National Eating Disorders Association
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Recovery

Eating disorders are stereotypically viewed as illnesses that plague young, upper-class, white females. This idea is perpetuated by a variety of factors, including the media, and prevents other people with eating disorders from seeking or receiving the help they need and deserve. While the research into males with eating disorders has recently begun to gain traction, many other groups are still being dismissed. One of those groups is gender nonconforming people. 

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I’ve been in recovery for my eating disorder for eight, going on nine years now.

When I typed that sentence while brainstorming for this blog post, I first felt a sense of intense pride in myself and how far I’ve come from the scared, 18-year-old girl who entered treatment those many years ago to a confident transgender man.

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It’s Transgender Awareness Week, a time meant to raise visibility and acceptance for transgender and gender non-conforming people. As one of the most marginalized groups in America today, transgender people are often denied access to basic human needs like employment, housing, public restroom access, and medical care. 

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The day I began treatment for my eating disorder was the August before the start of my sophomore year of high school. It was also the day my season of cross country track was scheduled to start. After my pediatrician was unable to sign off on the medical clearance forms, I was forced to go talk to my coach about how I wouldn’t be able to run with them this season. I was anxious when I walked into his office, expecting an angry response. 

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When I think back to my high school years, it was a series of rituals. The same foods, the same habits, the same clothes; everything was a routine because in my mind, that’s when things were in control. The truth is, I was anything BUT in control. 

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Three out of my 16 years of life were spent in my eating disorder. It was a silent battle—I appeared as smiley as ever, even through the weeks of being too nauseated to eat, let alone function properly. It wasn’t that I was unloved; I’ve always had a loving, supportive family and solid friends around me. It was for this very reason that I couldn’t share my struggles. I loved and cared for them so deeply that I was willing to keep my pain to myself instead of bringing pain to them.

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Leon Silvers is a psychotherapist, founder, and director of Silvers Psychotherapy, a group therapy practice in NYC. He specializes in working with clients with eating disorders, substance abuse, trauma, and LGBT issues.

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I've noticed a tremendous inconsistency throughout my years of eating disorder treatment. When I was in treatment for anorexia nervosa purging type, one of the first parts of my recovery was weight restoration. I felt like before I even got into the work of dissecting how/where my eating disorder started, I was required to gain weight.

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The value of relationships cannot be understated. The relationship the patient has with their bodies and their health care providers are two of the most crucial. So many have felt isolated and ashamed and being able to step into a truly "judgment-free zone" with a provider can be life changing. When a patient leaves the office with an inclusive, engaging care plan, there is a visible lightness about them! With that lightness comes long-term positive changes in health. 

Here are four ways that you, as a provider, can create a safe space for patients: 

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From an early age, I knew that I loved deeply. I loved people in a way that felt like too much at times. I had names for every single one of my stuffed animals and I'd always buy them used because I felt like I had to save all of the orphans that were being given away. Growing up in a big family, I never felt alone. My three brothers and two sisters would keep me company and I always had someone to play with. It wasn't until the end of 5th grade when I learned how to play by myself—not because I didn't have friends, but because I felt safer being by myself.

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