Knowing a loved one with an eating disorder maybe one of the worst things to go through. The experience in its self makes you feel isolated and disconnected from the person despite having a close relationship with them.
But have you ever sat down to think of how the person with the disorder must be feeling? Whether or not anyone would admit to you, struggling with an eating disorder maybe one of the most embarrassing things to ever go through
I mean come on!!! the habit itself it’s not normal so why should the person going through it feel any different.
As human beings, we are designed to feel like we have control over things in our lives, example the friends we hang out with, the types of music we are in to and so on
So, having something that simply controls your life and how you view things is not organic to us.
Unlike a drug addict whose relief substance is illegal, with an eating disorder, the very thing that is supposed to nourish your body becomes your worst enemy and is always accessible and expected by others for you to enjoy regardless of how you feel about it.
Perhaps let me give a little glimpse about what a person with an eating disorder might be going through having battled with bulimia nervosa for nearly 12 years of my life.
Here are 7 common signs that I went through that you may also notice in someone you suspect might have an eating disorder.
Withdrawing to eat in groups of people- I grew up in an African (Zambian) home so you have no choice but to eat as a family.
When I developed my eating disorder, it suddenly started to feel uncomfortable eating around others, my mind suddenly developed this fear of “what if someone at this table is really watching how much food am eating”
I already knew I wasn’t eating enough and having to be reminded of that or someone commenting on it would give me anxiety so I started to prefer to eat by myself in my room.
Vomiting when they are not sick- having an eating disorder causes someone to have a disconnect with the relation of the mind and stomach,
Because one hand, your stomach is telling your body that it needs food but yet you can’t get your mind to come to terms with the fact the food I just ate is good for my well-being.
This gives your stomach discomfort making it uncomfortable for you to keep food down because the strong voice with in is telling you to purge.
It feels right in the moment but then later you become overwhelmed with guilt because what you just did isn’t normal.
Limiting food intake- having an eating disorder really causes someone to have an unhealthy relationship with food.
There is no zeal in having a sit-down meal and enjoying it. It almost becomes a chore to eat and the less eating you do is sadly the less stressed you feel
It just makes more sense for someone with an eating disorder to skip meals because its less stressful to deal with the consequences of purging or feeling guilty after over eating so they tend to skip meals because in a sad way, it gives them a sense of relief to not always be battling with food.
Avoiding a lot of social outings- social activities build a lot of anxiety for people with eating disorders because you are out of your comfort zone where you can easily manage to hide your purging habits and food intake.
It’s already hard enough having to eat around people you already know so being around strangers makes it even worse so to avoid anxiousness, a patient will prefer to isolate themselves in a public set up or just simply just stay away from any event.
Obsessed with calorie counting- eating disorder patients tend to have an obsession with reading every label of food page down to the tee and google every food that they choose to eat because like many others, it was the only time I felt in control of something having that they gave full control to their mind on how of it would respond to food.
So by knowing what I was eating, down to its last nutritional value in a way gave me some sort of relief.
Looking sick and pale despite the healthy foods they are eating- it becomes very concerning as a loved one to see someone eat so well and yet look so unhealthy and lose weight especially when you know for a fact that they are not suffering from any illness especially even after a doctor’s visit.
If this is what you are going through, it may be time for you to look deeper into their behavioral patterns, and if some of the ones I mentioned match, then maybe it’s time to seek some help.
Refusing to eat certain foods- one of the most confusing thing is having someone come up to you and telling you that they will be refraining from certain types of foods especially if they are considerably healthy foods without giving you a valid reason as to why, or maybe
They are like me who decided to switch into being a gluten free vegan; and giving people fake reasons as to why I think it would help me when deep down I knew that foods like meat and wheat were a lot harder for me to eat, because I hated how long they would sit in my stomach as they take longer to digest .
I felt the need to eat foods that would digest quickly or were very easy to throw up so junk food and drinkable foods became my best friend.
Don’t get me wrong, not everyone who chooses not to eat certain foods has an eating disorder but if you notice some behavior changes like the ones mentioned above maybe you should be a little concerned.
Advice for someone dealing with an eating disorder patient.
Mind your words-the worst thing you could ever mention to someone dealing with an eating disorder is “just eat” or “you’re eat too much” remember its already hard for them as they feel misunderstood and disconnected from everything, don’t make the situation worse.
It’s a process- don’t think they will just snap out of it when you force food or restrict it from them, it’s a process, they have to unlearn certain habits that they allowed to take control over them, don’t force immediate change upon them.
Be their encourager- with every progress that they make, even if it looks small in your eyes, congratulate them, it gives them even more strength to go on.
They will be bad days- keep in mind that sometimes they will want to go back to their old ways and it might cause a lot frustration and anger in the process of recovery as they are trying not to, in those days, be calm, put your emotions aside and put on that hero hat on, and always remember in those days to give them words of encouragement and assure them that they will be brighter days.
allow them to come to you about it first- don’t just go up to them and tell them “I know you have an eating disorder and you need help” that in itself is just rude and may even cause some friction in your relationship.
Rather, be open and drop hints to them to let them feel that they can come to you when they are ready and be patient while you’re at it, it’s very important in those times to let them feel that it’s safe to come to you and talk about what they are going through.
When they start to open up, don’t ask too many questions, and let them slowly open up to you however they feel is best for them.
Take them down happy memory lane- it’s very important to remind someone of the times when they were happy and healthy or things you did together that both brought you joy
Even better, what brought them joy and if you may, try to relive those moments/ activities with them but only to the rate at which they are comfortable with of course because, having an eating disorder may lead to depression.
Best of luck during these times if you’re going through this, always remember both of you have the strength to overcome this and it will get better even if it doesn’t look so right now, hang in there you will get through it I promise.