Coming Clean

Posted March 12, 2013 by Katherine Toll in Life After Five

This year marks the 40th anniversary of my dance with the proverbial devil – my body – or, more appropriately, my body image. In 1973, at the tender age of 12, I was diagnosed with an eating disorder. In December of this year I turn 53 and I’m disappointed to report my body size and image still taunts me on way too regular a basis.

I am an equal opportunist when it comes to selecting an eating disorder – I began with Anorexia Nervosa way back when (yes—it existed in 1973, although nobody told me that, until months later.) I bounced to Bulimia Nervosa a few years later and basically seesawed between the two for way too long. Of course, I also exercised COMPULSIVELY and engaged in other various and assorted weight loss tricks and tips. And, all this before the Internet was ever created!

Some referred to me as ‘early adopter’ of the disorder – I must admit, I fancied myself a bit of a trendsetter over the years, however I now find myself utterly exhausted by the whole situation. I sought treatment over the years and, as luck would have it, treatment sought me four years ago when my bony butt landed in what I lovingly referred to as ‘Happy Hollow.’ You know – one of those lovely retreats where you settle in for some badly needed ‘rest and relaxation’ AND food AND therapy… A LOT OF THERAPY.

It was my first in-patient visit, aside from my time in 1973, of my life. Many marveled that I survived that long with no other hospitalizations. Of course, this little tid-bit is exactly what an eating disordered person loves to hear. We pride ourselves on beating the shit out of our bodies, while we masquerade as hyper-competent men and women. And, then one day (or for me, evening) the disorder runs amuck, life feels unbearable, and another option seems like a viable solution.

Blessedly, I stopped myself before I finalized the other ‘option’, but it was then I knew I crossed a significant line. Stupidly, I still hopped on a plane the next day to attend a business meeting, but I left a voicemail for my psychiatrist. (I opted not to leave the same message for me therapist because she tends to over-react in these situations.) My shrink typically keeps a level head on her shoulders, but even she seemed agitated by the news.

Needless to say, I did an intake over the phone on a Thursday evening and received a call the next morning beckoning me to join the next session of Happy Hollow’s intake group. Let me tell you – that is a tough one to explain to an employer.

Up until this time, I chose not to write about it for fear of the professional ramifications. I operate in the world of Management Consulting, a popular bastion of the old boys network and hyper-competitive people – anything remotely perceived as weakness torpedoes a career.

But, lying low and keeping my mouth shut commits a disservice to our readers who struggle with the same types of issues. Nowhere do we need to open a dialogue more than on Career Girl Network. Many of us possess a laser-sharp focus, a goal orientation, and uncompromising standards—traits often found in women who struggle with full blown eating disorders, or eating disordered behaviors.

In the upcoming weeks, I hope to reveal myths, provide resources, and create a forum for Career Girls, so we understand how to better navigate the complex feelings we hold between our bodies, our self-image, and our worth.

About the Author

Katherine Toll

Katherine (Kathi) Toll possesses more than 20 years of management and consulting experience within the retail and beauty industry. Her industry experience combined with her special brand of irreverence fuels her mission to find the ‘must-have’ beauty products for Career Girls of all ages. She aspires to remind women the airbrushed perfection of the beauty industry must be tempered with a healthy dose of humor. Kathi holds a general management certification from Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, along with an undergraduate degree from Northwestern’s School of Communications.