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How to deal with a person who has an eating disorder

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Do you have a friend or sibling who suffers from an eating disorder? It isn’t easy watching someone you care about damage his or her health. An eating disorder is a serious issue. Eating disorder varies from anorexia, bulimia and binge eating.

Anorexia – People with anorexia starve themselves out of an intense fear of becoming fat. Despite being underweight or even emaciated, they never believe they’re thin enough. In addition to restricting calories, people with anorexia may also control their weight with exercise, diet pills, or purging.

Bulimia – Bulimia involves a destructive cycle of bingeing and purging. Following an episode of out-of-control binge eating, people with bulimia take drastic steps to purge themselves of the extra calories. In order to avoid weight gain they vomit, exercise, fast, or take laxatives.

Binge Eating Disorder – People with binge eating disorder compulsively overeat, rapidly consuming thousands of calories in a short period of time. Despite feelings of guilt and shame over these secret binges, they feel unable to control their behaviour or stop eating even when uncomfortably full.

Hints of an eating disorder

If the following behavioural symptoms exist then it is likely that your friend/sibling is suffering from an eating disorder.
• Rigid diets
• Bingeing on food in secret
• Throwing up after meals
• Obsessively counting calories

How to talk to someone about their eating disorder

Focus on feelings and relationships, not on weight and food. Share your memories of specific times when you felt concerned about the person’s eating behaviour. Explain that you think these things may indicate that there could be a problem that needs to be addressed.

Tell them you are concerned about their health, but respect their privacy. Eating disorders are often a cry for help, and the individual will appreciate knowing that you are concerned.

Do not comment on how they look. The person is already too aware of their body. Even if you are trying to compliment them, comments about weight or appearance only reinforce their obsession with body image and weight.

Avoid power struggles about eating. Do not demand that they change. Do not criticize their eating habits. People with eating disorders are trying to be in control. They don’t feel in control of their life. Trying to trick or force them to eat can make things worse.

Avoid placing shame, blame, or guilt on the person regarding their actions or attitudes. Do not use accusatory “you” statements like, “You just need to eat.” Or, “You are acting irresponsibly.” Instead, use “I” statements. For example: “I’m concerned about you because you refuse to eat breakfast or lunch.” Or, “It makes me afraid to hear you vomiting.”

Recovering from an eating disorder takes time. There are no quick fixes or miracle cures, so it’s important to have patience and compassion.

Additional information sourced from – http://www.helpguide.org