I Like Your Hair/bag/shoes/etc
Everyone likes to get a compliment every now and then, but avoid saying “you look healthy/good” because this could be heard as “you look bigger” in the ears of someone in the early stages of recovery. However, giving a compliment about hair, shoes or maybe even their make-up can boost confidence and make the other feel better about themselves.
Compliments are difficult to receive due to this devil on your shoulder whispering in your ear that everyone is lying. It can be a challenge to convince someone in recovery that they look good, so the smaller the compliment the more likely it is to be accepted. Avoid compliments about someone’s body, focus on other things.
Why Cant You Just Stop Eating
Just like restrictive eating disorders, telling someone with a binge-eating disorder to stop eating isnt as simple as it sounds. People with binge-eating disorders often feel a lack of control when it comes to food. There isnt a simple way to stop. They often feel trapped and are going through intense emotional struggles. If they felt like they had the power to stop having an eating disorder, they would. Unfortunately, it is a complex mental health condition that takes a lot of time and effort to recover from.
You Are More Than Your Weight/fitness Routine/the Food On Your Plate
Talk about her character, not her physical appearance. We so often resort to looksfrom body shape to hairstyles to clothingwhen starting a conversation with someone. Compliment your friend on her intelligence, her kindness, and her courage. She is already hyper-focused on her body, so even if you think telling her You look healthy! or You are beautiful! is helpful, keep the focus on her internal values instead. Remind her how brave she is for choosing recovery and healing.
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Christmas Is Only One Day Hold On In There
Yes, and as patronising as this sounds. It is one day and you can do this. We can do this together. We can manage our eating disorders and get through it. It might be hard and feel like a struggle but if once we have done it we can be so proud of ourselves and then have an easier day on boxing day.
Christmas isnt easy and I am not going to pretend it is but it is possible to survive it and I know actually enjoy it. If words dont seem to be helping simple squeezing my hand under the table always does the job! So why not try that if you feel lost for words.
BIO: Hope Virgo author of Stand tall little Girl suffered with anorexia for over 4 years, before being admitted to a Mental Health Hospital in 2007. She lived in the hospital for a year, fighting one of the hardest battles of her life. Since being discharged, she has fought to stay well. She now wants to use her experiences of mental health illness to champion the rights of others, inspire them to get well, and help break the stigma of mental illness. You can see what she is up to here @HopeVirgo
What Not To Say To A Loved One With Binge Eating Disorder
Eating Disorder Therapist in Rockville, Maryland, Self-Compassion Enthusiast
Binge eating disorder is the most common eating disorder and its also vastly misunderstood.
Contrary to popular belief, you cant tell who is struggling with binge eating disorder based on their weight, body type, age, race, gender, or socioeconomic status. Eating disorders do not discriminate.
For loved ones supporting those in recovery, it can be hard to know what to say. The following are some things that are unhelpful to say, and some more helpful suggestions.
1. Where did all the cookies go?
Your loved one is likely already feeling guilt and shame over their bingeing. Pointing out missing food, can serve to add to their already overcoming feelings of guilt and frustration.
A more helpful thing to say if you notice food missing is the following, I love you and I just want you to know that Im here for you if you want to talk about recovery or how you are feeling.
2. Do you want to go on the Keto diet together? Or, Im on the Paleo diet and Im feeling great!
Food restriction triggers and exasterbates binge eating disorder. Food restriction biologically sets us up to binge, as that trait was adaptive for our survival as a species during periods of famine.
Im not here to tell you how to live your life . However, its so important to try not to talk about dieting or your weight around your loved one in recovery.
3. Dont you think youve had enough to eat?
The Bottom Line
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You Look Healthy/better Than Ever
If there is one thing for certain, individuals suffering from an eating disorder are already well aware of their body. However, the majority of individuals suffering from an eating disorder find this compliment to be extremely triggering. Individuals in recovery may need to gain weight as part of their treatment, and their fragile mental state will cause any comment that notes a change in their appearance as confirmation of weight gain. Because to a disordered mind healthy is a synonym for fat.
Why Is What You Say Important
To quote a popular TV show, Words cut deeper than knives. While this is true in general, its crucial to be careful what you say around someone dealing with a mental health issue.
If they arent receiving professional help
Many people struggling with eating disorders use binge eating or restricting food as a form of control and a way to deal with their emotions. Make a remark that triggers negative feelings, especially a sense of not being understood or good enough. It might push them further into their unhealthy habits. What you say might make them feel uneasy, not good enough and that theres something fundamentally wrong with them. When someone with an eating disorder isnt yet receiving professional help, they might be more susceptible to misinterpreting your attempts to be helpful and supportive.
