where one is the entire photograph itself.
Whitney often gets asked about her degree of relatability to her clients and what she said truly touched me. “I wouldn’t say that I have struggled with an eating disorder, but I am open about my own challenges with body image and past experiences where I dabbled in controlling food and my body. So long as what I am sharing is helpful to them, and it’s is supportive to their healing, I feel it’s okay to be open. They want to know that I can relate. I am honest about the fact that my sister struggled with an eating disorder and I witnessed this experience up close and personal. I feel that so much of what they talk about is something that many women can relate to. I see so much of myself in them. I am so deeply touched by their stories and the courage and resilience they carry,” she said.
This is important. This is needed. This is healing. When someone can sit across from us and express their compassion and their understanding from an inclusive place, we feel held. We feel who we are and what we experience is allowed here. It is safe to open to the pain and it is safe to expose the places inside we want to protect and hide. Through continual authentic relating, we have the chance to bring love to the places inside that hurt.
Finding One’s Voice
I find it interesting how people get into the professions that they are in. Is it chance? A deep calling? Just the logical next step? Who a person is and why they are sitting in the chair across from us matters. Therapy is not a conveyer belt that one moves through, it is a place to create a relationship from which someone can grow. This relationship can be the experience someone needs and sometimes it can be the first time one feels truly supported. Whitney shared that her clients are given permission to expose the deepest part of themselves without judgment. She, like many eating disorder therapists, help them find their voice, learn boundaries, and experience what it is like to be in their bodies from a place of safety and trust. She helps clients identify less with the many myths the eating disorder tries to convince them of and in turn, identify more with the empowered and worthy being that they are.
She also supports them in activating their gifts, which in turn offers them an identity outside of their body or their suffering. Whitney mentioned that her clients are some of the most creative people she knows, so being able to help them become motivated to keep sharing their gifts is essential.
For the therapists out there reading this article, I think it’s also worth mentioning that Whitney went through a process of uncovering herself through her work with clients. She says that she had some concerns about working in the field originally. She was worried it would hit too close to home. After all, she had walked through a lot within her own family of origin. What was beautifully stated however, was her experience turning out better than anticipated. She told me she finds herself in her heart more now than ever with her clients. “The very thing that I thought would potentially be a hindrance is actually what connect us,” she told me. Through her personal experiences, Whitney is able to offer her clients a connection that creates a safe and stable bond. Because of who she is, rather than what she knows, her clients have access to something important for their healing, and that is a heart, not just a mind.
She went on to share that a lot of what is being taught to therapists in graduate school and after, is that they have to be extremely cautious of how much to share about one’s personal life. Whitney does honor this and sees the importance of making sure all of her sessions are about her clients and their needs. She focuses solely on what will help their recovery. She was also upfront about the fact that it is okay to be someone transparent. That if a client asks something that would beneficial to expose to them, it may be a positive experience for all involved.
Personally I believe that as time goes on, there will become a movement that creates more awareness around this. That the fear riddling the healing professions, may dissipate a bit. We are all humans learning and evolving together, and as soon we understand that no matter what our position is, we are always learning from one another, the sooner true harmony can be established. What helps people heal is feeling that who they are working with, can deeply understand them, care for them as they are, and offer helpful tools and solutions for their healing journey. This means that practitioners can open their hearts to more humility and less of a hierarchy as they work with their clients. After all, as Ram Dass says, “We are all just walking each other home.”
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