Eating disorders are increasingly known and recognized diseases. Many personalities speak openly about it, many films and books break taboos, which allows everyone to be more and more aware of this scourge.
But if you don’t have an eating disorder and if eating is a natural act, you are often completely lost in how to manage the relationship with a loved one.
Whether it is someone from your close circle – family, friends – or a more distant circle – colleague, person you meet on time at a party or dinner – here are some tips to help you manage the relationship… and help your loved one, friend or colleague.
Learn to detect symptoms
An eating disorder can manifest itself in several ways. A person who suffers from eating disorders is not necessarily thin, does not necessarily restrict himself at mealtimes, and if you share only a few meals with him, you may not notice his difficulties.
Dysfunctional behaviors can alert you: leaving the table systematically at the end of the meal, refusing to eat certain categories of food, eating at very limited times, having an excessive relationship with physical exercise, being irritable at mealtime, wanting to be systematically informed of the content of the meal, etc.
When addressing the problem, do not use an accusatory tone
You are aware that the person is ill and want to discuss the problem with them. The subject is delicate, the conversation is sensitive and intimidating, you don’t know how to do it.
The purpose of this discussion is to help the person, to make them realize that something is dangerous for them.
At this point, keep in mind that there are two stages in the life of a person suffering from an eating disorder: denial and fear of treatment. If you take an accusatory and stigmatizing tone, you may rob her, lose her trust or even end the relationship.
A good way to do this is to focus on you, your feelings, not the person’s: I worry about you, I noticed this or that. Thus, the conversation will seem more emphatic and less aggressive than “You don’t eat enough, You are too thin, etc.”.
It’s about being a diplomat. And choose a suitable place and time of life (not sure that the middle of the meal in the middle of a family reunion is the most suitable…).
Encourage her to ask for help
To be accompanied by medical assistance, and especially neutral of any emotional relationship, is essential to help in the recovery from this disease.
Treating an eating disorder is a very long process that requires investment.
Tell him that consulting a doctor, ONCE, does not commit him to anything.
Don’t compare yourself to the person
“Look, I’m bigger than you. »
“Look, I eat normally, and yet I’m not fat” “If I ate like you, I’d be fatter / leaner. »
These speeches will not help the person and will comfort him/her in his/her troubles.
Do not try to find tips to force the person to eat
“If you eat this or that, we’ll do this or that.”
“If you reach such a weight, we’ll take you on vacation.”
“It’s really good, I don’t understand why you don’t want it, you don’t know what you’re missing.”
“Come on, just a little something to please me”
The person in front of you is sick. Not manipulative. If it were so easy to get treatment, she wouldn’t be here.
Don’t threaten her / him
Threatening to drop, leave or distance the person will not help either.
You must think of yourself, take care of yourself, but using your presence alongside the person as a bargaining chip for their healing is not desirable.
Again, the person is sick, he or she is not trying to hurt you.
Don’t put any constraints on yourself and also take time for yourself
Accompanying a person suffering from eating disorders in their care journey is exhausting.
You have the right and you must take time for yourself.
It’s the notion of the oxygen mask. Put yours on first before you try to save the others.
Try to value the person and talk to them about things other than their disorder
Make a distinction from his or her disorder. The disease does not define the person and his / her personality. An important point will be to show the person that they are important to you, that they have qualities, regardless of their difficulties and appearance.
Talk to her / him about the things she loved before the disease, change her mind, introduce her to new things.
Do not try to adapt the meal to his difficulties
Continue to cook the same meals for the person as you would for yourself. Don’t adapt to the disease.
Keep in mind that there may be relapses
The healing journey is made up of ups and downs. When you think the person is doing better, there may be relapses. Don’t be disappointed or angry if this happens.
Encourage the person to express themselves
While it is necessary to have times when the disease is sidelined, it should not be ignored, on the contrary. Encourage the person to talk to you about their feelings, their difficulties, what they are going through.
It will surely help him/her to become aware of his/her difficulties, and it will help you to understand the difficulties the person is going through.
Get involved in the care process
Especially if you are a family member. A clinical study conducted in Stanford shows that family therapies are often much more effective than individual therapies in treating eating disorders.
Get involved, and be prepared for some uncomfortable moments.
The treatment is long. Very long. Expect to run a marathon. But go with the objective of going through with it.
Tell him / her about feeleat app and encourage her / him to share data with his / her medical team.
Thanks to feeleat app, your loved one will be able to track her / his difficulties, to link food intakes with mood and bodily sensations, and to share it with healthcare professionals.
Are you in difficulties in accompanying your loved one in this healing journey ? Do not hesitate to comment and ask for help.
Do you want to share your story with the community ? Please, contact us !