I spend 9 hours a week with adolescents with eating disorders at Veritas Collaborative, a treatment center offering inpatient, residential, and partial hospitalization levels of care to patients ages 10 to 19. I’ve gone through numerous trainings, learned how to portion healthy meals, and become comfortable interacting with patients in a clinical setting. The impacts of my experience, however, go way beyond these skills.
The eating disorders field is very interesting in the way it weaves its way into all of our lives. Fortunately, most of us do not have a diagnosable eating disorder, but all of us have some relationship with food and with our bodies. This relationship may be perfectly healthy – you eat when you’re hungry, you stop when you’re full, you exercise because it feels good, and you don’t give any of it much thought. For most of us, however, the relationship we have with food and our bodies is complicated, at least at some points in our lives.
The fact is that we live in a society that values appearances over most other things. Imagine how it might feel to return to school after being in intensive treatment for an eating disorder only to have to hear “You look so healthy!” over and over. Now imagine how different things would be if instead of telling our friends that their outfit is nice or complimenting them on their new haircut, we told them how good it is to see them or how much we value their personal strengths. Interning at Veritas has strengthened my belief that we should all work to love our bodies, to appreciate ourselves for more than our appearances, and to be comfortable with who we are. At the same time, we must realize that eating disorders are legitimate mental disorders, and the road to self-acceptance is different for everyone.