Thank you all for following me on this journey over the week. Hopefully you are more aware of what eating disorders entail and how they effect the person suffering. Today I want to talk about how you can be there for your loved one. Far too often when we become worried about someone we love, we want to “fix” them, or the situation, when firstly they did not ask for our help and secondly we go about doing what would be right for us in the situation and never stop to thing about what would be the right thing for our friend or family member. This is a flaw in human nature. Our actions stem from love but they are not always the actions we should take. I will talk you through the things I experienced when people were trying to help me to recover. What helped and what did not.
1) Never tell someone they need to gain weight.
This is probably the worst one of all. What is telling me to gain weight going to do? You have just commented on my appearance. I feel judged. The eating disorder voice is going to twist it into something morbid such as the person telling you this doesn’t want you to lose anymore weight because they are jealous. How dare this person tell you want to do (remember eating disorders are about lack of control), let’s lose more weight to show them that they can not tell you what to do. That is the result of you telling someone to gain weight. This is also the main reason that I don’t use the phrase “Have you lost weight” as a compliment. It is not a compliment. It is a judgement and one the promotes a smaller size as something good. You weight does not increase or decrease your value, your character does.
2) Don’t ask out right if someone has an eating disorder.
This feels like an attack. The person will respond with “No, I’ve just been taking better care of what I’m eating and started some exercise”. Now the person suffering doesn’t feel safe around you and will start to push you away. They did not come to you, which shows they were not comfortable to confide in you about what is going on and now they probably never will because to them, you may take away their coping mechanism before they are ready to let it go.
3) Don’t try to force food on someone, or buy them gifts of fatty food such as chocolate.
If you keep trying to force food on me, or buy me food that I binge on, later I am going to purge, or try to fast for longer. I’ve ate so much that I need to make up for it somehow. I will be mentally beating myself up for days even weeks after every time this happens. It will make me want to be around you less because now I associate you with food and food is what I am trying to avoid.
Those were the three major things people did with me when I was anorexic. Telling me to gain weight was my main trigger and I think that comment along resulted in me losing another stone to prove to people that I can do what I want. Here are a few things you can do to help. It is all about how you approach the topic.
Instead of asking someone if they have an eating disorder, ask them how is life going. Eating disorders come from an emotional struggle. By letting the person know you are here for them when they need you, that encourages them to confide in you. Maybe they even tell you about the eating disorder. They are more likely to start talking about what is causing them so much pain, and by talking it out with you, this in turn will have a knock on effect with their eating behaviours. Helping them recover naturally in their own time.
Instead of focusing on someone’s weight or trying to get them to eat more, approach it from the angle that you, yourself want to become more fit and healthy and you wanted help from them. This way you are bringing up the topic of health and fitness but making it all about you. This takes the pressure off your loved one. Then you discuss (promote) having a healthy lifestyle not a sever restriction and over exercise. Encourage to exercise together and lead the way by eating healthy but having adequate portions, eating enough. Be the person you want them to be. Be a role model and lead the way.
That really is all you can do without pushing someone away. Your number one goal is to keep your loved one feeling comfortable and safe around you. That way when they are ready to talk, they will know they can come to you. It has to be the person who is suffering that makes the decision to recover. Other wise they will keep relapsing. You can make them. It will be difficult to watch them get more ill around you until they reach their breaking post, but it is their journey and one you can not walk for them. We know our illness hurts the ones around us and when we choose to recover, that thought does help up keep going when we feel weak.
I’d like to finish this by thanking Darren for being with me every step of the way during my recovery. If I did not have you and counselling I don’t think I would be writing these posts today. I want to take a moment to remember my friend Karyna who sadly is no longer here with us. She was the one who made me realise I am worthy of love. Today she remains one of my main sources of strength when times get difficult. Last but not least thank you to two of my best friends Laura and William. You two loved and accepted me unconditionally from day one. I never once felt I had to act or be a certain way to earn your love and friendship. You made me feel safe in a world where I always felt like I had to protect myself from attack. I am the woman I am today because of you four truly amazing people and because I never gave up.
Eating Disorder Awareness Week has come to an end for this year but that does not mean we have to stop spreading awareness. Keep talking, keep breaking the silence ~Love Roxy