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:
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.
Adopting Ritualistic Eating Habits And Rules
Eating a set quantity of a particular food at a certain time in a certain setting may be part of a daily routine. However, when taken to extremes that interfere with everyday life, ritualistic habits and rigid rules may indicate an unhealthy relationship with food. Eliminating whole food groups, limiting food intake, restricting quantities or following inflexible preparation practices may be a sign of an eating disorder.
How Do Eating Disorders Affect Health And Emotions
Eating disorders can cause serious problems throughout the body.
Anorexia can lead to health problems caused by undernutrition and low body weight, such as:
- low blood pressure
- feeling tired, weak, dizzy, or faint
- constipation and bloating
- autism spectrum disorder or attention deficit disorder
- problems at home and school because of eating behavior
How To Stop Weighing Yourself In Eating Disorder Recovery
In this post, I will give you some tips on how to stop weighing yourself and talk about why its an unnecessary and even harmful behavior.
When you are recovering from an eating disorder then stopping weighing yourself can be one of the first recommended behavioral changes to reduce triggers for a relapse.
Whether the number on a scale is higher or lower it can still be triggering and set you back:
- If the number on the scale is higher than you think you will likely panic and fall back to restriction.
- If the number is the same you will hope that it wont get any higher which adds pressure and fear.
- If the number is lower than you thought it can flare up the ED and diet thinking that the lower the better, plus, feel like an added pressure to make sure the number does not get higher or even keeps getting lower.
As you can see, the scales wont help you in recovery either way. Its just a tool ED happily uses to keep you in a trap with a false sense of control.
The scale is not a good measure for anything
In reality, your weight is not a good measure of your physical health, nor it is a measure of your mental health. Many people in the normal weight category are also not healthy or avoid illnesses, but because their weight is normal their true health factors are often overlooked.
And even more so, the scale cant dictate how lovable, worthy and good enough you are. Weighing yourself has a negative impact on your mental health, self-worth and body image problems.
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Scoring The Eating Attitudes Test: Answering Do I Have An Eating Disorder
To score the Eating Attitudes Test follow this guide:
For all items except #25 on the Eating Attitudes Test, each of the responses receives the following value:
- Always = 3
- Rarely = 2
- Never = 3
After scoring each item on the Eating Attitudes Test, add the scores for a total that will help answer the question, “do I have an eating disorder?” If your score on the Eating Attitudes Test is over 20, we recommend you discuss your responses to the Eating Attitudes Test with a counselor or your doctor .
If you responded yes to any of the five YES/NO items on the bottom of the Eating Attitudes Test, we also suggest that you discuss your responses with a counselor or your doctor.
The Following Statements May Indicate The Presence Of An Eating Disorder
- I think about food constantly.
- I eat in secret.
- I eat even when I am not hungry.
- I eat very quickly and am not aware how much I have eaten.
- I am very self-conscious about eating in social situations.
- I often try new diets and/or exercise plans.
- I feel guilty about eating.
- I am very concerned about my weight.
- I have used laxatives or diuretics in order to prevent weight gain.
- I have induced vomiting to prevent weight gain.
- I often try to skip meals or avoid eating for the entire day.
- I have lied to others about how much or little I eat.
- Other people have made concerned comments about my eating habits.
- It is difficult for me to concentrate because I am thinking about food.
- I hide food. I am angry when I am interrupted while eating.
- I gain and lose weight frequently.
- I have withdrawn from my friends and avoid social situations.
- I avoid physical and sexual contact.
- I wear baggy clothes to hide my weight loss, or tight clothes to show off my weight loss.
- I do not like myself or the way I look.
- I feel fat even though others think I am thin.
- I feel that I can never eat normally.
- The frequency of my vomiting and/or purging has increased.
- I am unable to stop bingeing and purging even though I want to quit.
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Dealing With Eating Disorders In The Home
As a parent, there are many things you can do to support your childs eating disorder recoveryeven if they are still resisting treatment.
