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Michele Christine Weinstein: “Eating disorders aren’t logical”

Eating disorders aren’t logical. Those with eating disorders are perfectly capable of understanding this. Yet, that’s what makes them so hard to fight. Oftentimes family members and/or friends get upset and it makes it TEN TIMES as difficult to fight. Listen to their thoughts. Don’t get angry. It’s easier to fight the eating disorder as […]

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Eating disorders aren’t logical. Those with eating disorders are perfectly capable of understanding this. Yet, that’s what makes them so hard to fight. Oftentimes family members and/or friends get upset and it makes it TEN TIMES as difficult to fight. Listen to their thoughts. Don’t get angry. It’s easier to fight the eating disorder as a team than alone.


As a part of my interview series with public figures who struggled with and coped with an eating disorder, I had the pleasure to interview Michele Christine Weinstein. She is a motivational writer (www.michelechristineweinstein.com), content creator, freelance writer, and founder who utilizes her life story and pre-medical background to inspire others. She believes in the power of our stories and encourages all to share their stories of struggle on a platform which she founded called Not a Standard (www.notastandard.com). Outside of work, Michele enjoys kayaking, walking her dog, and working out. She also enjoys a good home-decor project, although it usually results in bloopers (which she later shares on social media for good laughs). She’s always sharing her projects, bloopers, and little motivational quotes (which she calls Michele-isms) on Instagram, so check her out. And stay tuned for what her story entails next…it may just be great.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself and what you do professionally?

I’m Michele. I’m a multi-passionate entrepreneur. I’m a content creator, coach, writer, freelance writer (for American Heart & multiple NJ magazines), and the founder of a platform called Not a Standard. All sounds great on paper, but in all reality, there were many obstacles that I’ve had to face in order to live the life I have now. Crazy life story here: https://www.instagram.com/p/CBiPhxcAuNB/.

My background is relatively unique to most as I have a pre-medical degree with an emphasis on Biology and Nutrition. While in college, I took courses such as Nutrition in the Life Cycle, Biochemistry of Human Disease, Health Disparities, Molecular Endocrinology, Psychology, and many more. I graduated valedictorian from the University of Vermont with a 4.0 GPA.

Given my unique experiences and education, I use my page to inspire others to live their healthiest and happiest life…which to me includes more than just food, but a balanced approach filled with home decor, fashion, fitness, and more. I use my page to inspire others to screw it, do it, and defy the odds in order to live a life that they love.

Thank you for your bravery and strength in being so open with us. I personally understand how hard this is. Are you able to tell our readers the story of how you struggled with an eating disorder?

There’s this quote from Maya Angelou that states, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” And it’s one I share frequently on my Instagram as I love it so much. Why? Because it describes life so perfectly… it’s not like we come into this world with a guidebook of what is right and what is wrong. We are born into this world, without knowing much of anything, so we are able to live and learn as we go. Sounds great, but what happens when you make a mistake, and what happens when what you learn is wrong? Do you still have the chance to live a life worth living or do you give up?

So for those who don’t know me, I’m Michele. I’m a content creator, freelance writer, and the founder of a platform called Not a Standard.

Sounds great on paper, but I didn’t share everything. Because if I did, you would see that I’m also what-I-call a survivor times ten. My life was anything, but easy and there were so many times where I literally cried myself to sleep wondering if and when all the bad things would stop happening to me. I’d think about when everything went wrong and what I did to deserve it all. And ultimately, I realized that it all started out at age five when my brother was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes.

Read that again.

Why? Because my brother’s diagnosis didn’t just affect him, it affected the whole family as well. In just a matter of days, from when he got sick to when he got diagnosed, we went from eating a variety of foods to just a few select foods.

The chicken fingers that we once ate were replaced with healthier grilled chicken cutlets, the cheesy broccoli was replaced with steamed broccoli, and the maple syrup we enjoyed at breakfast was replaced with the sugar-free version, of course.

Besides these changes, I watched my mom bring out the food scale at every single meal. Instead of serving everyone with a fork or a spoon, she would meticulously calculate what my brother needed and spoon it on a plate while measuring it. When he was done and he would ask for more, she would sadly have to tell him that he was done for the night. And he’d get upset not understanding quite why he couldn’t eat more than what was plated for him on his plate.

