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Do you have a loved one suffering from an eating disorder? | Dina Merhbi, Nutritionniste-Diététiste 

 

Dina Merhbi

Do you have a loved one who is suffering from an eating disorder?

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Eating disorders and disordered eating is remarkably prevalent.
The families and loved ones affected by this condition are extremely widespread,
yet so often anonymous and alone in their own suffering.
You are not to blame for what is happening.
Eating disorders are caused by a multitude of
physiological, genetical , psychological and social factors.
The best thing is to reach out, ask for help,
and use the tips listed below as a guide and a support.
 
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How to communicate with someone who has an eating disorder

First rule : Timing.

Choose a time when all parties are calm and when the situation is not already escalated.

Do not have serious conversations around meal times.

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Second rule :  Distinguish the healthy self and the eating disorder self.

Do not tell your loved one that you do not trust them, instead tell them that you do not trust their disorder.

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Third rule :  It’s not about food.

Debating over food and nutrition is a losing battle.

Instead, talk about your concerns for their physical and emotional health

due to the behavioural changes you’ve observed.

10 tips on what to do if you know someone suffering from an eating disorder

1. Be Knowledgeable

An eating disorder is not simply about not eating; it is a coping

mechanism that the individual uses to deal with deeper

problems. Do your own reading, preparing, reaching out and

sharing. An informed communicator is always better equipped

and more effective.

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2. Seek support

Encourage the person to seek professional help, and seek

resources that can help you better deal with this illness.

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3. Be patient 

When you approach someone for the first time in regards to

their health issue, do not be surprised if they reject your

expression of concern. They may react with anger and denial.

It is important not to rush the person, but instead recognize

that it will take time for the person to make changes.

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4. Be encouraging

Encourage the person to see themselves as more than their

eating disorder. Affirm their strengths and interests that are

unrelated to food or physical appearance.

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5. Be supportive

Let the person know that you care about them,

and want them to be healthy and happy.

Take the focus off food and weight.

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6. Be compassionate

Show compassion for the pain and confusion that the individual is experiencing.

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7. Listen

Show that you care by asking about their feelings and concerns.

Resist the urge to advise or criticize.

Even if you don’t understand what the person is going through,

it is important to listen.

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8. Set a positive example

Make it a point to model healthy behaviours.

Instead of dieting, eat nutritious and balanced meals.

Be mindful about how you talk about your body and your eating.

Avoid self­critical remarks or negative comments about others’ appearances.

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9. Be non-judgemental

The individual with the illness will have to decide on when and how they get help.

Support themby validating the healthy changes that the person does make,

however small they may be.

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10. Find a middle ground between forcing the issue and ignoring it

Becoming overly insistent and aggressive with the person may cause them to avoid you, and/or

treatment; on the other hand you do not want to avoid a potentially fatal illness.

It is important to find a middle ground between these two extremes.

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Dina Merhbi, Nutritionist

Also, The “Parent Toolkit” available from the National Eating Disorder Association is an excellent resource to begin understanding eating disorders, and guide you in taking the next steps to help someone suffering from this illness. https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/sites/default/files/Toolkits/ParentToolkit.pdf

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