Today we are talking to Lindsey Hall, an award-winning eating disorder and addictions speaker and writer who focuses on the nitty gritty topics of recovery and eating disorders. Having struggled with the eating disorder cycle for many years, Lindsey has actively been in her coined “flexible recovery” since 2014. She the author behind I Haven’t Shaved in Six Weeks, a blog written to humanize the stigmas of eating disorders and treatment.
In this episode, we talk about:
- Lindsey’s eating disorder journey
- How writing helped her heal
- Whether all diet companies are evil
- Lindsey’s experience trying out Kurbo
- Why Kurbo is fuelling unhealthy restriction
- Making parents proud as a health goal
Lindsey’s Eating Disorder Journey
Lindsey has a pretty typical eating disorder story. Growing up, she was the shortest girl in her class. As an impressionable kid, this ended up fuelling her identity. Throughout her life, parents, teachers, and friends had told her that being small defined her. When she hit puberty around 15/16 years old, she got taller and was suddenly no longer the short girl. She wasn’t the prettiest, smartest, or most athletic girl in the class, so when she was no longer the shortest, it felt like she lost her identity. She didn’t know who she was without it.
This identity crisis turned into an innocent approach to define herself in a new way through getting healthy. It started as an overall awareness of food, which was fuelled through this book called Eat This, Not That. That was when she started calorie counting.
In college, Lindsey’s childhood best friend passed away. It was the first time she had been through real tragedy and she didn’t have any coping tools to handle it. For her, handling it drove her further into trying to control her eating.
Over the years, Lindsey didn’t just live with anorexia- she lived in the cycle.
Her weight fluctuated up and down for 8 years. The reason she never saw help for it was because she had the impression she was ‘‘not sick enough.’ At one point, she started to have a feeling that she had an eating disorder; she knew something was wrong, and she started to realize that this was consuming her life. It wasn’t until the 8th year of her eating disorder that she got ‘sick enough’ and people started finally noticing.
The night her parents stepped in, she was at a wedding. It was sweltering hot, yet she was wearing an oversized coat to cover up her body because of the body dysmorphic disorder she had (although at the time, she didn’t know that existed). Before the wedding, she had binge ate. At the wedding, she got wasted. When she got home, her parents found the empty cereal boxes she had eaten before, and put them on the coffee table. That was when she just broke down. About a month later, she gave up everything- she left her job, her NY apartment, and went to treatment.
How Writing Helped Her Heal
Lindsey started showing up online about 5 years ago after getting out of a 6-week residential eating disorder treatment. Before she went, she couldn’t find anything online that allowed her to see what treatment would look like. All she could find were research articles and information from the facility websites. It was her first time going to treatment, and she had no idea what to expect. It was terrifying. So, she decided that once she got through it, she would write about it; she wanted to give the public an authentic idea of what they’d be getting into with going to eating disorder treatment.
Writing has been such a motivating factor for Lindsey. Especially during the first year of recovery when she was motivated not to relapse, writing helped her get out what was going on in her head that she couldn’t quite put together. She had all these jumbled thoughts in her head that writing allowed her to make sense of.
In the beginning, Lindsey was horribly embarrassed about treatment. She didn’t have any friends that had eating disorders or had gone to treatment or therapy. So, she barely told anyone. Once she finished treatment and was starting to feel better, she had a sense of realization that she lied her whole life; 8 years of her life were a manipulation that affected her relationships along with everything else. Something clicked and she realized she was so done with feeling shame about her life- one of the reasons she started writing was because she was just tired of lying. So, Lindsey made a Facebook status linking to her blog, and the rest is history.
Are All Diet Companies Evil?
Lindsey works in the PR and marketing space, and she says that people demonize companies really easily. Often times, social media takes one small thing a company does and blows it up to make it seem like the company is evil. She tries to take an empathetic approach when that happens, because she knows that isn’t the whole story.
At the same time, a lot of companies are definitely up to no good. When it comes to Weight Watchers, she has no empathy. WW knows that 95% of diets don’t work- they have all of that data available. The only reason they’re spinning out a Kurbo health app is because they knew it would get a ton of publicity. Any publicity, no matter how bad it is, can be good publicity overall.
When you’re young, you don’t have the same awareness of PR and marketing and what these companies are really trying to do. They’re trying to create brand loyalty, to feed you into the dieting industry, so that they have people in a constant cycle of dieting so they can profit off of it. In Lindsey’s case, she didn’t realize that at 16. She thought that the book, Eat This, Not That was the bible. So, she started mimicking that behaviour in what she thought was an innocent, mature approach to health. For her, and many others, the interest fuels obsession.
