Struggling with disordered eating can feel very isolating and often people can be good at hiding it for a very long time. Most people engage in disordered eating behaviors when no one else is around and it can be easy to hide from family and friends. Often spouses, parents and loved ones are surprised to learn how long these behaviors have been going on.
However, most people get to the point where they are tired of feeling the way they feel. The obsession, the dieting, the restricting, the binging, there comes a point where you don’t want to live that way anymore. One of the first steps is talking to a loved on to let them know what is going on. Here are some tips to help ease the fear around the conversation:
- Pick the Right Time: Pick a time to talk to them when you both are in a space where you can listen and have a deep, quality conversation. Don’t pick the morning rush before work to bring the topic up. Maybe it’s after dinner and all the day’s chores have slowed down. Pick a time where you you both can be calm and present.
- Be Direct & Honest: Explain what you’ve been going through. Be open about how hard it’s been on you, on your body and how it’s impacted your life. Don’t try to minimize it as a way to keep a brave face. Being direct, open and honest is the best way to truly help a loved one understand the seriousness of the behaviors.
- How They Can Help: Often loved ones want to know what they can do to help. So be prepared to give them some pointers (and don’t say nothing!!). Maybe you know 7PM on a Wednesday is primetime for when you typically engage in binge eating. Have them go for a walk with you at this time to get you away from the kitchen, or put on a funny movie to help distract you. There are plenty of ways loved ones can help but it’s up to you to communicate with them what they can do. Most people know very little about binge eating disorder, so use this time to educate your loved one on what would help you. Think of these pointers before the conversation so you’re ready. Loved ones often feel good knowing they are helping you and it helps them worry less.
- Be Prepared for an Insensitive Comment: When an alcoholic expresses their drinking problem to a loved one for the first time, sometimes they hear “Well, just stop drinking” (and it would be SO amazing if it were that easy!). Be prepared to hear this from your loved one as well. “Well, just stop binging on peanut butter, or just stop obsessing about food”. Explain to them how that is the end goal and try not to get offended by their comment. You can inform them it takes time to recover and requires help from professionals. And as you learn more about the disorder you can educate them on it as well. As hard as it might be, try not to be sensitive to their remarks and instead use it as an opportunity to explain how they could help.
- Next Steps: Explain what next steps you feel you need to take to overcome binge eating. Maybe it’s making an appointment with a therapist that works with binge eating, meeting with a dietician, buying a book to learn more or finding a support group.
Overcoming disordered eating can be quite a journey and one of the first steps to overcoming is making sure you have support at home. It could be a friend you can call, a parent that is willing to listen or a spouse who is willing to take evening walks with you. The conversation can be scary but having these bullet points ready will help you ease your anxiety and leave the conversation feeling hopeful and relieved!
Meet Danielle Swimm, LCPC: Danielle is a licensed psychotherapist that specializes in treating disordered eating. She’s found her calling in helping others heal their emotional relationship with food. She offers psychotherapy at her Annapolis office for depression, anxiety & disordered eating as well as online recovery coaching for those struggling with disordered eating and food fear.