A Talk with CFD Alumnus Rach McPherson: Fighting Diet Culture One Ice Cream Scoop at a Time

Center for Discovery is grateful to have had the opportunity to talk with Rach McPherson, former patient at CFD Palm Beach. She currently works in an ice cream shop, encouraging customers to enjoy ice cream by fighting against the diet-culture comments they say. In this work, Rach is directly confronting situations surrounding food that may have previously made her anxious, which is known as exposure & response prevention therapy (ERP). Her story and message for others struggling with an eating disorder is inspiring. Read our conversation below:

Can you tell us about your experience working in an ice cream shop?

RM: Working in an ice cream shop is something I would’ve run away from before treatment. When I hear people make diet-culture comments at the shop, I fight my eating disorder when I tell them they should enjoy their ice cream. At the ice cream shop, I can be the voice of recovery for others. I get to tell people, “Your body took you here, so that means you’re craving it.” Some people will say they are full, but I encourage them to just have a kids scoop if that’s the case. People will say things like, “I’m too fat to eat ice cream” and I tell them that we all have different body types.

Can you tell us about your life before going to treatment at Center for Discovery?

I didn’t know that treatment for eating disorders existed. I didn’t even know that I had an eating disorder because I didn’t fit the BMI stereotype. There is no box for an eating disorder. It can be molded; it can be shaped. My life was filled with secrets before treatment because I would have to make up excuses to be alone. People would ask me to go out to eat, and I would hide and say I already ate if food would come up. My life was very rigid. There was no adventure. With what I was doing, I was on a schedule for everything. I couldn’t have my schedule changed because I had so much anxiety around food. I didn’t really have a life, and yet my eating disorder never let me see that.

What is your life like now?

I was carrying so many bags in my life, and when I entered the doors at CFD, I was able to put those bags down. When I finished treatment, I realized I didn’t want to take those bags back out with me. My life is still filled with hills and valleys. When I came out of treatment I thought life should be easy now, but really, life was the same as it was before. But the change was that now I could handle life’s situations. I’ve learned that the biggest strength in life is to ask for help when I used to think that was being weak. I have a very small group of people in my life now. Just because you have numbers in your life doesn’t mean those are true friends. I now have real relationships. In treatment at CFD, I came out at [age] 31. CFD gave me that strength to do that. I was able to use tools I’d learned in treatment to handle that process.

What is the most important thing you learned during treatment?

The most important thing I learned is that my eating disorder gave me a sense of control and yet it was a false sense of control, because in reality I couldn’t stop when I wanted to stop. If I was told that someone was paying for a restaurant night and that I could have whatever I wanted on the menu, I still couldn’t enjoy it. It was not really about food. It was about my past and the things that had hurt me that I was holding on to. I was allowing those people that had hurt me to continue to hurt me because I was hurting myself. That was the most important thing that I learned in treatment. I realized I was doing recovery for myself, not for someone else and in that way, I got my life back so others could not hurt me.

What would you tell someone who’s struggling with an eating disorder and considering treatment?

I’d tell them, why not just go to treatment? You have seen what the eating disorder is doing for you. You’re tired, cranky, sad and depressed. So why not try life out differently, where you can find happiness and strength and friends and real relationships? Why not just try? If you never give recovery a chance, you’ll never see what life in recovery can be like.

If you or a loved one find yourself struggling with an eating disorder, Center for Discovery is here to help. Reach out to us today. Our experienced team of clinicians is ready to help you live life free from an eating disorder.

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