Are you concerned that a friend or family member might possibly have an eating disorder?
It is not easy to watch someone you care about ruin their health, even if the disorder seems to be simple to fix; causing even more frustration. However, eating disorders are not only about food and weight. They are used as a coping mechanism to deal with emotions and stress-related problems. You, alone, can not change the behaviors of the individual who is suffering, but you can offer your support and seek treatment; this will increase the chances of changing the disordered behaviors of your loved one.
What do I need to know about eating disorders?
Eating disorders contain extremely strict diets, binging, throwing up after meals, obsessively counting calories, and using other extremely unhealthy behaviors that can cause immense harm both physically and mentally. However, eating disorders involve a deeper issue besides the unhealthy habits. Eating disorders trigger thoughts about food, weight, body image, and perfectionism. These negative thoughts and emotions are the major factors that fuel the eating disorder.
Common Myths about Eating Disorders:
Myth 1: You need to be underweight in order to have an eating disorder.
Fact: Eating disorders can occur in people of all shapes and sizes. Many individuals who have eating disorders are either average weight or overweight.
Myth 2: Eating disorders only affect teenage girls and young women
Fact: Even though eating disorders are commonly found in young women in their teenage years or early twenties, they are also discovered in men and women of all ages, ranging from children to older adults.
Myth 3: People with eating disorders are conceited
Fact: Individuals with eating disorders are bot conceited but rather try to find ways to deal with stress or uncontrollable feelings.
Myth 4: Eating disorders are not that dangerous
Fact: Eating disorders are a serious illness that affects both the physical and mental health. Eating disorders can cause life-threatening health problems, like heart disease, bone loss, stunning growth, infertility, and kidney damage.
Speak out and seek help:
if you begin to notice that your loved one is exhibiting symptoms of an eating disorder it is crucial for you to get help. You may be scared that you'll be wrong or mistaken, say the wrong thing, or cause the person. However, it's important that these worries don't stop you from seeking help; these behaviors can easily develop into a life-threatening problem. Individuals who have eating disorders struggle to ask for help. Some feel as if they don't need or deserve any help. Regardless of the case, without adequate treatment, their health can become more severe. The sooner you reach out to get help for your loved one that better chances they have of recovery.
How to talk to someone about an eating disorder:
Find a good time: You want to find a good time to speak to the person in private without any distractions. It is troublesome to stop in the middle of the conversation due to interruptions. It is also essential to have the conversation while everyone's emotions are calm; it is not helpful to have the conversation after an argument.
Explain your concern for them:
It is very common to lecture or criticize during this conversation, but it is best not to do these as it will only make the person suffering more defensive. An option is to address certain situations and behaviors you have noticed and express how they worry you. The main goal is not to offer solutions but to express your worries, how much you love them and your desire to help them.
Be ready to deal with denial:
There is a high possibility that your loved one may become angry or deny having an eating disorder, defensive. If this occurs, it is preferred to remain calm and respectful. Keep in mind that conversations like these feel highly threatening and scary, don't let it frighten you.
It is very easy to give up at first, but you must remain strong and patient. It takes time for your loved one to admit they have a problem and reveal their emotions. The most important thing is to open a comfort place and trust in communication. It must be clear to the person suffering that you care about them, believe in them, and will always be there for them no matter watch.
What to avoid:
Arguments: If you are not dealing with an underage child, you cannot force them into treatment. The motivation and determination must come from them. Arguments often result in pressure, denial, anger, and frustration.
Avoid making comments about weight or appearance:
People with eating disorders are already highly focused on their bodies. Comments implying that they're not fat increase their concern of not being thin. Instead, direct the conversation toward their feelings Why do they feel fat? What do they plan they will achieve by being thin?
avoid using "use" statements such as "you need to eat" or "you're hurting your body." It is best to use "I" statements like "I get scared when I hear you throw up."
