Eating Disorders: Something Worth Talking About
Too many people suffering with Eating Disorders slip under the radar. They hide the eating disorder’s behaviour from their friends and family meaning that they can slip further into their illness and often feel like no one cares enough to take any notice. It’s been said numerous times that one of the worst things about having an Eating Disorder is the feeling of isolation.
If you are worried about someone - talk about it!
Often people who are struggling with an eating disorder are really relieved that someone else has started the conversation that they have been dreading, so you could really be helping out. But how do you go about approaching a potentially difficult subject? Here are some of our dos and don’ts for going about having that first conversation.
Do use appropriate body language.
Try to keep your body language open and approacahable throughout the conversation.
Do respect their privacy.
If they confide in you, they will have done so in confidence, and will not want you gossiping about what they have shared with you.
Remind them that you are there for them, in any aspect, not just the eating disorder.
Talk about thoughts and feelings, rather than behaviours.
Many people consider an eating disorders to be a solution to a problem rather than the problem itself. It is often helpful to talk about the bigger picture of what is going on in your friend’s life rather than the ins and outs of eating.
Eating disorders are complex issues and you will probably not have the answer, but by having this initial conversation and giving them the opportunity to talk, you are showing them that they are not alone and that you are there for them.
Do share your concerns with your friend.
Remind your friend of other things in their life outside their eating disorder.
Do keep pushing the door open.
It can be hard for people to accept that they have a problem, harder still to talk about it. Have a conversation about your concerns gently; be calm and express that you want to help. Don’t be surprised if this discussion isn’t successful. Don’t push for a response. Don’t become confrontational. Leave the discussion if it is not going well – just remind your friend that you are there to talk whenever they want.
Do keep on trying to include your friend.
Individuals with eating disorders may start to shut themselves away, become more isolated and shut people out. Never stop issuing invitations, however unwelcome they seem – keep on trying to include your friend in every normal thing you and your friends do.
Focus on positive plans for the future.
Do look after yourself! Talk to your own friends and family – don’t bottle up your concerns!
Don't start the conversation when you don’t really have time to talk to them properly.
If the person you are talking to decides that they do want to share their problem with you, having only a short amount of time to talk about this can put more pressure on the conversation, and if you have to leave halfway through they may feel hurt or interpret your leaving in the wrong way.
Don't say things like ‘why don’t you just eat?’
This will only make your friend feel like you don’t understand how they are feeling, making them feel more isolated.
Don’t give the Eating Disorder too much attention.
Your friend and the eating disorder are separable. The eating disorder will thrive off attention. Don’t ignore your friend, but try not to give the disorder too much attention.
Don’t talk about the eating disorder too much.
Individuals with eating disorders are often very concerned about how their friends will react to being told about the disorder. They tend to worry that their relationship will be reduced to the eating disorder and that everyone will change how they behave around them. Remember this and try to maintain everything that your friendship had before you started to worry about your friend. As an individual slips into an eating disorder, very often their world contracts so that much of their life becomes focused on the disorder – this can be very difficult to reverse during recovery. You can help by trying to keep their life as varied and non-eating disorder focused as possible.
Don’t gossip about your friend’s eating disorder.
Don’t panic in a crisis.
Individuals with eating disorders often feeling like they are struggling to hold life together, this can create crisis situations. Rather than process a simple issue slowly and rationally, everything gets blown out of proportion. It is important that as a friend you don’t get pulled into the crisis – step back and let the storm blow out: someone needs to take the rational perspective.
Don’t make comments about your friend’s body weight or shape.
Don’t expect your friend to immediately recover or hold yourself responsible for their recovery.
Don’t attempt to have difficult eating disorder related conversations before or during meal times.
Meals are highly stressful times as it is without more to think about.
Don’t hover while your friend is preparing food.
Having confrontations at a meal time is unlikely to be helpful. If you really want to discuss something they ate or did not eat, it will always be best to come back to it well away from a meal time.
Don’t change your eating behaviours.
Don’t be put off when there are no answers.
At times it can be really hard to find words for what you are feeling, sometimes it feels like there were no words and yet people keep asking ‘what was wrong?’ It can be hard to answer such a question.
Don’t put your life on hold.
Going out of your way to always be there will drain you of energy and allow the eating disorder to know that there are no boundaries. Set boundaries; don’t be afraid of doing this: it is a healthy and functional thing to do!
SRSH is registered with Companies House, 7493445
Registered Charity: 1142783
Registered Charity: 1142783