by Mindy Gorman-Plutzer, Functional Nutrition and Lifestyle Practitioner, Certified Eating Psychology Coach at The Freedom Promise
Today is a great day. It’s a testament to the last 16 years I’ve devoted to self-discovery, asking the right questions, and finding the courage to listen to the answers, whether or not I wanted to face those truths.
Today I’m preparing to launch a Summit dedicated to changing the conversation about eating disorder (ED) recovery. I’m digging deep by moving past the fear of asking for what I need, and moving through the deep-seated worries of not being “enough.” I’m writing a new chapter to add to the story of my life. I’m all about living the happily-ever-after.
It wasn’t always like this, though. There are memories deep within me that are shrouded in darkness, riddled with regret, shame, and guilt, and tied-up with loss and grief. I recall the years I spent figuring out how to be instead of who to be. I remember the feeling of walking on eggshells as I worried about saying and doing all the the right thing to such an extent that I became a walking cliché.
I’d like to take you back in time for a moment. I was born into a loving family, but it was complicated. I was the first born to parents who were mere children themselves, who married young to escape the dysfunction of their own upbringings. My youngest sister was diagnosed with a genetic disease that came with a poor prognosis for a long and vibrant life, even before her first birthday. The cloud that settled over our family was dark and foreboding. As a result, I learned to be very careful, to stay out of the way and not ask for much, and I thought I needed to excel at everything.
Image was important to my success, so I also picked up on the value of beauty. With that message came the understanding that one’s weight was part of how one was judged. A rail thin child, I later developed the curves and softness that comes with puberty. As my parents were confronting weight issues themselves, Mondays became the day we collectively started a weight-loss diet.
We experimented with them all – Atkins, Weight Watchers, Dr. Stillman’s Diet, the cabbage soup diet, and of course, calorie restriction. Over the counter appetite suppressants, diuretics, and laxatives filled the medicine cabinet. Given my penchant for perfection, my deep desire to please, and my fear of disapproval, this created the perfect recipe – if you will – for a disordered relationship with food and my body.
Fast forward to my early twenties. I married at 21 and became a mom a year later. My second daughter came two years after that. I was living the life that was planned for me. Still obsessed with weight, food and the size of my thighs, the image I projected and how I perceived I was being judged never left me. The years that I could have been experiencing wondrous growth and empowerment were given up to the scale. When I wasn’t calculating calories, carbs and grams of fat, I was compulsively binging and consistently purging. Any exercise I did was designed to essentially make my body go away.
Finally, about to hit the bottom, I reached out to our family doctor. I was in my late thirties and my weight was approaching a danger zone. The consequences of my actions were becoming costly. My then teenaged daughters were developing damaged relationships with food and their bodies as well. My husband was distraught, vacillating between blaming himself and resenting me. My health was suffering, as I was struggling with digestive distress and blood sugar irregularities. Anxiety and mood disorders were a constant companion and the prospect of hospitalization loomed. At the time, my husband and I were well known and active in our community, so the possibility of hospitalization was not going to be an option for me – after all, I had an image to protect!
I embarked on a new routine of weekly doctor visits and weigh-ins, twice weekly therapy sessions, and visits with a registered dietician who had me eating what I considered to be an absurd amount and variety of food. She suggested I wash it all down with 2 glasses of wine to keep me relaxed. A prescription for anti-depressants and Xanax came next. I knew this regiment would be completely unsustainable long-term.
Determined to break free of this downward spiral, I embarked on a journey to learn as much about nutrition as I could. Not only was I curious about the nutrient-density of food but also about how my body functioned as a result of what I ate. I started to quiet the noise of the disordered thinking and learned how to listen to what my body was telling me. I started to trust that I could honor my hunger and stop when I’d had enough. I didn’t need to exercise compulsively. I could honor my body with movement that felt right for me.
I was finally learning to love the girl, now the woman, who deserved to be seen for who she really was.
I started to engage more with the world around me. I felt the joy and pride that came with watching my daughters grow into wise and independent women. The relationship with my husband was deepening as we were so enjoying being empty nesters. I embraced my nutrition training and started to share my experience with other women, and I actually built a following!
As life happens, however, and just when I thought we had it all, my husband was diagnosed with stage-four metastatic melanoma. The prognosis was dire and after a fierce 21 month-long battle, we lost Stuart in August of 2004. I was 49 years old and now completely lost.
Stuart had been my rock, my troubleshooter, and the one I could hide behind when the world scared me. It didn’t take too long for me to retreat back into my self-destructive behaviors, and this time I found additional solace in glass after glass of wine. After all, I was self-soothing.
I hit rock bottom… again. There were actually times when I felt that my daughters believed the wrong parent died. My alcohol abuse was a source of embarrassment and I often put myself in danger. My food and weight obsession were back with a vengeance. I was physically, emotionally and spiritually bankrupt.
Eventually, I came to realize that I had a choice: seek the light or stayed buried in the darkness. I chose light.
In May of 2005 I walked into the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous. It took me two years to embrace sobriety. At the same time, believing I was making an empowered choice to live what I came to see as the blessed life I was given, my eating disorder started to lift like a cloud. By no means was it easy, but the power of mindset amazed me. I could choose life, and by doing so life chose me. I met wonderful women who to this day offer wonderful support and reminders of why I chose life. The relationship with my daughters solidified and grew deeper as we developed a healthy respect for each other as women experiencing life and all it hands us. I discovered a safe and sacred space within me that connects to a mindful presence. It’s my higher power, my deepest self, and my home.
My desire to embrace my recovery and pay it forward sent me back to school and I earned certifications in Integrative Health Coaching, Eating Psychology, and Functional Nutrition and Lifestyle Practice. Here, I found the warmth of a community surrounded by like-minded mentors and colleagues.
