In the United States, nearly 30 million people of all ages and genders suffer from eating disorders, the majority of whom are women. X Research Source If you or someone you know exhibits the signs of an eating disorder, it’s important to take action immediately. These conditions have the highest mortality rate of all mental disorders, so seeking help for yourself or your loved one could save a life.
Recognize ways everyone can help
Familiarize yourself with the different types of eating disorders. This article focuses on the three main eating disorders. According to the accepted psychiatric categorization system in the DSM-V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), eating disorders encompass three main disorders: anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder. It is important to note that there are other types of eating disorders as well. If you have a difficult or unhappy relationship with food, talk to a professional doctor or therapist who can help you identify your particular problem.
Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by not eating and excessive weight loss. In people suffering from this disorder, the desire to lose weight becomes a complete obsession. Its three main characteristics are the inability or refusal to have a healthy body weight, the fear of gaining weight and a distorted body image.
People with bulimia nervosa have compulsive eating obsessions and then use various purging methods, such as vomiting or taking laxatives, in an effort to keep from gaining weight from binge eating.
Binge eating disorder occurs when a person compulsively eats large amounts of food. Unlike bulimia, people with binge eating disorder do not purge after eating, although they may diet sporadically due to guilt, self-loathing, or shame.
Research the factors that cause or contribute to these eating disorders. There are a number of potential risk factors associated with eating disorders. These include neurobiological and hereditary factors, low self-esteem, high anxiety, the desire to be perfect, the constant need to please people, troubled relationships, sexual or physical abuse, family conflicts, or the inability to express the emotions.
If you want to learn more about eating disorders, research these conditions on reputable websites such as the National Eating Disorders Association, the National Institute of Mental Health, and the National Association of Mental Health. of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders.
Consider donating money to organizations that help treat these disorders. There are many organizations, such as those mentioned above, that are responsible for raising awareness about eating disorders and helping people who suffer from them. If you know or are concerned that someone has an eating disorder, making a donation can help you combat their problem by improving the services offered and spreading the word.
Stop feeling ashamed of your body. Stop criticizing your own body or someone else’s. People can mortify themselves by saying things like “I’ll never be able to wear a bathing suit with this stomach.” Parents, siblings, and friends may also criticize others face-to-face or behind their backs. For example, a mother might make a harsh comment to her daughter by saying, “You won’t get a date to the dance if you don’t lose a few pounds.”
Bottom line, if you don’t have something positive or encouraging to say about yourself or someone else, avoid saying anything at all. Words can hurt. You may only be joking, but the people listening may take your words seriously.
Defend yourself against people (eg friends, family, co-workers, media, etc.) who criticize the appearance of the body and resolve to encourage those who highlight something positive about all bodies.
Overcome your own eating disorder
Pay attention to physical warning signs. You must be honest with yourself when looking for the warning signs of an eating disorder, as this condition can be deadly. Don’t underestimate the seriousness of your eating disorder or overestimate your ability to treat yourself. Some warning signs to watch out for include:
You are underweight (less than 85% of the accepted norm for your age and height).
You have poor health. You have noticed that you bruise easily, lack energy, your skin is pale and yellowish, and your hair is dull and dry.
You suffer from dizziness, you feel much colder than others (poor circulation), your eyes are dry, your tongue is swollen, your gums bleed and you retain a lot of fluid.
You are a woman and three months or more have passed without your period.
Some additional signs of bulimia could be teeth marks on the back of the fingers, nausea, diarrhea, constipation, and swelling in the joints.
Pay attention to the behavioral signs present in eating disorders. In addition to the physical changes that affect your body, eating disorders are also related to emotional and behavioral factors. These factors could be the following:
If someone told you that you are underweight, you would not believe them and even claim otherwise. It’s also possible that you don’t take any suggestion regarding your weight seriously.
You often wear baggy or loose clothing to hide sudden or radical weight loss.
You make excuses for not being present at mealtimes, or you have discovered ways to eat too little, hide food, or throw it up afterward.