Set a positive example. You have more influence than you think. Instead of dieting, eat nutritious, balanced meals. Be mindful about how you talk about your body and your eating. Avoid self-critical remarks or negative comments about others appearance. Instead, focus on the qualities on the inside that really make a person attractive.
Make mealtimes fun. Try to eat together as a family as often as possible. Even if your child isnt willing to eat the food youve prepared, encourage them to join you at the table. Use this time together to enjoy each others company, rather than talking about problems. Meals are also a good opportunity to show your child that food is something to be enjoyed rather than feared.
Avoid power struggles over food. Attempts to force your child to eat will only cause conflict and bad feelings and likely lead to more secrecy and lying. That doesnt mean you cant set limits or hold your child accountable for their behavior. But dont act like the food police, constantly monitoring your childs behavior.
Do whatever you can to promote self-esteem. in your child in intellectual, athletic, and social endeavors. Give boys and girls the same opportunities and encouragement. A well-rounded sense of self and solid self-esteem are perhaps the best antidotes to disordered eating.
How Will My Doctor Know If I Have An Eating Disorder
Your doctor will talk to you and your family. You will be asked questions about how you feel about yourself, what you eat, and how much you exercise. Your doctor will give you a physical exam and might order blood tests or other tests. If your doctor thinks you have an eating disorder, you might be referred to a specialist so you can get the treatment you need. Good nutrition and psychologic counseling can help you recover from an eating disorder.
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What Is The Prognosis For People Who Have Eating Disorders
People who get treatment for eating disorders often recover and go on to lead healthy lives. Its helpful to detect a problem early and start treatment right away.
There are different levels of care, including:
- Outpatient therapy .
- Intensive outpatient therapy .
- Inpatient therapy .
Your primary care doctor will work with you to decide what level of treatment would be right for you.
Left untreated, people with eating disorders can develop life-threatening complications. Some people may need to receive medical and mental health care at a hospital or treatment center.
See A Doctor Or Nutritionist
Seeing a doctor or a nutrition specialist can be a great first step.
These professionals can tell you exactly what vital nutrients are missing from your everyday life, how that is affecting you, and how to work them back into your diet. They can also help you figure out ways to fuel your body in a healthy way, without feeling sluggish.
Its important to remember that doctors are there to help you be a happier, healthier person, not to judge or shame you. If you fear that a medical professional will make you feel worse or if you experience this know that you can always choose to see another doctor.
See a doctor who will validate your experience and offer you resources and options.
This type of basic medical intervention can help people with EDs realize the ways in which they are damaging their bodies and help them move towards a healthier lifestyle.
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How To Help Someone With An Eating Disorder
You’re already doing a great job by finding out more about eating disorders and how to try to support them it shows you care and helps you understand how they might be feeling.
Getting professional help from a doctor, practice nurse, or a school or college nurse will give your friend or relative the best chance of getting better. But this can be one of the most difficult steps for someone living with an eating disorder, so try to encourage them to seek help or offer to go along with them.
You can support them in other ways, too:
Choose Wisely: Why When And Where To Begin The Conversation
Despite solid knowledge and intuition about your friends situation, your nerves might get in the way. Hopefully a better understanding of the consequences of eating disorders will motivate you to move forward.
Eating disorders cause more deaths than any other mental illness.5 Anorexia is not a phase young women will outgrow nor is binge-eating a laughable talent bestowed upon the guy at your football party. Your friend or loved one who struggles in their relationship with food could die as a result.
And if they dont die, they might encounter any number of irreversible and even life-threatening health problems, such as heart disease, bone loss, stunted growth, infertility and kidney damage.2 Research shows early intervention means a greater chance of recovery.6 Please dont waste any time in offering help.
Plan the place and time carefully. The best option will be quiet, private and without opportunity for interruption. You might select an atmosphere that sets your friend at ease and allows her to express her emotions fully, if she chooses.
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Possibility Of Anorexia Nervosa
Anorexia refers to having a restrictive or avoidant diet that causes extreme weight loss and a low BMI score. A person with this condition is often obsessed with reducing their weight. And it is considered the deadliest diet-related mental illness. That is because the patient might die due to being underweight.