As a five-year-old watching this every single meal day-by-day, I didn’t quite understand. I didn’t understand why he couldn’t eat if he was hungry, as before we had lived according to hunger cues.

Ultimately, it led me to want to be healthy as well. But what I hadn’t realized at the time was that his “healthy” was VERY different than mine. Ultimately, learning the wrong way of healthy when I was young led me down a very long and dark path filled with devastation…that I never thought would end.

A dark path which meant…

• Turning down snacks at school… even though no other kid second-guessed it.

• Eating less than I needed at meals…despite the hunger I felt.

• Restricting my fat intake for years to less than 10 grams…despite feeling unsatisfied at meals.

• Over-exercising and later fracturing my foot when I was only in 4th grade…despite knowing it was wrong.

• Restricting entire food groups out of my diet for years and years…while watching others in awe. I didn’t get how they ate normally and stayed in shape.

Ultimately, it was a dark path that just seemed to get worse with time and stress.

And while most focus on food and exercise in the adolescent stage, I started even as a kid. For years and years, I lived my life according to food rules and food jags. When low-fat diets and the Special K diet were in, you better believe I was following it as that’s what I thought was healthiest…that’s what was published in magazines.

It wasn’t healthy, especially for me, just growing up.

Throughout my childhood and teenager years, I got through, but still struggled with body image and food. While I struggled quite a bit, my behaviors were left undiagnosed for quite some time. That was, until senior year of high school when I went downhill FAST.

A day or so before my senior year of high school, my Dad came into my bedroom late at night. I didn’t know what was going on as I had just gotten back from my summer house with my mom. I was already mentally exhausted from all the fighting they have been doing all summer, but in a split second, what I thought was mentally exhausted seemed like nothing. In the few seconds that my dad said that he had an affair, my life changed quite a bit.

That year, the fighting, the drama, and just the pain led me to resort to food and exercise as a way to cope with the pain. Every single day that I’d get home from school, I’d eat egg whites and STEAMED vegetables. Even though I’d still be hungry when I finished, I’d hop on the treadmill on an incline of 10 or 12. I’d run with the music blasting until I couldn’t anymore. Oftentimes when I got off, I’d feel chest pains, and occasionally I wondered if I’d die in my sleep.

During this period in time, I started seeing a therapist, nutritionist, and doctor…none of which helped me. I just kept going downhill and downhill physically… and my weight drastically dropped. My school uniform started falling off of me, and I started looking gaunt. Getting worse and worse daily, led me to get an ultimatum. I was forced by my high school to go inpatient for anorexia.

To make a very long story short, it didn’t help me much. It was more of a “bandaid solution” for me as when I got out, I felt the same as before. I was just as scared or even more so of certain foods. And I was more obsessive with exercise as during my inpatient stay, they never showed how to balance food and exercise. I just made it through the summer and was set to go for my first semester at college. While I was already nervous about going to school, it was made worse. My dad intentionally filed divorce papers the day before I went to college to hurt me. And so he did.

As you can imagine, going to college was anything BUT easy for me given what I had been through. Instead of having a normal college experience, I’d say that I survived the first semester. I ate just to get by rather than for enjoyment. And I exercised just as much, if not more. As the semester went on, I started to worry more and more. And as the stress got worse, so did the struggles with anorexia.

By the time the semester was done, I was relieved to be home. Yet, for me, that meant walking in to meet my mom’s (now-ex boyfriend) at the door. What I didn’t realize at the time was what stress would await me… this situation was anything but optimal. And as a result, I decided to take a medical leave from college and go back to inpatient to see if it would help if I did another round.

It didn’t. I walked out with the same mindset as before. Not only was my mindset the same, but this time I had a bad situation to live in at home. This time, unlike the last, I was living with my mom’s boyfriend who was unemployed and an alcoholic. He was mentally and verbally abusive to me nearly every single day, and he used my eating disorder as a way to attack me. Oftentimes he’d cook for everyone but me, put plates out for everyone but myself, and/or label the foods in the fridge with names in a method to “break me” and to get me out of the house. It was a bad situation to be in for anyone, but for someone with an eating disorder it was worse.

