Coming Out Of the Closet

I hate to tell people I am a registered dietitian. And here’s why.

Typical scene:

“What do you do?”

“I am a dietitian.”

“No wonder you are so skinny!” (I literally shut down my ear every time upon hearing the ‘s’ word.)

People have expectations of us and that’s fair. They expect you to be size 2 - 6, eat salad, shop at Trader’s Joe, and say anything that’s related to ‘green.’  But when you name your favorite eatery to be In-n-Out burger, people’s eyes start rolling. I remember I had to drive 5 miles away from my district office to get a burger for lunch… so that I wouldn’t run into any students, teachers, parents, and superintendents.

Being a dietitian is stressful. Being a dietitian with a history of eating disorders is even worse.

I used to be a TV host. Just like most of the folks in show business, I developed anorexia and bulimia between jobs. To make things worse, my doctor misdiagnosed me as having “hormone disorder,“ in which she put me on all the wrong drugs and birth control pills (the cheapest one!). I couldn’t eat, walk, run, and sleep. I wore North Face gear at 79 degrees. My muscle cramps were so painful that I had to stay awake every night holding my knees. When I hit rock bottom, I attempted suicide, twice. To me, enjoying a pleasant meal and being able to keep the food in my system was a luxury. And needless to say, the recovery journey was long and painful. It was a constant battle between the mind and the body. But I am glad I made it. I survived. Whew!

I am less heavy than most people because I had a history. But that history changed my perspective about foods and life. It is not about the pyramid, the plate method, or Dr. Oz. It is about appreciation. That is… becoming a ‘mindful’ eater, who can live life to the fullest, enjoying and feeling grateful for every single bite without any regret. 

I never told my students, clients, patients, and colleagues about my past until lately. It was merely because people tend to think that eating disorders is easily treatable and folks like us would become ‘skinny’ after recovery. But after hiding this fact for close to two decades, I decided to ‘come out of the closet’ and set the record straight.

So next time when you see me sticking my fingers into garlic fries, biting on my juicy sliders, or sipping the strawberry milkshake, please stay calm. I am alright. I am getting my weekly dosage of vitamin ‘Z,” also known as “Zen.”

And, I am still a proud registered dietitian.

Olivia Ho, M.S., R.D., is an award winning Registered Dietitian, health technology advocate, and committee member of the multiple national and local health organizations. Find Olivia @