Note: the said condition is entirely different from picky eating.
What If I Am Not Happy With My Treatment
If you are not happy with your treatment you can:
- talk to your doctor about your treatment and ask for a second opinion,
- get an advocate to help you speak to your doctor,
- contact Patient Advice and Liaison Service and see whether they can help, or
- make a complaint.
There is more information about these options below:
If you are not happy with your treatment you should talk to your doctor and see if you can resolve the situation with them. You can refer to the NICE guidelines if you feel your doctor is not offering you the right treatment. See below for more about this.
You may feel that your treatment should be changed. If your doctor does not agree you could ask for a second opinion. You are not legally entitled to a second opinion, but your doctor might agree to it if it would help with treatment options.
An advocate is independent from the NHS. This means that the NHS doesnt employ them. Advocacy services are free to use. Usually a charity will run an advocacy service. An advocate is there to support you.
They can help to make your voice heard when you are trying to sort problems. They may be able to help you to write a letter to the NHS or go to a meeting with you.
There may be a local advocacy service in your area which you can contact for support. You can search online for a local service. You can also call our advice service on 0300 5000 927 or email us at and we can look for you.
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Planning For Treatment If Needed
Then, youll want a plan in place for next steps if indeed you discover that your loved one is exhibiting signs of an eating disorder . You need to get your student to an eating disorder professional ASAP. You can find great resources here on EDH and on our websites at www.eatingdisorderscoalition.org and www.eatingdisorderfamilysupport.com.
During this process, remember that boundaries are a beautiful thing. Boundaries are not mean or uncaring, . Sometimes boundaries include invoking tough-love.
You may need to dig deep in order to set some tough-love in place and help motivate your student to participate in seeking an evaluation, and potentially stay home from school to receive treatment, but you can do it.
Increase Your Protein Intake
Upping your intake of protein-rich foods can keep you feeling full and help control your appetite.
One study in 19 people showed that increasing protein intake from 15% to 30% led to significant reductions in body weight and fat mass, as well as decreased daily calorie intake by an average of 441 calories .
Similarly, another study found that following a high-protein diet enhanced metabolism, promoted feelings of fullness, and increased levels of glucagon-like peptide 1 , a hormone known for its ability to suppress appetite .
Try including at least one good source of protein such as meat, eggs, nuts, seeds, or legumes in each meal and enjoy high-protein snacks when you feel hungry to keep cravings at bay.
Summary Increasing your protein intake has been shown to decrease calorie intake, enhance feelings of fullness, and increase levels of GLP-1, a hormone that can help suppress appetite.
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Don’t Blame Your Family
Although it used to be more commonly believed that parents were a leading cause of disordered eating, the latest research shows that eating disorders have complex causes that include genetic and societal factors. No family is perfect. If your family has been unsupportive, they likely don’t know how to be supportive. Talk with your treatment provider about how to process your relationships to be able to move on as you recover. Many providers will also encourage family sessions and sometimes use teletherapy or online counseling to include family members who live out of town.
Find Someone To Talk To About Your Developing Eating Disorder
By someone we mean a trusted adult although you can certainly talk to your friends about the issue if you trust them, most adolescents will need the help of a trusted adult to take the next steps. Most likely youll want to talk to your parents first, but if this isnt the case, dont worry. Speaking to mom or dad about a difficult personal problem or something you feel ashamed about isnt easy for everyone. Just keep in mind that eventually theyll have to be involved and beyond that, they love you and want you to be your healthiest self.
There should be many adults in your life you can speak to like a family friend, aunt or uncle, your grandparents, or even a teacher or coach.Your school might provide resources like adolescent-focused counselors. In a pinch, you can contact an anonymous helpline provided by NEDA, which can provide some support visa phone or chat. This should only be a stopgap solution, though if youre really struggling, or if you are feeling a desire to self-harm , please talk to your parents as soon as you can.
At some point, youll want to speak with a professional, and of course, your parents will eventually come into the loop, but the first step is talking to someone anyone who will caringly listen to what you have to say. Its the essential first step to getting better.
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