In 2012, I created The Freedom Promise, LLC in an effort to help others transform their relationships with food from one hindered in fear and confusion to one rooted in love, nourishment, and sustainability. The Freedom Promise was born from my experience, strength, hope, and education. I embrace my recovery and I walk the walk in a way that pays it forward. I empathetically educate, support, and partner with my clients.
Through my work, I developed a 7-step signature framework. I detail these steps in the book I published in 2014, The Freedom Promise: 7 Steps to Stop Fearing What Food Will Do TO You and Start Embracing What It Can Do FOR You. My program offers an alternative approach to recovery that is aligned with the principles of functional medicine – all systems are connected, every client is unique, and everything matters.
I don’t prescribe to the “all-foods-fit” model that is the conventional nutrition protocol for recovery. In my teaching,
I help my clients and readers adopt 3 important concepts:
- We must honor the physiology that impacts one’s psychology.
- We must honor the psychology that’s impacting one’s physiology.
- We can discover a personal nutrition and lifestyle protocol that speaks to our unique needs when we listen to the wisdom of the body.
Clients come to me feeling disempowered by a system that’s telling them that what they’re feeling is all in their head. They’ve been unable to experience sustainable recovery due to the lack of respect given to the GI discomfort they report following an “all-foods-fit” diet. Statistics show that 90-98% of those struggling with EDs display gut related issues, a direct result of dysbiosis created by years of purging, binging, and restricting. Further research teaches that children who struggle with GI issues have a greater propensity to develop EDs.
What we know about the gut/brain connection is that there’s a direct correlation between physiology and psychology. Furthermore, a dysfunction in brain chemistry, fostered by dysbiosis, impacts physiology, creating a perfect storm. This compels me to ask, is the “all-foods-fit” diet actually helping to feed the anxiety that fuels the ED behaviors?
My primary concerns around the conventional model and the anti-wellness diet message is that they neglect to address:
- The fear and confusion so many of our clients experience regarding what food will do to their bodies!
- The possible and likely cases of food sensitivities that often cause further GI disruption.
- How we can truly nourish ourselves with nutrition in a way that’s designed to meet our individual physiology.
Furthermore, the news cycles and social media overload certainly contribute to both the uncertainty and dogma around diet. You don’t have to look too far to see the barrage of health information, nutritional systems, celebrity doctors promoting products promising healing cures, and eating experts telling us what to do. What’s even more confusing to people is that each of these experts is offering scientific evidence that their theory is best: Paleo, Keto, Vegan, Low Carb, etc. How do we make sense of all this? There’s so much information out there regarding nutrition but so very little wisdom in what truly nourishes us.
The field of nutrition has a tendency to preach the “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts” of how to get healthy, skinny, sexy, and happy. With all these rules, how can we ever learn to trust our symptoms, our hunger, and our body’s wisdom? What so few of these diets and experts address is the most important ingredient – a deep connection to the beautiful wisdom of one’s body and the ability to listen when she speaks to us, when symptoms are calling for attention.
I learned in my journey through nutrition that it’s not so much the phrase, “You are what you eat,” but rather, we are what our bodies DO with what we eat.
Sustainable recovery and healing occur when we know how to nourish and care for ourselves so to become the most optimized version of ourselves. Unfortunately, few of us are armed with the tools and resources we need to reclaim the healthy body we want, heal the body image, and gain the self- confidence we need to live a long life of contentment and vitality. I’m on a mission to change that.
My goal is to change the conversation about diet and recover. In my work, I introduce those who are suffering with EDs to an empowering approach to personalized nutrition and lifestyle practice, while addressing the root cause of the symptoms they face.
I want to promote the sustainable and lasting recovery that’s within reach when we transform our thinking, trust our hunger, honor our body with loving movement, and become fully nourished by a supportive and like-minded community.
Presently, I work one-on-one with clients as well as lead groups. I’ve been privileged to share my experience, strength, and hope with women locally, throughout the country, and the globe! I also mentor peers and colleagues so they can share the gift of recovery with their clients too.
I’ve re-married a wonderful man who encourages me to pursue all that matters to me. He brought with him two wonderful sons and daughter-in-laws. We have a beautifully blended family and 8 spectacular grandchildren. Sadly, my sister passed shortly before my book was published, but I have dedicated to her brilliant courage as well as to my daughters’ past, present and future.
The health consequences that ensued as a result of my ED still remain with me today to some degree, but I’m grateful to have the resources to help myself heal. I’ve had open-heart surgery to repair a faulty valve and my gut issues still linger. However, I am walking the walk daily, ever so vigilant, as I manage the triggers that may confront me – and they do.
The definition of recovery is to regain what has been lost or stolen. Addiction, obsessive thoughts, and self-harming behaviors rob us of our ability to connect to the deepest part of ourselves. Re-framing our belief system and letting go of the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that no longer serve us allows for the creation of a fully nourished life we desire and deserve.
So, today is a great day. I have created a legacy while honoring the past, for it is the past that has brought me the gifts of today. And, I will continue to pay it forward.
Mindy Gorman-Plutzer brings 24 years of experience to her private practice as a Certified Functional Nutrition and Lifestyle Practitioner, Integrative Health Coach, and Eating Psychology Coach.
Mindy’s life experience and training inspired her to create a framework that combines functional nutrition, positive psychology, and mind/body science; introducing a compassionate resolution to physical and emotional challenges resulting from chronic and complex health issues, as they relate to Eating Disorders.
She’s the author of The Freedom Promise: 7 Steps To Stop Fearing What Food Will Do TO You and Start Embracing What It Can Do FOR You. She’s appeared on Doctor Radio, Huffington Post Live, ABC news.com/podcast, various syndicated radio shows, written for Mind Body Green, and The Fifty Plus Life. Visit Mindy’s website.