And while there’s a lot more to the story and a lot more than I HAVE to share about this situation, ultimately after months and months, he was cuffed out of my house and we were given a restraining order. It took awhile to get past everything that occurred, but eventually, I went back to college at the University of Vermont and proved everyone wrong. I graduated with a pre-medical background, took courses simultaneously that I was told by college counselors not to, and passed them all with a 4.0 GPA and an award.

In spite of this, however, I was still in a bad place. Because I never truly dealt with the eating disorder, I slowly started to deteriorate yet again…losing more and more weight. I went for outpatient help, but to make a very long story short, as I started eating more, my metabolism shot up, and I was kicked out of getting outpatient help due to hospital guidelines and health insurance guidelines… pretty much to fend for myself.

At this point, I was angry, infuriated, and upset. I felt that I had been through so many situations before this point and that none of it mattered. I felt as if I was just a number rather than a person within the medical system. I felt like a LOST CAUSE.

I mean, even the medical systems that were in place to help people, gave up.

And while it’s crazy looking back, seeing how I could have died (as many others before me have), this is the point where I said screw it. Instead of relying on medical systems to heal me, I healed myself-mentally and physically using what I learned at school.

I started using fitness and food as a way to heal my body. And slowly, I started fighting food fears and finding a balance with exercise that I never had before. It took years, tears, and quite a lot of patience, but it was all worth it in the end. Why? Because this is the first time since I was five where I’ve been able to truly live.

Live.

What does that even mean? For me, it’s been eating dark chocolate everyday without fear. It’s about going on vacations for the first time in my life being able to eat out and have some kind of flexibility. It’s about being able to come home to a home that I feel safe in, which I hadn’t for quite awhile. It’s about doing exercises and workouts that make me feel good, and knowing that rest days are oftentimes necessary. It’s about doing more than surviving, but thriving….

• Using my experience and my story to inspire others on my Instagram and my blog.

• Using my pre-medical background and education as a freelance writer to educate others about proper nutrition.

• Starting a platform called Not a Standard where others could share their stories of struggle to inspire others, connect with those who can help, and educate each other a bit more to END the stigmas associated with struggle. To be announced…

But you get it, it’s crazy. I’m doing everything I thought I never could do and more. And that’s just it, going back on what I said at the beginning of this blog, I’d have to say one thing. It’s never too late to re-learn everything you once learned before. It’s never too late to make your life better than it was before. It’s never too late to say screw it to the past (or even the odds) and get the life you want. All it takes is one “step” at a time… let’s do this, let’s trudge on.

What was the final straw that made you decide that you were going to do all you can to get better? And how are things going for you today?

As I mentioned earlier, the final straw was an “if I don’t do this, I’ll be dead, like others before me.” The last straw was when the medical system told me that I could no longer receive the outpatient care that I needed. And that’s when I started taking matters into my own hands and started eating more, eating different foods, and trying a new method to overcome something I had been “professionally treated” on for years. And, in all honesty, I’m glad it worked out the way that it did as this is the HEALTHIEST and HAPPIEST I’ve ever been. And it’s because of myself.

Based on your own experience are you able to share 5 things with our readers about how to support a loved one who is struggling with an eating disorder? If you can, can you share an example from your own experience?

1.) Listen to them without judgment (or at least without sharing that judgment!)

Eating disorders aren’t logical. Those with eating disorders are perfectly capable of understanding this. Yet, that’s what makes them so hard to fight. Oftentimes family members and/or friends get upset and it makes it TEN TIMES as difficult to fight. Listen to their thoughts. Don’t get angry. It’s easier to fight the eating disorder as a team than alone.

2.) Sit with Them At Meals

3.) Sit With Them After Meals

4.) Workout with Them

5.) Avoid making Negative comments about food around them.

Is there a message you would like to tell someone who may be reading this, who is currently struggling with an eating disorder?

As mentioned above, “It’s never too late to re-learn everything you once learned before. It’s never too late to make your life better than it was before. It’s never too late to say screw it to the past (or even the odds) and get the life you want. All it takes is one “step” at a time… let’s do this, let’s trudge on.”

If you need motivation, support, and/or a coach, check me out on www.instagram.com/michelechristineweinstein for a mix of motivation, meals, fun, and support.

