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National Eating Disorder Awareness Week: February 23rd - March 2nd

February 23, 2018

What do you think of when you hear the word "eating disorder"?  Perhaps one of the following common misconceptions come to mind:

  • Eating disorders are a rich, female Caucasian problem;
  • Men don't struggle with eating disorders;
  • People with eating disorders are either extremely thin or overweight.

Like many mental illnesses, eating disorders are often misunderstood.  They are not lifestyle choices that only affect certain genders, socio-economic statuses, ethnicities or body types.  Eating disorders are serious and complex conditions that have emotional, physical and cultural components.  And they do not discriminate.

Millions of people secretly struggle with food and body issues.  Today's culture does not help with social media playing a huge role in comparison issues, apps on cell phones allowing people to easily photoshop pictures of themselves, and weight loss companies targeting children and adolescents.  The good news is that even with all these barriers, individuals can overcome this struggle - there is hope for recovery.

In honor of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, Andrew Harris, one of HopeWay's primary therapists, shares some useful tips for helping a loved one recover from any kind of eating disorder.

What WILL NOT Work What WILL Work
  • Minimizing the issue or believing it's not a serious problem
  • Simple explanations for the complex issues your loved one is going through ("Just eat more")
  • Thinking that this is "just a phase"
  • Placing blame on your loved one, insinuating it is their choice
  • Thinking that medication alone (i.e. for appetite stimulation) will fix the issue
  • Battling with your loved one to force them to adopt the appropriate behavior
  • Believing a loved one needs to be "ready" in order for treatment to be beneficial
  • Validate the person's feelings without validating their behavior - they're not always looking for empathy
  • Do not judge people's size/weight/appearance.  Compliment specific clothing/accessories instead of comments like "You look great!"
  • Lead by example - eat a full meal and do not fixate on diets
  • Directly ask your loved one what you can do to motivate or support them
  • Provide natural consequences when meals aren't completed
    • "If you cannot eat, then you do not have enough energy from food to hang out with friends, go to the movies, etc."

 

Editor’s note: This blog post is presented for informational purposes only and is not meant to diagnose or treat any illness. If you have any health concern, see a licensed healthcare professional in person.