Being a dietitian specialized in treating eating disorders (and all types of disordered eating, disordered exercise, body image issues, etc.) is a beautiful balance of challenge and fulfillment. Restlessness is a symptom of a career where you're probably not getting one, or both, of those factors.
One of the biggest challenges an ED RD faces is that the cards were stacked against us beginning in childhood. We grew up in a culture that thrives on disordered messaging and behaviors, to the point that they are normalized. And then in college we earn a degree that further justifies labeling foods as good and bad, and promoting behaviors with food and exercise that are all-too-familiar in the world of eating disorders. Sometimes I feel like I earned a degree in "How to have an ED." It's no surprise that the incidence of ED's in dietetics majors is higher than the average population, and IMHO this is a huge skeleton in the closet for the profession that's not being adequately addressed.
The next challenge comes on day 1 of engaging in nutrition therapy with a client struggling with an ED. RD's are barely taught even basic counseling skills, and it requires a great deal of ongoing training and clinical supervision to master these skills. Just ask therapists what rigors they go through.
Then comes the biggest challenge – the ferocious ED. It manifests itself in many forms, some more subtle than others. And it will kick and scream when threatened, and as the RD I am the epitome of threat. Thus, it can be extremely challenging to treat a client whose symptoms include denial of the illness, and resistance to seeing the practitioner who will be asking them to change the very behaviors the illness is protecting.
I've had clients tell me they hate me, swear at me, curl up in the fetal position on the floor in my office, accuse me of making their life worse – all sorts of things. As a human being, I naturally have my own emotional reaction to this, and I have to work hard to remember that this is their ED throwing a tantrum, and deep down inside this person is suffering. It's nothing personal against me. (Easier said than done some days, and I've accepted that).
But all of these challenges are worth it, because this may be the most rewarding career I ever could have landed in. The chance to connect with someone who is suffering so deeply and to help provide healing is invaluable. At the end of every day I know that the work I do matters. That's satisfying to me.
The clients I work with are some of the most amazing people I know. They are driven, tenacious, caring, sensitive, intelligent, hard-working, brave, and so much more. If I had to place bets on who will change the world, it's these individuals, especially once they've recovered and can devote their entire selves to being who they truly are.
+ view comments . . .