Avoid simple solutions:
Such as "all you need to do is feel confident." Eating disorders are more complex, and if a solution were easy, your loved one wouldn't be in this situation
Encourage you're loved on to seek help:
Besides offering constant support, you can encourage your loved one to seek professional help. The longer an eating disorder remains untreated the more difficult it is to overcome the disorder, so it is encouraged to help your loved one seek a doctor as soon as possible.
A doctor can evaluate the symptoms and provide an accurate analysis and can further order a test to determine underlying problems such as depression, drug abuse or another type of mental disorder.
If your loved one is in denial of seeing a doctor, address to them that they are just getting a physical done to ease into worries. It may seem more manageable if you accompany your loved one so they feel more secure and comfortable.
Treatment for eating disorders:
The treatment depends on the symptoms, signs, and issues of the person suffering as well as how severe their disorder is. The most successful treatment addresses both the physical and mental problems. The main goal of treatment is to treat medical and nutritional needs, develop a healthy relationship with food, and teach coping skills to deal with life and challenges.
A treatment team is mainly seen as the most effective way of treatment. Those in the team may be medical doctors, mental health professionals, and nutritionist as well as the support of family members.
The first goal is to treat major health issues and to stabilize the body. Hospital or residential treatment may be needed if you loved one is of severe harm. Outpatient is also another option for those where immediate medical health is not needed.
Nutritionist or dietitians strive to help your loved one have a balanced and healthy meal plan, maintain and reach a healthy weight, and set dietary goals.
Main types of therapies:
Individual therapy - this type the underlying issues that perhaps caused the eating disorder as well as discovering symptoms. The main focus is to increase self-esteem and create a life free from the disorder
Family therapy - Family therapy explores the family lifestyle that can possibly interfere or fuel the eating disorder or recovery. This often includes sessions without the person suffering to discover family dynamics.
Group therapy - this involves people who suffer from eating disorders communicating with supervision. This helps to relieve isolation and promote support to one another.
How to deal with eating disorders at home:
There are many things a parent can do to support an eating disorder recovery.
Create a positive example: Steer away from diets, fat loss meals, and other comments about body and weight as it can create negative thoughts within the person suffering. Try focusing on the characteristics that make a person unique.
Have fun meals: Eating together as a family is highly helpful during recovery. If your child refuses to eat the food you prepare, encourage them to join the table and value this time rather than focusing on other problems. This provides a great example that food is meant to be enjoyed instead of being feared.
Avoid struggles with food: Forcing your child to eat will only cause conflict and may lead to more lying. However, this does not mean you can't set limits. Try to focus more on your child's behavior rather than forcing them to eat.
Provide natural consequences: For example, if your child decides to skip a meal, simply tell them they won't be able to go to basketball practice or art class as it wouldn't be safe for them due to their frail body. Make sure you're not using this as a form of punishment but rather a consequence to protect them.
Promote self-esteem: A high self-esteem is one of the best ways to promote recovery from an eating disorder.
Don't feel guilty: Parents often time blame themselves for their loved one developing an eating disorder, which is something completely out of everyone's control. Once you realize an eating disorder is no one's fault, it will be easier to take action and not be hesitant to seek help.
Recovery from an eating disorder takes a while; there are no easy solutions, therefore, it is essential to have patience and compassion. Do not try setting unrealistic goals but rather provide support and praise each step forward; as well as providing hope with setbacks occur.
Learn more about eating disorders- use my website as well as other platforms as a tool to learn how to provide help and cope with obstacles.
Learn without judging: Show that you truly love the person suffering and that you will always be there for them. Resit the comments that judge the person and rather let the person know that they are being heard and that you validate their feelings.
Possible triggers: Try to avoid topics involving food, weight, eating, or body shamming. However, try to still eat infant of your loved one as it sets a healthy example.
Care for yourself: Don't become highly involved with the eating disorder that you begin to stop taking care of yourself. Be sure you have support so you have enough energy to provide it as well. It can be helpful to find a support group, your own therapist or a trusted friend to have a safe place to talk about your feelings. Try finding time to show self-care activities.