I often feel professionally misunderstood outside of my career field. Colleagues and patients "get it" and I feel so seen and heard by them, but I don't really think the rest of the world does. Recently I have noticed a feeling of sadness and loneliness over this.
Most of the time when people hear that I'm a dietitian, they respond with something like, "Don't look at my plate," or, "I bet you eat really healthy." And when I qualify that I'm an eating disorder dietitian it's common to hear, "I wish I could have an eating disorder for just a little while so I could lose a few pounds, but I like food too much." [sigh]. That comment is so disturbing to me that I've become more vague about what I do. Sometimes I just leave it at, "I'm a counselor" (without explaining that it's nutrition counseling for eating disorders).
Even people who know what I do often don't really understand unless they work in the field of eating disorders. Otherwise think that it sounds bizarre for a person with an eating disorder to come see a dietitian every week, because, after all, they know what healthy eating is, right? Well, maybe (and maybe not), but that's not what my work is about. My definition of "healthy eating" is very different from what most people have in mind, because it includes ALL types of food, not just the cliche salads, lean meats, healthy fats and blah, blah, blah. My definition of healthy eating also includes fast food, dessert, processed food (gasp!), and everything else you've been told to feel guilty about eating. Because when we avoid and deprive ourselves of these foods it sets up a very UNhealthy relationship with food. I could go on and on about this, but that's for another day.
Back to the original thought…
The reason I know my work is sacred is because of my clients. Every day I have the privilege and honor if sitting with them as we talk about really hard stuff – their vulnerabilities, insecurities, past and present hurts, fears. Their eating disorder is a manifestation of feeling that they are not good enough as a person and the symptoms are an attempt to cope with or distract from these unpleasant feelings. THIS is why my work is sacred. I help people discover that no matter what they do or don't eat or how much they weigh – they are still the same wonderful person at the core of their being. And this person is an amazing human being worthy of love and respect.
So, it's not just about helping somebody eat a balanced diet (although that is part of it at times). Nope, my work is about helping people find inner peace and love.
That's how I know my work is sacred.