how i made a huge difference (taking calculated risks)

19Nov13

I often hear folks asking how they can make a difference in the world… I did so recently, inadvertently (in a positive way!). Looking back, I realize that I took a risk and told a personal story, put a bit of my personal life in the public eye–but this helped one of my students a great deal.

You see, toward the end of high school/all through college/through most of grad school, my eating was quite disordered. I only really restricted during my college years (my daily diet consisted of 1/4 dry bagel, an apple, and a baked potato with nonfat cheese and salsa most days–I “didn’t have time” to exercise, and this is how I made up for that), but I had lots of trouble with bingeing the rest of the time. Part of the time, I purged through hours of exercise each day; other times, I just binged. Food “called my name” so often that I’d have to be out of my house/apartment, to avoid eating (and even then, if out driving, I’d want to stop by every food place I saw). It took a long time to overcome all of that, and I’m 99% recovered, at this point, and have been for 15+ years.

I talk about all of that briefly whenever I lecture on eating disorders in my nutrition and health classes. I do it because I want people to challenge their assumptions (that nutrition teachers struggle, too), but also to show that people can go through eating disorders and come out the other side. Students usually thank me for my story and for my bravery (? I’m a little nervous to expose my past, but aside from that, it’s hardly nerve-wracking).

This quarter was different.

After talking about my disordered past in nutrition class, I got an email from a student a few hours later, saying that she was struggling, herself, and could I help her?

!!!!

THIS, my friends, is what it’s all about. The relationships and trust I develop with students… my willingness to take risks and talk about how I’m not so perfect… and my willingness to take time to counsel her. Of course, I wrote and wrote. I had several back-and-forth email dialogues with this person. In the end, she was grateful for the day that I told my story in class, and encourages me to keep on doing it. I imagine for the one person who was brave enough to ask me for help, there are at least 4 or 5 more students who are not. I give them courage.

A week later, we talked about eating disorders in my other class (general health). Of course, I brought up my past, as I do in all related classes. This time, the story had another chapter. Typically, I end talking about how I’m better off today. But I told this class about the student (anonymous, of course) in my other class approaching me for help, and how I felt on top of the world for being able to help her turn her life around. And… how we all have the power to change someone’s life. That’s how I ended class that day.

The young woman I advised actually told me that I’ve given her hope that she can live a normal life. (Whoa. That brings tears to my eyes.) All because I decided to take a risk….

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3 Responses to “how i made a huge difference (taking calculated risks)”


  1. 1 making a difference… positively. | In Search of My New Normal
  2. 2 end of year summary | In Search of My New Normal
  3. 3 six more months… | In Search of My New Normal

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