The Support I Didn’t Know I Needed

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Nettie Reeves

Nettie Reeves, CPT, CHC, Author

Housing the body with an eating disorder is a lonely and hollow place to be. It can be debilitating. I know because I suffered from an undiagnosed binge eating disorder for many years. And when I realized that I must have an eating disorder in 2016, I sought out support.

As a black, middle aged woman with many traumas, and as a fitness professional for over 25 years, I have learned to live with the fact that I will suffer from disordered eating on various occasions throughout my lifetime.

Many years of dealing with disordered eating led to my eating disorder. But I didn’t know that I needed help; until I reached my wits end. It was either support, which meant my secret was out, or death. I chose support.

There are a few systems that should have been available but just weren’t:

My family – although my siblings clearly suffered some form of disordered eating, we didn’t talk about it. In my family, hard subjects just got swept under the rug.

Peer acceptance – my body didn’t represent what a fitness guru is “supposed” to look like. I didn’t fit that mode because I had muscle mass. My body was beautiful but outside forces made me think otherwise.

The medical industry – the first thing they do is take your weight, then compare you on a BMI scale. This doesn’t tell you how healthy you are. It’s just a calculation of weight and height, without any consideration for anything else.

Potential clients who fed into the stereotypical standard of beauty. Even when I was feeling good about my body, I was often met with a society that refused to accept and embrace differences as normal.

Until I was on the edge, this secret disease kept me trapped. After all, I had been hiding my acts from everyone, even denying it myself. Eventually, I knew there had to be a way out. It was simply support.

Although support may look different for everyone, I received direct support from my husband, who didn’t at all understand what was needed of him. But he became quite the reinforcement after receiving knowledge and understanding from my eating disorder therapist, group therapy and dietician, who by the way, brought me back to life. Writing a book about my story also helped me help others. Other support came from my fitness community who embraced me, most of whom are clients today.

Whether indirect or direct, support can be gained on a universal level by:

  • reducing the stigma around body image, body types, and weight
  • updated medical guidelines that measure true health and not just body weight
  • a society that focuses on how we feel rather than how we look
  • a healthcare system making treatment accessible to all
  • open discussions surrounding eating disorders and disordered eating
  • make seeking support easy and mainstream

Having support systems in place is critical in recovery. Use them!

Nettie is the CEO of N’shape with’N, LLC, motivational speaker, a board certified health and nutrition counselor, life coach and author. She travels around the country sharing her story in her book entitled, Through THICK and Thin and Thick Again, which heralds as a memoir and manual that seeks to help identify, qualify and heal from binge eating disorder. She has won numerous awards including The Steve Harvey Hoodie Award for Community Service, The Pride Award, the 50 Most Influential Women in Charlotte Award, and Career Mastered. Nettie was the first Black woman to own her own fitness brand in the city of Charlotte. Her business model is now the norm. For seven years, Nettie hosted ongoing fitness and health segments on CBS affiliate, WBTV, Charlotte, offers her own line of athleisure wear and remains committed to sharing the passion of what it feels like to be “whole” with the community. Nettie is married to Eric Lewis and more than anything in the world, enjoys traveling and spending time with her two grandchildren, Beatrice and Tripp.