Health and Fitness

How Katie Couric Navigates Bulimia Triggers at the Doctor’s Office

Starting in her teenage years, TV anchor Katie Couric began developing disordered eating patterns and symptoms of bulimia. And, although she’s come a long way, Couric said in a new interview this week that she still uses certain strategies to avoid seeing her weight—including at the doctor’s office.

“When I go to the doctor, I weigh myself backwards—I look out,” Couric told People. “Sometimes I flat-out refuse,” she continued. “I don’t want it to ruin my day.” Couric, 64, also no longer owns a scale and it’s been five years since she’s weighed herself at home, according to People.

For people with eating disorders (including those who are in recovery), seeing reminders of their weight can be triggering. In some cases, those on the receiving end of weight stigma find that their weight ends up dominating any conversation with a medical professional—even when it’s totally unrelated to the reason for their visit. 

So avoiding scales entirely or asking not to see those numbers at a doctor’s appointment can be ways for people in those situations to protect their mental health and overall well-being, as SELF wrote previously. (Of course, depending on your individual situation and the provider, they may or may not actually listen to you. Asking to avoid those numbers is a valid expression of your bodily autonomy, but you may need to seek out another doctor, like someone aligned with the Health at Every Size movement, for instance, who may be more likely to respect that request.)

In her upcoming memoir, Going There, Couric recalls being preoccupied with her weight and appearance as well as feeling an overall sense of perfectionism that fed into her negative body image. “I think there was an aspect of perfectionism and high achieving that was very much a part of our family, and that contributed to my discontent about my body,” Couric said in the People interview. “There was so much pressure on women, and dieting was so much a part of the culture.”

Things changed for Couric when Karen Carpenter died in 1983 at the age of 32. Carpenter passed away due to heart failure related to her long battle with anorexia. For Couric, seeing the potentially lethal effects of an eating disorder “shook me to the core,” she said.

Today, Couric says she’s in a much healthier place and has improved her relationships with her body and with food. And she’s working to pass along positive messages to her two daughters, Ellie, 30, and Carrie, 25. “I do the best I can,” Couric said. “I think probably some of my own neuroses were channeled to them, but I try to emphasize healthy eating and taking care of yourself.” 

If you or someone you love struggle with disordered eating, contact the National Eating Disorders Association (U.S.) helpline at (800) 931-2237 or National Eating Disorder Information Centre (Canada) at (866) 633-4220.

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