You are obsessed with diets, with the subject related to them and with ways to eat less food.
You are very afraid of being fat or getting fat, and you are strict with yourself about your figure and weight.
You follow a strenuous and severe exercise regimen that could be considered excessive.
You avoid socializing or going out with people.
Talk to a therapist who specializes in treating eating disorders. A trained professional can help you determine the thoughts and feelings that are causing you to binge diet or binge eat. If you feel too embarrassed to talk to someone, rest assured that a trained eating disorder therapist won’t make you feel ashamed of yourself. These people have dedicated their professional lives to helping others overcome these problems. They are also aware of your problems, understand the underlying causes and, most importantly, can help you solve them.
The best treatment for managing eating disorders is some form of therapy or counseling in addition to careful monitoring of medical and nutritional needs.
In therapy, this is what will happen:
You will be listened to respectfully.
You will have an opportunity to tell your whole story and ask for specific help.
You will get rid of the pressures that family and friends could put on you. A therapist can act as a buffer and counselor, or at the very least teach you coping strategies during the healing process and how to overcome conflict within the family environment.
They will treat you like someone valuable and assure you that with the right tools, you can improve again.
Determine why you might have developed an eating disorder. You can help therapy by doing a self-examination to determine why you feel compelled to keep losing weight and despise your body. Perhaps there are some self-disclosures that will help you better understand how your eating habits have become an unhealthy way of dealing with something else that is hurting you, such as family conflict, lack of love, or an inability to feel good enough. right.
Is there an aspect of your life that you have no control over? Has your life undergone recent changes that are not to your liking (divorce, moving to a new city), but that you cannot control?
Have you been a victim of physical, emotional or sexual abuse?
Does your family have strict perfection standards? Is she overprotective, controlling, or limitless?
Are your parents not involved in your life?
Do you compare yourself to others? Media images are the worst culprits, but so are friends, popular people, and those you admire.
Do you eat junk food or more when your emotions are running high? In that case, you may have developed a habit that comes unconsciously and has taken the place of more appropriate calming activities, such as challenging negative thoughts or learning to praise yourself for all the good things you do.
Do you think that having a slimmer body will allow you to practice sports better? While some sports, such as swimming and gymnastics, may favor smaller, more agile bodies (belonging to women), keep in mind that many other factors will go into determining a person’s success in any sport. Remember that no sports activity is worth the sacrifice of your health.
Keep a diary in which you record the foods you eat . This diary has two purposes: the first and most practical is to establish your eating patterns, and to allow you and your therapist to determine the types of foods you eat, as well as when and how you eat them. The second, and more subjective part of the journal is to write down your thoughts, feelings and emotions related to the eating habits you have cultivated. This part will also be for you to write down your fears (so you can face them) and dreams (so you can plan your goals and meet them). Some of the things you can explore in your journal are:
Ask yourself what could be going on. Do you compare yourself to models in magazines? Do you experience a great deal of stress (because of school, college or work, family problems or peer pressure)?
Write down the rituals around the foods you have developed, as well as how you feel about them.
Write down your feelings related to your problems controlling your eating patterns.
If you manipulate people to deceive them and hide your behavior, how does that affect your relationships and your closeness to others? Explore this issue in your food diary.
Write down the things you have accomplished in your life. In this way, you will be able to have a better understanding of what you have done. This list will allow you to feel better about yourself when you see the good things accumulating.
Seek the support of a trusted friend or family member. Talk to this person about what is happening to you. Chances are, she’s worried about you and wants to help you get over the eating disorder, even if it’s just about staying by your side.
Learn to express your feelings out loud and accept the feelings you have. Being assertive is not about being arrogant or selfish, but about telling others that you are also valuable and deserve to be valued.
One of the key factors that forms the basis of many disorders is a refusal or inability to stand up for yourself and fully express your own feelings and preferences. Once this becomes a habit, the lack of assertiveness will make you feel less worthy, and able to overcome conflict and unhappiness. Consequently, the disorder will become the voice that “orders” things from you (albeit in a very biased and unhealthy way).
