College Student With Eating Disorder: Nutritionist Not Helpful

By August 29, 2012

I am a 21 yr old girl who has been struggling with binging and purging for 5 years now. I just can’t seem to see myself the way others see me. Here is the catch though, I recently went to a nutritionist on the advice of my RD. When I went, she had me fill out a paper, which told some brief history, including my lowest adult weight, which was 92 lbs. She took the paper from me and didn’t say anything, even after I told her that I had an eating disorder. She asked me if I deal with it now, and I said yes, but she didn’t do anything for me. That discouraged me a lot. It does not fill me with a lot of confidence to know that some of the private universities are not doing anything to help girls with eating disorders, such as myself. What should I do? Should I make another appointment? – DC

Dear DC,

We are glad you asked your question and very glad you sought help. You can be very proud of yourself for going to a nutritionist. I always encourage people to try more than one session with a professional, unless the person was clearly disrespectful or seemed like someone you are sure you could not work with. Otherwise, it’s best to give the process another chance. Especially because first sessions are the worst. I’ll be honest, as a psychologist, I hate the fact that in first sessions we have so much history and paperwork that we have to get. I’ve never found a way around this.

The paperwork is what we base our treatment plans on, so it is very important. After the first session we put all of the info together and make an individualized plan as to what the best treatment priorities are for you specifically. This can take a little time. I like to try to give everyone a little feedback, thoughts, hope and maybe a tool to start with, but other some clinicians want to study your case first. Both ways are good. Please give this process another chance.

When you go back take a written list of questions you’d like to ask her. Questions like “How do you think you can help me?” “What are your treatment goals?” and “How would we work together?” You can ask how much experience she has with eating disorders and what her philosophy is. As professionals we are used to these questions and we are responsible for answering all of your questions. After all, we are working for you – in a sense employed by YOU. If you still don’t feel comfortable, you can let her know. Then she can be aware of how you feel and maybe work to meet your needs. If not, then you could begin to look for someone else.

Regarding Universities’ efforts to help students with eating disorders, I’m there with you. It can be frustrating. If it were up to some of us psychologists, there would be huge Resource Centers and programs on each campus like the Alcohol and Drug programs that have been so successful on most campuses. However, it’s important to not give up hope. You can be part of the solution. Contact your dean of students or your Women’s Studies or Women’s Resource Program. Find someone on campus who also believes like you do. Many campuses have small groups that address disordered eating problems. And these groups are growing. And remember, your University is employed by you, too.

After almost 25 years in this field I know things can improve. Please don’t give up on your treatment or your campus.