More generally, the risk is that they might feel not understood, helpless and alone. This is likely the opposite of what you may want to achieve when talking to a loved one going through eating issues.
If theyre in recovery
Good communication can go a long way it might help you understand what your loved one is going through and find the best ways to support them. At times this might involve simply being there for them, resisting the urge that you should be doing something to affect them, even if your intention is positive.
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Isnt That Too Many Calories
People who have binge-eating disorders are often very aware of the amount of food theyre eating. There can be a lot of shame around eating, especially eating in front of people, so make sure that you keep comments like this to yourself because it takes a lot of courage to eat in front of others when youre struggling with an eating disorder.
Whats It Like To Live With An Eating Disorder
Finding out that your loved one has an eating disorder can be terrifying but being the one who suffers from it is the real challenge. First, there are a lot of misconceptions about eating disorders. Many people believe that an eating disorder is about having a poor body image or simply wanting to lose weight. Although this can be a factor, it isnt its key feature. For many sufferers, an eating disorder starts from not feeling good enough and trying to handle their emotions by under or overeating. It might also be a way to deal with a history of complicated relationships or a traumatic event such as sexual assault or bullying.
For a lot of sufferers, living with an eating disorder is like being trapped in a nightmare because food is everywhere, and it can trigger feelings of worthlessness. For people with anorexia, food might be a symbol that theyll never be thin enough. Instead, for someone with a binge eating disorder, food might represent both a temptation and a reminder of when they let things get out of control.
An eating disorder is like battling your own demons daily. Its like having a voice inside your head that thinks youre a failure when youre getting better, even if you want to improve. Its like a rollercoaster with constant ups and downs. For instance, someones binge eating disorder might mean feeling elevated when they use food to deal with negative emotions and then ashamed when they realise how much theyd eaten.
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Did You See How Much Weight Has Gained Or Wow Looks Really Great Since Losing Weight
Again, commenting on peoples appearance, in general, isnt helpful to anyone, whether theyre suffering from an eating disorder or not.
Commenting on others bodies, even when it seems like a compliment, reinforces the diet culture standard that bodies are supposed to be judged by others as good or bad, Weatherston-Yarborough says. Our societys unrealistic body standards influence the development of eating disorders for many people.
I Wish I Were Anorexic
Right around late spring when all the “bikini body” issues of magazines start coming out, some of my friends would say comments about how they “wish” they could be anorexic for “just a few weeks before summer.” They didn’t say this to be insensitive, but the fact of the matter is that having an eating disorder was deeply painful, both physically and emotionally. Hearing people talk about something that was killing me always hurt. Jokes like these normalize eating disorders, turning them into a comical notion rather than a serious health issue.
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Diagnosis Of An Eating Disorder
The first step towards getting help for an eating disorder is usually to visit the GP. We have a leaflet that can help you with this appointment. If you’re not registered with a GP, you can learn more about how to do this in:
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence , which gives evidence-based guidelines about how to treat different illnesses, recommends that if the GP thinks someone may have an eating disorder, they should immediately refer them to an eating disorder specialist for further assessment or treatment.
Diagnosis is made by taking a history, which means talking to the person about their feelings and behaviour. It may also involve some physical tests, such as checking their height and weight, and blood tests. Diagnosis is usually essential to be able to access treatment. Each type of eating disorder has a list of criteria that doctors and healthcare professionals use to diagnose an eating disorder. You can read more about what might happen at a doctors appointment here, and what treatment involves here.
Just Eat Something Why Cant You Just Eat
I wish I could just eat like a normal person. But I dont feel like a normal person. And I feel alone, alienated and uncomfortable in my skin. Eating fills me with dread and angst and shame. Im working on it. Really I am but this journey is so hard.
Better question: I would really like to learn more about what happens when you think about eating, can you explain it to me? I want to learn more about this.
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How Much Weight Did You Lose
Eating disorders can involve losing weight, but they can also involve gaining weight, or failing to gain weight as expected . Our culture loves before-and-after photos, but for eating disorders, the before and after is in the mind. When people are struggling with eating disorders, their brains are monopolized by thoughts of food or of their body. The real after is that they are happier, able to enjoy life and less anxious. Focus on how they are feeling, not on the size of their body.
How Does An Eating Disorder Start
No one can pinpoint exactly how an eating disorder beginsand root causes are different for each personbut its not something that will go away on its own.