Find other ways to deal with your emotions. Find positive outlets to unwind after a stressful day. Give yourself these personal quiet moments to focus solely on yourself. For example, listen to music, go for a walk, watch the sunset, or write in a journal. The possibilities are endless, so find something fun that relaxes you in order to deal with damaging and stressful emotions.
Do something you’ve wanted to do for a long time but haven’t done yet due to lack of time or organization. Sign up for a class to learn something new you’ve wanted to do, start writing a blog or website, pick up a musical instrument, go on vacation, or read a book or series of books.
Alternative treatments can be helpful in helping you treat an eating disorder. Talk to your doctor about trying activities such as the use of medication, yoga, massage, or acupuncture.
Adopt healthy coping mechanisms to counter stress. Calm down whenever you feel out of control. Call someone on the phone and focus on the person’s voice, touch things that are close to you (eg a desk, display, stuffed animal, or wall), or hug someone you feel safe with. Calming techniques will allow you to reconnect with reality and refrain from obsessing over the past or the present.
Get a good night’s sleep and establish a healthy sleep routine. Sleep can restore your perspective and energy. If you’re not getting enough sleep due to stress and worry, explore ways to improve your sleep routine.
Be as kind to yourself as you are to others. Observe the people around you who seem beautiful to you despite all their peculiarities and appreciate yourself in the same way. See the beauty within you instead of focusing on the flaws. Stop being so strict about your appearance, because every human body is a miracle, a breath of life in the time continuum, and you deserve to be happy right now.
Forget the scale. No one should weigh themselves daily, regardless of whether they have an eating disorder or not. Doing so means mapping out an unrealistic fluctuation in personal weight and obsessing over the numbers instead of focusing on the whole. Gradually reduce how often you weigh yourself until you only do it once or twice a month.
Let your clothes indicate your weight instead of your scale. Choose your favorite outfits that fall within the healthy weight range and use them as the barometer for whether you look good and are at a healthy weight.
Do things step by step. Pay attention to the small changes that improve your health and consider them a big step in the healing process. Gradually increase your food portions, exercise less and less, etc. Trying to stop these habits abruptly will not only be more difficult for you emotionally, but it can also take a toll on your body and lead to other health problems. Again, it’s best to do this under the supervision of a professional, such as an eating disorder specialist.
If you are severely underweight, it will not be possible to do things gradually. In such cases, you may need to be hospitalized and put on a nutritional regimen to ensure your body receives the essential nutrients it needs.
Helping a friend fight an eating disorder
Learn to identify an eating disorder. If you see the signs of an eating disorder in your friend, don’t hesitate to intervene. If the signs mentioned above are evident, it means that this condition has worsened. The sooner you can help your friend combat the eating disorder, the better.
Learn about the eating disorder by reading about it.
Be prepared to do your best to get the affected person to appropriate professional treatment as soon as possible. Also be prepared to support the treatment process and provide support if needed.
Talk to your friend in private. Take your friend to a secluded place and honestly ask him what he’s going through and tell him what you’ve noticed. Be friendly and, above all, avoid prejudice. Explain the reason for your concern and that you would like to help in some way. Also ask him to suggest ways you can help.
Become a source of tranquility in his life. Avoid exaggerating, displaying surprise, or ranting.
For example, avoid blaming them by saying things like, “I knew you shouldn’t have hung out with those people. They are all underweight.”
Show your concern by using sentences in the first person. Instead of embarrassing your friend, just tell him how worried you are. Say things like, “I care about you and I want you to be healthy. What can I do to help you?”.
Give your support. Listen to their problems without prejudice and allow them to express their emotions without making them feel like you don’t care about their problems. This requires authentic listening skills, as well as reframing and summarizing your feelings so that you can be sure that both of you heard and acknowledged your pain. Be understanding, but don’t try to be controlling.
For more tips on active listening, read the How to Listen article.
Be affectionate, loving, and open. Love this person for who they are.
