From Battling A Disorder To Helping Others: Dr. Nina Savelle-Rocklin’s Story
This article was written exclusively for EatingDisorders.com by Dr. Nina Savelle-Rocklin, Psy.D,. a psychoanalyst specializing in eating disorders. Dr. Nina writes an award-winning blog called Make Peace With Food and hosts a popular podcast, Win The Diet War, available on iTunes and on its official website.
“If my legs were thinner, I’d be perfect.”
I believed this to be true. Certain that skinnier legs would somehow make me a better person, I prayed for transformation with the same fervor that my friends wished for new Barbie dolls.
I was five years old.
A Battle with the Scale
This got worse as I grew older. Throughout adolescence and into college, my last thought at night was, “What did I eat today?” I fell asleep counting calories and fat grams. I calculated every bite and sip, wondering if I’d lose weight by the next morning or gain it. The scale was my most welcome friend and my biggest enemy.
If that scale registered an added pound, my day was ruined. A lost pound made me feel euphoric. When I hiked with friends, I focused on how many calories I was burning instead of how much fun I was having. I alternated severe restriction and deprivation with bingeing.
I was thin, but in a constant state of anxiety. Eventually I began therapy. I shared my boyfriend issues, my goals and dreams and fears. I was open with my therapist about every aspect of my life – except one.
I never told her what was going on with food.
In truth, I did not want to give up my relationship to food. Starving gave me a sense of strength and superiority. I felt secretly better than other people because I had the will to deny myself.
Eventually my willpower failed and I binged, then used laxatives, or vomited to get rid of the food I had consumed. My struggle was too shameful to admit to anyone, including my therapist, so I waged my war with food in private.
Several months into therapy I noticed some changes. Restricting food no longer made me feel superior. It made me feel deprived.
I started to feel hungry – for food, for love, for life.
I became aware of feelings that I had denied. I learned to process those emotions, rather than deny them. I began using words to comfort myself, and talking to myself in a supportive way, instead of criticizing myself. By the time I left therapy, I no longer engaged in any eating disorder behavior. Not once did I reveal to my therapist what was going on with food.
How was this possible?
My eating disorder was a symptom of the actual problem, my mean relationship with myself. In therapy, I learned to cope with difficult situations, instead of using food to distract from them. I learned to soothe myself with words instead of using ice cream or cookies.
Today, I am a psychoanalyst in the Los Angeles area, specializing in disordered eating. I started my blog Make Peace With Food and podcast Win The Diet War to bring information and inspiration to as many people as possible. I know from experience what it’s like to struggle with disordered eating but I also know that complete recovery is possible.
There is always hope.