According to this study cited by the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, at least 30 million people in the U.S. of all ages and genders suffer from an eating disorder. Can you suggest 3–5 reasons why this has become such a critical issue recently?

Only 5?

But in all reality, there are so many reasons why people are struggling. Besides having a genetic component, eating disorders also have an environmental and societal component. Meaning, the videos of 13 year olds and/or 50+ year olds on TikTok sharing tricks of how to lose 10 pounds in a week by drinking water aren’t probably the most beneficial. Neither are photos that are completely re-adjusted on Instagram or magazines.

Point being, there are so many different things that we CAN change and measures that can we can take in order to PREVENT the rates from increasing. Instead, as a society, we have been forced to focus on TREATING a disorder that’s harder to treat than to prevent.

While I have a lot more to say on this matter, I truly believe that we CAN do a lot to improve regarding this manner.

Based on your insight, what can concrete steps can a) individuals, b) corporations, c) communities and d) leaders do to address the core issues that are leading to this problem?

I believe that there are so many steps that we can take. I believe that first and foremost, it’s essential to teach kids from an early age. Instead of focusing on marketing foods to children, we should be focused more so on teaching them about the functionality about food and what it does in the body. We should be focused on speaking better about ourselves and the foods that we eat so that children have a healthy environment to thrive. Without this healthy upbringing, it’s difficult to learn what a healthy relationship with food is.

I also believe that we need to focus on the messages within advertisements that claim weight loss of xyz in a certain period and/or food products that claim to be “healthy.” I feel like connotating foods as good or bad only adds to the problem. And contributes to the many deaths that are tied to eating disorders.

As you know, one of the challenges of an eating disorder is the harmful,and dismissive sentiment of “why can’t you just control yourself”. What do you think needs to be done to make it apparent that an eating disorder is an illness just like heart disease or schizophrenia?

I think it’s something that many won’t understand early without overcoming an eating disorder themselves. Even as the valedictorian and even with the background that I had in regards to education, I struggled quite a bit. I knew exactly what I needed to do, but in some respects, I was scared and unable to start for a LONG time.

So what I’m trying to say is that eating disorders aren’t logical. You can’t explain something illogical and expect others to make logic out of it. However, I do believe that functional mRIS of the brain may showcase the differences among those with and without eating disorders.

What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that have helped you with your struggle? Can you explain why you like them?

Honestly, I think motivational quotes helped me the most. And it’s why I post what I post on my social media as I aim to be the support I never had. I also created this platform www.notastandard.com where others can use their stories to inspire others to keep going. (It’s relaunching!)

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Screw it, do it, defy the odds. (It’s my own quote!). Read here: https://www.instagram.com/p/CFcEItNgN45/

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

I’m always working on something! My life goal is to write a book on my life as I truly believe that my story can help many, especially since I ALREADY receive so many direct messages daily saying that I’m the reason they kept going. Pretty amazing feeling and it’s exactly WHY I’m on Instagram.

With that being said, however, it’s nearly impossible to share your story. When I first reached out to magazines to share my story, I never once heard back. When I contacted publishers and/or even looked up information to publish, I realized that the guidelines in place for publishing don’t EXACTLY make it easy. In all respects, unless you know someone or have connections or have the funds to self-publish, it’s difficult to share a story with others.

While this is STILL VERY MUCH A GOAL that will happen, it’s the reason I started Not a Standard (even without much website design knowledge-learned to code to create it). It’s a safe community where others can share their stories to inspire others, connect with others, and also educate one another when it comes to a VARIETY of struggles (not just anorexia). I feel like unlike other platforms, this is pretty inclusive. There have been a multitude of stories and as a result, you can truly see how similar our struggles are.

So maybe it’s a crazy goal, but I’d love to build this. Because I truly believe OUR stories can change the world.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the largest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

As I mentioned, I want to build Not a Standard. That’s my goal. (Technology is my main obstacle in creating this, but you better believe it will relaunch!) Here’s the community in case you want to support www.instagram.com/notastandard_ and www.notastandard.com .

How can our readers follow you on social media?

www.instagram.com/michelechristineweinstein

www.michelechristineweinstein.com

www.pinterest.com/michelechristineweinstein

https://www.linkedin.com/in/michele-weinstein/

Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!

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