Over the month of February, I will be blogging about various forms of eating disorders, treatment options, ways of supporting a person, role modelling to our children, creating healthy habits and more in support of Eating Disorder Awareness Week (which runs from 27th Feb – 5th March 2017). Don’t forget to use the hashtag #EDAW2017 to show your support!
Helping You Understand Eating Disorders
Eating disorders are complex, there is no doubt about that; in fact, they claim more lives than any other mental illness. They vary in conditions from the more publicly aware conditions of anorexia and bulimia to less well known conditions such as Binge Eating Disorder and Emotional Eating. Although they are most common in women aged 12 – 20, anyone from any race, gender, religion and background can develop them and they are actually quite common in young boys. There is no single cause of an eating disorder and there is no signal treatment path for them either; however, with the right input and support, they are fully recoverable from.
These conditions are so harmful because they affect many aspects of a person;
Physical – the persons body changes, it becomes weaker than its average state, it becomes malnourished and can have dramatic changes in shorter periods of time.
Psychological – the need for control overrides all logic, the person may believe falsehoods about their own body or have a dismorphic view of themselves; the person ultimately believes that they are not good enough and this belief overrules all logic and reason.
Social – the person can feel uncomfortable in social situations, believing they are being judged for looks, clothes, body style, weight, food they choose etc. This disorder can limit a persons ability to be able to function in social situations which means they will work hard to avoid these situations and may stray from even maintaining friendships or other relationships.
Common Myths About Eating Disorders
Eating disorders make people thin
This is completely false. Some eating disorders focus on the person consuming too much food, where they are unable to recognise body responses to being full or need to eat in order to satisfy an emotional need. This can result with the person being overweight or obese due to the nature of their relationship with food.
Eating disorders are a choice
Eating disorders are intertwined with a person’s emotional state and self belief. If a person believes that they are not good enough, need to be changed or need to feel a sense of control then food becomes a very accessible crutch for a person to use. After all, food is available everywhere, it is not an illegal substance, it is not limited and people aren’t going to notice what someone is buying as “odd” because of the ranges of foods now available.
A person cannot recover from an Eating Disorder
There are loads of recovery options out there for anyone suffering from an Eating Disorder, and although the process may be longer than say, taking a course of antibiotics, recovery is still possible. Some recovery options may include;
- Doctors and healthcare facilities; there is a range of support available from the NHS, including access to rehabilitation facilities, dieticians, community support etc. Talk to your GP for more advice, information and support
- Coaching; coaching is available to anyone and often can be accessed without going through the NHS, diagnosis procedures etc. Coaching focuses on empowering the person to challenge the beliefs that create the disordered eating in order to raise their awareness to make different choices. Coaching can improve a persons; self esteem, self belief, self worth, thinking patterns etc
- Support networks, forums etc; there are a range of forums available through various Eating Disorder Charities that allow a person to have a platform for seeking advice, support and community in order to support them on their wellness journey.
Supporting People with Eating Disorders
Often, for the friends and family around a person who is suffering from disordered eating, things can be really tough – not knowing what to do or say or how to act can leave you feeling powerless, helpless and lost.
Listen without judgement
Be open to having discussions with your loved person in order to truly understand what they are experiencing. When you can listen to what they have to say without offering any judgement, the person may feel safer to share these thoughts with you in the future which may mean that they will access your support quicker/more rapidly than usual. Listening without judgement does not mean that you collude with their way of thinking; it means that you are open to hearing how they are viewing themselves so that you can model different ways or offer new experiences they could try.
Remember their belief system is very real to them
Regardless of how warped, unrealistic or distorted their views of themselves, the world, food, their body etc is….remember that these beliefs are actually very real to the person and they have invested a lot of time and effort into believing them. Often these views can seem like loving companions for the person as they believe these views are keeping them alive and making them a better person. Remember that ultimately, the persons deepest belief is that they are not good enough so any opinions of their beliefs being wrong or them not trying hard enough to defeat the illness etc only colludes further with that belief and keeps the person stuck in their way of thinking.
Actions speak louder than words
Your example will be followed more than your words so be the model for this person. Ensure you are eating regular and balanced meals, talk positively about your body, do nice things for yourself such as buying flowers, having a bubble bath etc, invest in yourself. Do these things without the agenda of making it a big issue that you are doing them and instead, silently model and allow your actions to be noticed naturally.