58. Just Breathe

58. Just Breathe

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Shaping the New You

Just Breathe

I took a deep breath and listened to the old bray of my heart:
I am, I am, I am.

 ~Sylvia Plath

“You have to breathe, Kyle,” my nutratherapist says as I stand shaking on the scale in her office. “I can’t weigh you if you’re not breathing.”

Still trembling, I nod and let out a small puff of air. It’s my first session with her, and I’ve deemed her my “nutratherapist” because she’s a nutritionist and a therapist rolled into one.

My heart feels like it’s playing the drums, so I squeeze my eyes shut as if that will block out the sound. “Please don’t tell me the number,” I beg.

“I won’t. I promise.” She has me step down and take a seat.

I practically leap off the evil contraption and stumble over to the chair across from her desk. I watch as she writes something down on a piece of paper and folds it over so I can’t see it. My weight. Oh dear God. My weight’s on that piece of paper.

Those three little numbers can make or break you. Those three little numbers can make you feel beautiful or ugly. Sexy or trollish. Confident or wishing you had Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak. Those three little numbers are beyond evil.

“So, tell me why you’re here,” she says.

I bite my lip. “I need help with my eating.” I pause for a second and search for the words I need to convey my problem. “I exercise at least five times a week and count every single calorie I put into my body, but I’m still gaining weight. I don’t know what else to do.”

She nods and scans my chart. “You marked here that you once had an eating disorder but you got help. What made you decide you wanted to stop?”

I look down at my hands. “I dated this guy who called me fat and constantly commented on what I ate. He dumped me, obviously because he thought I was fat. So, I went on this binging and purging spree. It got out of control, and a friend convinced me to get help.”

“And, you haven’t purged your food since?”

I shake my head. “Absolutely not. I made a promise to my mom.” I shift in my chair uncomfortably. “I should probably tell you I was also addicted to diet pills.”

She nods and purses her lips together. “But, now you exercise five times a week?”

“Sometimes six,” I admit.

“That’s a lot, Kyle.”

“Well, I have to work off my food.”

She shifts in her chair, still studying me. “You count calories?”

“Yes.” I fumble in my purse and whip out my iPod Touch. “I use this application on my iPod. It allows me to record everything.”

“I think it’s remarkable that you overcame bulimia, but I fear you’ve swung in a different direction. You’ve developed disordered eating.”

My heart stops. Disordered eating?

“You’ve replaced your bulimic tendencies and diet pill usage with other habits that are still unhealthy: the constant need to exercise and an obsession with calorie counting.”

Have I really not gotten any better? “Well, I do feel extremely guilty when I eat foods that I know I shouldn’t.”

She scribbles something on her notepad. “Well, who’s to say you shouldn’t eat them?”

I cock my head to the side and stare at her for a second, the way my dog used to when I’d talk to her. You’re a nutritionist. Aren’t you supposed to tell me not to eat junk food?

“Dieting doesn’t work,” she continues. “It just doesn’t. Restricting yourself from foods you love will only backfire.”

“Really?”

“How do you feel when you count calories?” she asks.

I shrug. “I don’t really know. I just feel like it’s something I have to do.”

“Before we talk about nutrition, I think we should work on you. We have to get you to stop obsessing over food so much. Are you up for that?”

Am I up for that? What would my life be like if I didn’t fixate on food all the time? What would it feel like to stop judging myself? To stop cringing every time I look in the mirror?

“The key is to eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’ve had enough.”

“That’s my problem; I always want more.”

She processes this and nods. “That’s because you’re constantly restricting yourself. Once you realize you’re allowed to eat whatever you desire as long as you’re hungry, the need to overindulge will subside.”

Eat what I want as long as I’m hungry? Sounds crazy, but I’ll try anything at this point.

She folds me into her arms and gives me a big hug. “It is criminal that someone as lovely and wonderful as you is so unhappy with herself.”

I suddenly want to cry, not from sadness, but because I’m about to take a journey of self-recovery. She’s right. I do have to breathe. And, I plan to start right now.

~Kyle Therese Cranston

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