Just like Big Pharma and the opioid epidemic, the companies have the opposing research. Weight Watchers has that knowledge. They know what they’re doing isn’t effective. They understand who they’re targeting.
Weight Watchers knew what they were doing when they started the Kurbo app. They knew they were creating a new generation of dieters and brand loyalty.
Why Kurbo Is Fuelling Unhealthy Restriction
Another huge issue is that this app puts a lot of blame on the child, when it’s really the cultural forces around the child that are to blame for their lifestyle. Plus, it doesn’t monitor if a child is under eating and only having a carrot and water all day- that is dangerous. If you don’t pay for it and just use the free option, then it’s not monitored. Plus, even if you do pay for it, the coaches aren’t required to have outside training in nutrition OR dietetics.
The big argument for this app is the weight epidemic. My rebuttal is that I don’t care how big the kid is, under eating is a problem. It will stunt their growth and potentially cause developmental issues. So many parts of children’s bodies and brains are developing through childhood well into their 20s. Restriction is something we should not be introducing into the mix, especially through an app that doesn’t make it clear how much restriction is too much.
Making Parents Proud As A Health Goal
One of the possible goals you can choose in Kurbo is to ‘make my parents happy.’ The issue with this goal (and the app in general) is that it makes it seem as though weight loss is the key to acceptance, confidence, success, or your parent’s love. In the work that I do with binge eating recovery, I find that really dark. We’re talking about kids that don’t have fully developed brains yet, that are highly emotional, who are finding their identity going through these really formative years. During that time, if you’re selling this message that you have to lose weight for your parents to love you, you internalize that for the rest of your life.
Lindsey says she remembers her mom putting a picture a picture of herself up on the fridge and saying ‘I don’t want to look like that ever again.’ That stuck with her, and it was something that came up for her that she had to address in treatment. It was so impressionable for her- you look at your mom like she’s superwoman, so when she saw her doing that, it automatically set this tone in her head that if she ever looked like the woman in the picture, she’s not doing something right.
For the most part, we’re looking up to our parents to set the tone for what self-esteem and confidence looks like. If we’re trying to please them through a largely unattainable goal, it sets you up for a lifetime of failure.
Kurbo creates a lifestyle of yo-yo dieting.
In general, we need to not be putting kids on restrictive diets. We need to focus on food access, the socio-economic factors at play, and parents learning how to talk to their kids about nutrition without it being a moralistic/shaming conversation. We also need to recognize that kids gain weight in puberty. It’s just what happens. We don’t need to diagnose it. Some kids are bigger, and some are smaller. We need to relax about it and get to the root of why parents are so stressed out and instead focus on why there are kids that don’t even have enough money for school lunches.
This Kurbo app basically just sheds light onto how broken our approach to health is, especially in the for-profit industry. In America alone, the country’s market for weight loss products and services reached an all-time high of $72 billion. Weight Watchers knows what they’re doing with their messaging and with this app, and it’s irresponsible. Every company has opposing research to know what they’re going up against. WW knows the information on how/why diets don’t work. They block out those keywords, they know what consumers respond to, and that’s what they’re doing.
Lindsey Hall is an award winning eating disorder + addiction speaker and writer, focusing on the nitty gritty topics of recovery and eating disorders. Having struggled with the eating disorder cycle for many years, Lindsey has actively been in her coined “flexible recovery” since 2014, and is the author behind “I Haven’t Shaved in Six Weeks,” a blog written to humanize the stigmas of eating disorders and treatment.
Through her writing, she has had the privilege of speaking around the world on nuanced topics such as Body Dysmorphic Disorder, Drunkorexia, Exercise Addiction, Orthorexia, and Relationships + ED. She has been featured in publications including TODAY Show, CBS, Cosmopolitan, Women’s Health, Glamour, TheFix.com, SheKnows, Project Heal, NEDA, SHAPE Magazine, Bustle, Refinery29, New York Post, and more. Her future plans in recovery advocacy are focused on owning and converting a van to take it on the road, so she can report on treatment and eating disorder resources around the country in a dream she’s envisioned as “Recovery on the Road.”
- Blog: www.ihaventshavedinsixweeks.com
- Instagram: @lindseyhallwrites
- Facebook: www.facebook.com/lindseyhallwrites
- Email: email@example.com
This post was transcribed and edited by Brittany Allison, Intuitive Eating Counsellor. You can find her on Instagram @thefoodfreedomlife.
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