Don’t talk about food or weight in a negative way. If you go out to eat, avoid saying things like “I really want ice cream, but I really shouldn’t…”. Also, don’t ask your friend if he has eaten or not, how much weight he has lost or gained, etc., and never express disappointment that he has lost weight.
Avoid demanding that he gain weight.
Never put him down or blame him for his eating disorder. This condition goes beyond willpower.
Avoid making jokes about body weight or other things that your friend might misunderstand.
Keep a positive attitude. Praise your friend and help him improve his self-esteem in everything he does, not just his appearance. Praise him whenever he is around you, and support him through this difficult time by showing him your love and kindness.
Seek help for your friend. Talk to a counselor, therapist, spouse, or parent about the best ways to help your friend. As stated above, this is the most important part of his ability to recover, so do your best to make things easy for him.
Taking Action (for Parents and Caregivers)
Pay attention to the suggestions described in the previous section. Many of these methods are just as applicable to those who are caring for or living with someone with an eating disorder. More importantly, make sure the person receives medical care and treatment. If you are legally responsible, make sure they get professional help right away.
Most of this section assumes that the person with an eating disorder is a child or adolescent, but the steps can also apply to adult children or other family members.
Stay calm and be understanding. As a family member, you should have ongoing contact with the child or adolescent, and they need to know that you are not upset or demanding that they eat every time you see them. This may seem very restrictive to you, but it is a time for you to learn as much as possible from this person, and you will also need patience, courage, and a calm demeanor in order to be positively supportive and effective.
Show your affection and kindness. The person needs to feel loved. You can say something like “I love you, ____. We will get through this together.”
Support the therapy process, but don’t try to invade your loved one’s privacy or take control of it. Don’t ask intrusive questions, don’t bring up weight directly, and if you have specific concerns, discuss them directly with your therapist or doctor.
Maintain a home of love and care for all members of the family. Do not ignore other people for supporting the victim of this disorder. If you only worry and focus on the latter, others will feel ignored and the affected person will think that he receives too much attention. Try to focus as much as possible (hopefully everyone else does too) on creating a balance in the home that encourages and supports everyone.
Maintain your emotional availability. You could be tempted to ignore or abandon the affected person because of helplessness or anger you may have about the situation. However, ignoring your emotional support will take a toll on her. You will be able to love her and control her manipulative behaviors effectively. If doing this seems difficult, talk to a therapist for suggestions.
Your child will recognize your concern if, instead of rushing him, you indicate that you will always be available if he wants to talk. Say something like, “I know you’re confused. I understand that you may need time to process everything that is happening. I just want you to know that I am here to help you and you can talk to me about anything.”
Treat food as a nutritious, healthy and satisfying part of a family routine. If everyone in your household talks obsessively about food or weight, they will need to tone down their comments. Talk to any family member who makes comments like these without thinking. On the other hand, don’t use food as a punishment or a reward during parenting. Sometimes food needs to be valued.
Avoid limiting the affected person’s food intake unless a doctor has specifically told you not to.
Criticize the messages of the media. Teach your child to ignore messages from the media. Teach him critical thinking skills and encourage him to question the messages provided by the media, as well as those given by his peers and other influential people.
Encourage open communication from an early age. Teach your child to communicate with you in an open and honest way, and talk to him in the same way. If you don’t feel like he has something to hide, you’ve removed a key element that leads to the eating disorder.
Develop the self-esteem of your child affected by the eating disorder. Show him that you love him no matter what, and praise him for the things he does well on a regular basis. If he fails at something, accept it and help him learn to accept it too. In fact, one of the best lessons a parent or caregiver can teach is to learn from failure and develop the resilience to try again.
Help your son accept and appreciate his body. Encourage him to exercise physically and trust his body from a young age. Explain the importance of the flexibility and strength that is built through exercise, and help him appreciate the outdoors and nature by taking frequent walks, bike rides, and runs with him. If possible, take part in running, biking or triathlons as a family so that your children grow up with the idea that these activities are healthy and bonding.