National Eating Disorders Association
Blog

What It's Like to Have an Eating Disorder in the Food Industry

Chloe Cleroux

When I was 18, my life (I believed) was a complete failure. I had just dropped out of college, was “let go” from a job, had barely any friends left from high school, and really no direction as to where my life was going.  After a month or so spent searching for a job, my mom came home excitingly telling me they were hiring at my local liquor store. I applied to the job, got a call a week later, and was offered a position all within a couple of months. 

Little did I know this would change my life forever.

Having always grown up as the “curvier girl,” I had always felt out of place not having anyone to relate to. Not wanting to be in the position again, I decided that I should lose weight in order to fit in this time around. I wanted so badly to be someone new, not the lost and confused 18-year-old I was at the moment. So, as the summer went on, my mantra became the amount of weight I lost resulted in the amount of success I gained. 

Eventually, as the summer ended, I was transferred to a new location, with a brand new look and an even greater sense of self-confidence. I met a completely new group of friends that absolutely changed my world. They were different, not because they were trying to fit in, but because they were comfortable standing out. We all quickly became close, and in time, they introduced me to the world of wine. I immediately fell in love with the concept as we crammed onto small couches in my friend's basement apartment, sharing laughs, drinking wine, and trying fine cheeses.  

But as I was quickly feeling at peace with where I was in my life, my eating disorder was readying for battle. My eating disorder hated these friends, resented them actually. My eating disorder feared them, not only because they pushed me out of my shell, but because their passion and love was overwhelming and ultimately frightening.  

As the years went on, excuses began to build. "Sorry, I can't go to the wine tasting tonight because I'm working" or "I can't eat that food because it makes my stomach upset" became my go-to excuses. The risk of having one sip of wine was too high to chance, so I suffered silently and my newfound career was slowly put on hold. 

My eating disorder got what it wanted—and more. Not only did my career suffer, but so did my family relationships and friendships. If you've realized this already, eating disorders have a funny way of latching on to theories that have little to no weight to them. Mine latched on to my successes, my triumphs; it claimed everything I was proud of. My friendships, my career, and the food I created, the miles I ran; it wanted everything, and it didn't want to share.

I felt everything crumbling. Where was this so-called safety blanket my eating disorder provided me? The rock that symbolized every one of my successes quickly turned into sand that ran through my fingers. 

Gone.

As summer 2016 came I was a full-blown wreck. I tried desperately to balance both lives, jumping from symptom to symptom but still trying to keep up the pace. 

My eating disorder had stripped me from everything that I loved, the thoughts were incessant, reminding me that if I seek recovery, I’ll lose everything I worked hard for. 

And just like that, I had enough. I realized the voice that had promised so much to me for the past five years had lied to me. A wolf in sheep’s clothing, I believed it, and I was scared but not ready to go down without a fight. 

Besides, anything you can create, you can easily destroy.

Working in a chaotic environment is stressful, especially when you have an eating disorder. This is where patience and self-compassion play a huge role. Know your limits, always. I’m truly lucky to be in the industry that I am now, and I will never let my eating disorder take that away from me again.

I began recovery September 2016, with no real direction, just hoping that I would quite literally make it out alive. I knew that I had a set of goals:

  1. Allow myself to feel whole, loved, and enough 
  2. Fulfill my dream of working at a restaurant
  3. Be able to tell my story wholeheartedly 

Well, I can gladly say that a year later, I’ve managed to complete treatment and remain weight restored. I still have slips, but that is only part of recovery. Additionally, I have recently been invited to work at the restaurant of my dreams with amazing people and wonderful food. I’ve been given a second chance, and after the compliments I’ve received in the process, proven that my weight does not amount to my worth.

Here I am eating disorder, living, breathing, eating, and fighting. 

Telling my story.

Chloe is a sommelier in training, WSET 3 recipient, patient advocate, and lover of all fine food. When she is not reading articles about food, wine, psychological studies or art she is dreaming of moving to New York City (a dream she’s had since she was young) and helping individuals flourish despite struggling with mental health issues. She plans on sharing her own unique experiences to shine light on what it’s like to live a life after recovery, make an impact, and live unapologetically with the opportunities that are given.