Eating disorders are a progressive mental illness that can potentially be fatal, said Bruce Figuered, clinical director at Casa Palmera Treatment Center in Del Mar, California. Without treatment, 20 percent of people with a serious eating disorder will die.
Because its essentially a stress-induced response, an eating disorder can be brought on by a multitude of factors. Here are just a few things that might lead to an eating disorder:
- Genetic predisposition
- Eating for a sense of control or a sense of comfort
- Physical, emotional or sexual abuse
- Extreme pressure to maintain a certain weight or appearance
- Personality traits such as perfectionism, obsessive thinking or hypersensitivity
No matter how minor it seems, an eating disorder is never something to ignore. You owe it to your loved one to connect them with the resources they need as soon as possible. The sooner they receive treatment, the sooner theyll find the healing they need.
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Helpful Things To Say To A Friend With An Eating Disorder
Eating disorders are serious mental illnesses that affect thirty million Americans at some point during their lives. Even more men and women never receive a clinical diagnosis but still struggle with body dissatisfaction and disordered eating attitudes and behaviors.
With National Eating Disorder Awareness Month upon us, Ive been reflecting on my own recovery. For the past seven years, Ive been in recovery from anorexia nervosa. The more open and honest Ive been in my journey, the more freedom Ive experienced. Being open has also allowed me to connect with people who are struggling and previously felt alone in it.
As Ive gotten healthy, Ive noticed that our country is obsessed with what we eat and how we look. Think of how many times youve seen a blog post about eating clean. How many times youve seen the hashtags #fitspo and #goals on Facebook and Instagram. How many times youve seen a headline about some celebritys pregnancy weight. We are bombarded with this information from multiple platforms on a daily basis, and the prevalence of eating disorders has continued to rise.
Talking to a friend whom you suspect has an eating disorderbut has not admitted that to youis incredibly difficult. Regardless of what sheor he, as one in four individuals with eating disorders is maleis experiencing, approach them with love and care. If your friend is struggling, and you want to talk to her, I would suggest keeping a few things in mind:
I Totally Know What You Went Throughi Used To Always Try To Just Drink Smoothies To Stay Thin
Your intentions are so goodbut youre missing the mark. While youve both been victims of our fat-phobic culture, youre conflating two things. Being sad isnt the same as having depression. Being worried isnt the same as having an anxiety disorder. And being a victim of our fat-phobic, diet-obsessed culture isnt the same as having an eating disorder. When in doubt, validate and offer support: That sounds hard how can I help.
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I Feel Fat/gross/huge Today I Should Go On A Diet Or I Shouldnt Eat Lunch
This kind of negative self-talk shouldnt be thrown around due to its potentially negative consequences: Fat talk has been linked to more negative body image, low mood, and internalization of a thin ideal for women. And while being body-positive is helpful to everyone, saying these things to someone in recovery or those presently suffering can cause the focus of the day to immediately shift onto weight and food issues. Many sufferers are already hyper-aware of what people around them are eating and how they look to the outside world
You Look Scary Skinny/you Look Like Youve Put On Some Weight
Neidich says that commenting on anyones appearance is no longer considered socially acceptable and people need to stop doing it.
She says, For those with disordered eating, any comment that draws attention to the fact that youre staring at or judging their bodies is going to alienate them from you.
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Just Stop Throwing Up
This might be an easy concept to you, but to someone with an eating disorder, you may as well ask them to climb Mount Everest.
Purging is one of the hardest symptoms to stop for individuals with bulimia, Neidich says. The notion of stopping their purge behavior is incredibly frightening and suggesting it is not at all helpful in their recovery process.
But People Don’t Like It When You’re Skin And Bones
Surprise surprise, neither do we. But here’s the thing: An eating disorder isn’t caused by wanting to look good for someone. For some it can be the trigger, but for some people, like me, an eating disorder was created to deal with trauma or something else. And besides that, no one with an eating disorder, no matter how small they are, it’s likely that they don’t see their bones, they likely don’t see how thin they are. And if they do I can assure you they hate it.
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Be Their Friend The Way They Need You To Be
It might feel like youre walking on eggshells at first, but trust us, it gets easier! Just make sure that you ask your loved one how you can support them. Listen to what they have to say because it can be a really raw experience opening up to someone about something so painful. Theres a battle going on inside their mind and theyre on the side of both the villain and the hero! But always remind them that you love them, youre going to be there for them, and that youre so proud of them for tackling the eating disorder beast!