For Mindy, eating disorder recovery is a soul-driven passion. She brings 25 years of nutritional counseling and her own healing experiences to every client interaction. Mindy introduces a unique functional approach to health issues relating to or resulting from disordered eating behaviors. She is also the author of The Freedom Promise, and recently launched her online program, “Stop Fearing Food and Start Loving Your Body”. Click below to listen to the full interview, or read on to hear how Mindy shares how she helps clients undergoing eating disorder recovery repair their relationship with food.
What made you so passionate about recovery?
It was my own personal experience with conventional eating disorder recovery. There were weekly weigh-ins, therapy sessions twice a week, and meetings with a dietician. I was being told what to weigh, what to think, and what to eat, but I wasn’t fully recovered. Once I discovered how to embrace my biological uniqueness I could finally stop fearing what food would do to me and start embracing what it could do for me.
It’s important to remember that eating disorders themselves are not the problem. They start out as a solution to keeping the person where they are, where they feel safe. My role is to help my clients step into a new world where they no longer need their eating disorder. Where they can say to the eating disorder, “Thank you for your service, you’re no longer needed.”
What is the difference between “disordered eating” and an eating disorder?
The difference is mainly severity in how extreme and psychologically impactful the symptoms are. Behaviors can involve food restriction, binge eating, and/or purging in various ways. People with disordered thinking will often base their self worth on their body’s shape and size. This can look like someone who falls into a healthy weight range but continues to feel that they are overweight. Other behaviors include obsessive calorie counting, fear of certain food groups, anxiety, inflexible meal times, or refusal to eat around others.
How do you apply functional medicine to help a client?
It starts with their story. What has set them up to be here? When did this start? What was going on in their life at the time? Genetics also plays a huge role in eating disorders. Now we know that 65-85% of people with eating disorders have some genetic component. Psychology and physiology are connected, so everything is a factor. Recovery is very unique, but the one common denominator with all of my clients is the disconnection they have with their bodies. They don’t invite their bodies into the conversation.
Because they don’t know how to ask their body what it really needs. So we spend a lot of time doing what I call “clearing the clutter”. We need to clear the clutter of inflammatory thoughts and toxic habits. This helps us determine where are they deficient. Whether that be in nutrients, sleep, appropriate movement, relationships, or spirituality. Based on all of that information, we develop a new toolbox of strategies and skills so that they can live a fully nourished life in all forms.
What are some things patients and practitioners need to know?
The recovery path is certainly not linear, so there are lots of stops and starts. From my end, there has to be a lot of patience, a ton of compassion, and understanding. But especially a willingness to start over by taking someone back to the beginning. Then there can be acceptance and forgiveness. To do this, there are four concepts, or blocks, of recovery that I like to use.
The first block is in regards to feeling worthy. Meaning, we need to understand that we as human beings were born with a universally given right to feel that we are valued and to value ourselves. The second block is about the inability to endure the discomfort that is going to occur. I’m asking them to reframe what they believe to be true for themselves, which can be very uncomfortable. There can be physical discomfort as well. For someone who severely restricts their digestive system has to wake up. Moreover, someone who struggles with overeating will be uncomfortable allowing themselves to be hungry.
The third block is the mindset. Are you coming from a mindset of scarcity rooted in fear, or can you embrace a mindset of abundance? It’s all about gratitude, but sometimes it’s enough to be grateful for the fact that you want to be grateful! The fourth block is consistency. It’s so important to be consistent and keep putting one foot in front of the other. Just as you start crawling as you learn to walk, you need practice before you can hit the ground running.
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What should friends and family be more mindful of?
Above all, remember that an eating disorder is not about food. Eating disorders present themselves as being about food, but they’re really about expression. It’s a means to get through feelings and situations that the person who’s struggling deems intolerable. Often we have emotions and feelings that we have no control over and we feel it very hard to express. So as a loved one observing eating disordered behaviors it’s very important to approach it from that perspective. Observing these behaviors and asking them if they’re alright, or if they want to talk about something.
Behaviors show up in an effort to feed what we’re hungry for. Someone who reaches for ice cream and other sweet, smooth foods is looking for comfort. Those who crave crunchy foods are usually dealing with anger they have trouble expressing. Someone who desires pizza and bagels wants to fill a void. So there’s something very specific about how we choose to feed what we’re really hungry for. During my own recovery, part of what was so frustrating was being told what I needed to weigh, think, feel, and eat. Nobody was asking me what I was hungry for.
What should one do if they are looking to recover?
Recovery from anything is regaining what was lost or taken. Your relationship with yourself is reflected in your relationship with everything else. So true transformation is less about what we do to change and more about what we let go of in our effort to be the change we want to see.
The most important thing is finding a practitioner who wants to empower you. Recovery from anything physical or mental is impossible unless you feel empowered. To be told that in order to recover you have to eat and behave a certain way is anything but empowering. I implore anyone ready to recover to find a practitioner who is looking to guide you on your path according to your story. You have a blank page before you where you can write your happily ever after. From an eating psychology standpoint, it’s not about what you’re eating- it’s about what’s eating you.