7 Tips to Help Someone in Eating Disorder Recovery
Living with an eating disorder is like having a little man on your shoulder constantly criticizing your every move. In the eating disorder community, we like to call him Ed, short for Eating Disorder. He says things like,
“You just ate a bagel? How could you?
Do you even realize how many calories are in that thing? No wonder you’re so bloated.
Well since you gave in, you cannot eat anything for the rest of the day."
Now imagine trying to ignore this conversation going through your head, and someone says something about how they didn’t eat breakfast that day, or how excited they are that they lost 5 pounds.
It’s like putting gasoline on a barely contained fire. Explosion!
Of course, nobody is responsible for another person’s response, but here are a seven things to be aware of to help your fellow brothers and sisters stay on the road to recovery.
1. Don’t mention numbers
Of any kind. Don’t comment on your weight, or how much you’d like to lose, or how much body fat percentage you have, or your BMI (Body Mass Index), or your clothing size. Eating Disorders love the comparison game and they are extremely competitive with everyone around them. Make it easier for us and keep these thoughts to yourself.
2. Don’t comment on the number of calories
Again, people with eating disorders already have an obsession with numbers, but especially calories. Many meticulously count calories already and have memorized the exact number of most foods they consume. Bringing it up can make it all the more difficult to ignore and stay on track with their meal plan.
3. Don’t talk about your diet or fasting
Now if you want to be on a diet, that's your choice, but for those of us with eating disorders, dieting is usually the catalyst that leads to a slippery slope of unhealthy thought patterns that can quickly turn destructive and dangerous.
And fasting can be a great way to rely and grow closer to God, but when you talk about how you haven’t eaten with someone who struggles with restriction, it can lead to feelings of failure and shame that one is not “good enough” at their eating disorder. Twisted I know, but that’s what the devil loves: to twist our mind towards the irrational so we stay trapped in his grasp.
4. Do ask them how they are doing after a meal
You don’t need a response. Just listen and give them the space to share how they are really feeling about what was just consumed. They might be doing okay, or they might be freaking out internally. Just be with them and let them share what they are comfortable with.
5. Do ask them if they’ve eaten
As much as I’ve hated this question when I am in my eating disorder’s grasp it is absolutely necessary. If my eating disorder had its way, I would completely isolate myself from all social contact to avoid people confronting me about my lack of nourishment. I needed people who cared enough to check in on me.
6. Do ask them if they want accountability
And warning: they may say no. They may not be ready for that. And that’s okay. Be patient with them and if you are seriously concerned for their safety, speak with a counselor or someone else that can refer them to a medical professional.
7. Do ask about your own language around food
If you catch yourself talking about the 5 pounds you recently lost or gained, just apologize and ask them if your comment was triggering. It gives you both the chance to have an understanding conversation surrounding food language and to better know what affects them.
And for anyone currently struggling with an eating disorder. The next time a friend asks how they can help, share this blog with them so that they can have tangible ways in which to love you through this difficult season. As we surround ourselves with people who love and care about us, we can slowly start to not just know that we are God's masterpieces, but truly believe it in our hearts.
If you have other suggestions feel free to comment below or email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. I value every one of my reader’s insight.