I am privileged to have a job that I love.
Yep, you heard that right. I love my job.
But how did I get here? And did I always love it?
When I started college my major was pre-veterinary medicine. I was going to be an equine (horse) Veterinarian. I was good at science, I loved horses, and was obsessed with James Herriot (check out the BBC miniseries, or his books), DVM.
But life had other plans.
About half-way through my first year I came to a realization that I did not want to get called out at 3am in the middle of a blizzard (I was in Wisconsin) to stick my arm up a horse's butt... What can I do with people, and normal hours?
At this same time, I was deep in diet culture. I was restricting, losing weight, and reading every women's heath diet article magazines had to offer. Yep, I had an eating disorder (though I didn't know it). While I was reading all those articles, I started noticing some bylines had "Registered Dietitian" as their title. Hmmm, a job helping people lose weight? I'm good at that! So I went to my career counselor and set off to change majors and schools so I could go into nutrition.
Fast forward to the end of my undergrad experience, and I was not using ED behaviors anymore (thank you to my amazing nutrition professors for helping me see the light through the science of the human body) though my mind still had work to do, and I was off to my dietetic internship and becoming an RD.
Why did I just tell you all that?
To explain where I came from.
Now we can get into how I got to where I am today, and why it is more meaningful to me.
My first client was a young woman with anorexia nervosa. Working with her I found a deep passion for psychology and figuring out what makes people have disordered behaviors around food.
Because of her, so many things happened for me:
- I found eating disorder dietitian mentors that helped me figure out what to do next
- I read everything I could get my hands on about eating disorder nutrition therapy and eating disorders in general
- I took some psychology classes at a local community college
- I got a business license and officially went into private practice (I had other jobs throughout the years as well, but PP was my first "real job" as a RD)
- I really began to believe the body positivity I was preaching
Today, I have the joy of helping amazing people realize just how amazing they are. I get to spend time getting to know them week after week, as we dig into their fears and dreams, and kick ED to the curb!
I get to teach students and interns about eating disorders, and healthy living.
I get to inspire the next generation to love themselves and ditch diets.
What a great career to be in.
My very favorite things are the moments of watching someone "get it," make change in their life, shift in their mindset, and ultimately work me out of a job (I know, weird - I want you to not need me). The texts and DMs, of how I made an impact in your life, make my day.
You all are amazing. Thank you for giving me my dream job!
Libby Parker, MS, RD
By: Jessica Cushing-murray
Though most people can understand the serious health consequences that can arise from a long term eating disorder, many are unaware of which problems are most commonly seen. One of which is called a Mallory Weiss Esophageal Tear, or Mallory Weiss Syndrome (MWS). MWS is defined as “tears in the lining of the esophagus,” which can often result from prolonged, severe vomiting, and is thus most evident in those suffering from Bulimia Nervosa.
So what exactly causes MW tears?
In people diagnosed with bulimia, the constant and continual act of forcing oneself to vomit (purge) their food after eating causes trauma to the esophagus (the tube that carries your food from your throat to your stomach). This trauma from vomiting can tear the lining of the esophagus, ultimately leading to people developing symptoms ranging from abdominal pain, to black/bloody bowel movements (blood in feces), to hematemesis (vomiting blood). None of these symptoms sound particularly pleasant, and they are worsened if the compulsive vomiting does not stop.
How can MW tears be fixed?
In people with bulimia who feel compelled to purge themselves through vomiting it can be unlikely that the Mallory Weiss tears in the esophagus will heal on their own. This creates an even more serious condition in which endoscopic therapy or even surgery may be required to resolve the symptoms. Left unhealed, MWS can lead to bad infections, as bacteria enter the open wounds in the esophagus. Though MWS can be the result of other trauma to the chest/throat, severe or prolonged hiccups, gastritis (inflammation of the stomach lining), it is a good example of a real and applicable consequence to people suffering from bulimia nervosa. However, it is possible that MW tears heal on their own, and a major part of the healing process is to stop purging behaviors.
For people with eating disorders (ED), it can become difficult to understand how their actions in their ED might affect them in the long run, so it’s important to learn and educate those around you about these kinds of conditions. Living with and recovering from an ED is difficult enough, it doesn’t need to be exacerbated by health issues such as MWS.
If you need help reducing your bulimia behaviors, including purging, make sure to reach out to an eating disorder registered dietitian for help. It can save your life (plus make food enjoyable again).
Libby is a non-diet Registered Dietitian focusing on eating disorder treatment and prevention. She approaches health from the inclusive standpoint that any "body" can focus on health regardless of size. She is a ally in diversity.
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