Ever at a loss of what to say and what not to say to friends and loved one who struggle with eating disorders? It’s helpful to know that eating disorders are ultimately not about food and weight but more so about attempts to deal with emotional and stress-related issues. Anorectics restrict to control whereas overeating temporarily sooths sadness, anger or loneliness. For bulimics- purging may combat feelings of helplessness and self-loathing.
The secret to helping any eating disorder is to catch the behaviors as early as possible and then get help from a team of Eating Disorder specialists. The teams are made up of the Physician, Psychologist. Psychiatrist and Registered Dietitian.
If your friend or a loved one is struggling with an Eating Disorder there may be signs to look for and some conversations to avoid:
EATING DISORDER WARNING SIGNS
ANOREXIA NERVOSA : People with anorexia do not deliberately choose to lie to people, but the obsessive nature of anorexia can make people with the condition act in devious ways. Warning signs include losing weight, missing meals, complaining of being fat, even though they are normal or underweight, repeatedly weighing themselves and looking in the mirror.
BULIMIA: Evidence of purging – always needing to go to the restroom after meals or finding packages of laxatives or diuretics. Evidence of binge eating – stashing food, stealing food, eating large amounts in one sitting family members or roommates may notice large amounts of food that are missing from the cabinets or pantry or notice large amounts of food packaging in trashcans or vehicles. Frequent trips to the bathroom. extreme eating habits (strict dieting followed by overeating). Desperate to exercise even when it gets in the way of other activities. Wanting to exercise a specific amount to ‘burn off’ the calories that have been taken in. Creation of schedules or rituals that allow for binging and purging. Uses drugs as a way to suppress appetite. Talks about dieting, calories, food or weight so much that it gets in the way of regular conversation. Withdrawal from friends, families and usual activities.
EATING DISORDER TALK
DON’T TALK ABOUT
Comments on body size and shape.
Criticism about appearance
Talk about fat, calories and good or bad foods
Things that support and encourage such as:
Your concern about being worried
That you are there to help with anything needed
Provide unconditional love
The ANAD (The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders) has a great resource for what to say and what not to say around someone you love who is in recovery.