Talk to me. I'll reply. And stay safe - you're too beautiful to just let yourself fade away.
Talk to me. I'll reply. And stay safe - you're too beautiful to just let yourself fade away.
Chances are, if you've noticed your partner is actively eating-disordered (as opposed to being in recovery), you feel a mix of emotions: anger, resentment, sadness, self-incriminaton, self-doubt and helplessness. You can't get a word in about your partner's eating disorder; zie just closes up on you immediately. If you try to open up and talk to zem about zer eating disorder, zie misunderstands and assumes that you are berating and/or blaming zem for their illness, which leads to zem closing up out of shame.
Frustrating, isn't it? There are things you can do, however, to make communication easier. Truth is, people with eating disorders don't find it easy, if even possible, to ask for help. Eating disorders self-perpetuate by working off of an internal environment barraged by shame and, coming out of that, an intense urge to remain secretive and silent about one's eating disorder. In fact, this urge is so strong that those suffering from eating disorders often find it physically impossible to ask for help - like there's a barrier there keeping the words from coming out of their mouths.
One of the most effective ways to get around this is to take a step beyond simply being open to conversation - you need to initiate it, instead. Many if not most sufferers of eating disorder have such a sense of worthlessness that they do not express their feelings or any yearning for help and/or support because they feel that they don't want to burden the one who they would most likely tell. That is exactly how they think of it: they would be putting too much of a burden on their confidant.
A beginning strategy to help your partner divert the stream of self-incrimination is to speak your feelings in sentences beginning with 'I' instead of 'you'. Contrast these two sentences and see how they feel to you:
1. I'm worried that you're falling too much into your eating disorder.
2. You're falling too much into your eating disorder, and it's worrying me.
The first is relatively innocuous and places the emphasis on your care for zem without sounding - to a person suffering from an eating disorder - as though you're being accusatory. Because of the shame inherent in living with an eating disorder, if a struggling someone hears that zie is doing something and that is the cause of your pain and hurt, zey are automatically going to blame themselves. That is what it's like living with an eating disorder: everything that anyone says is automatically warped into being the sufferer's fault. It is not your fault, but the fault of the eating disorder.
Another of the things that would be helpful for you to do is to get specific. It's perfectly fine to ask, 'Can I help?' but most people do not know how to answer that - either because the sheer amount of things you could do boggles the mind, or because the answer is yes, but among the things you can do that wouldn't help it's negligible and hard to pick out. So next time, instead of asking if you can simply help, ask if these things would help:
- Sitting with zie quietly while zie is going through a rough time.
- Being with zie and holding them while zie eats.
- Doing shopping for zie so zie will not get overwhelmed.
- Backing up zie when zie does not feel comfortable confronting someone manipulative or abusive (alone or even at all).
- Talking with zie while zie does something that usually results in self-negative thoughts.
- Encouraging zie when zie eats or does something equally self-positive (such as throwing out 'thinspiration clothes').
- Defending zie when someone says something triggering or even derailing the conversation.
- Giving heartfelt, original compliments, e.g. "Your eyes get so shiny and happy when you eat enough. It's beautiful to see."
- Ask things like, "How are you feeling?" if zie doesn't seem to be happy.
- Don't comment on food intake, but on the pattern of moods that follow.
- Remind zie that eating is OK and follow up with an un-loaded compliment, e.g. "I love you and it makes me happy when you are happy."
- Ask if zie needs to talk without comment and then just listen.
- Validate zer feelings, e.g. "You are absolutely right to feel that way," in regards to feeling angry, slighted, etc.
- Ask if it's OK to touch zer.
These are all things that can go a long way to help, and there are still more depending on the individual personality of your partner. But equally important, doing these things will give you a feeling of being worthwhile and helpful - probably one of the best things you can do for yourself. A relationship where you feel useless is not going to be a happy one, unfortunately. However, there will always be things you can do; just ask.
This is Part I. Part II is soon to come.
The truth about 'moderate dieting' - that is, comparatively mild calorie restriction for weight loss - is that it is never without emotional side-effects, and the most common ones include anxiety, depression, lethargy, sudden moodswings, irritability and irrational fears, including ones surrounding the loss of control. Sound familiar? Yep, these are the symptoms you get when you 'eat too much' - without eating enough for your body to properly function.
I would venture to say that many more people than we think happen to have the potential for becoming addicted to starvation; they just don't because it either doesn't occur to them, or they don't reach that threshold of starvation at a constant enough rate to develop an eating disorder. You're, uh, special (haha) in that you went that far long enough to develop an eating disorder that may have lasted years by now. And as we know, the longer you have your eating disorder, the harder it is to loosen its hold over you.
That same phenomena exists also for 'normal' eating - defined here as eating enough for your body to run all its processes, including making you feel good. If you do it long enough, you get used to it, and it becomes harder and harder to go back to the self-destructive cycles of eating disorders. It can hurt to start, but it'll hurt a lot more to stop - knowing that you could have grasped that particular opportunity for salvation.
So next time you feel like you're not strong enough - next time you feel like you don't really want to eat - eat something right away. It doesn't have to be anything in particular - a banana, a slice of watermelon, a peach, even some nuts or a salad - what is important is that you eat. It is all too easy to just sit and wait and see what happens, and by the time comes where you realize your mistake, it's too late - the eating disorder's got you again, and you'll have to climb out all over again.
Next time. You don't feel strong enough? Eat. Or call someone and have them make you promise you won't get off until a half hour after you eat. Have a friend who knows about your eating disorder come over, or just make a promise to yourself that you are not going to give up - you're going to fight this thing.
Go have something to eat.
It may just save your life.
I just want to say thanks. I want to recover. I've had enough, and I want out...
I've also discovered that finding something you are passionate about which OBLIGES you to eat healthily (I used to swim competitively, for example, and to start back I need to eat properly or I won't be strong enough) is helpful.
I'm 22, and have been in HELL for 8 years. I've had enough.
Second, there will be no reminiscing about how safe Hell felt. Let's face it, you are here because no one, no one can continue to feed something that's killing them inside and still come out whole and alive (emphasis on alive). You are making a choice here, a wonderful one: you are choosing not only to exist, but to live; not only to live, but to thrive. You have taken this chance and you are enabling yourself to really see what life's all about. For that you are more than strong; you are heroic. So as my third point, I would like to say thank you.
Fourth, there may come a point where you will need to find outside help. We don't require it, but we want you to have someone there in hard times to make sure you're not sliding back into the pit. It can be anyone from a nutritionist or therapist to your SO, but you're going to need someone. This is not so much for our safety as it is for your sanity.
And fifth, you are accountable and responsible for yourself. While an eating disorder is not something that you have control over, it is something you can fight, so fight the good fight, luv.
Fresh fruits and vegetables. Nuts and seeds. The vast majority of foods in these categories are 'safe foods' for almost everyone suffering from an eating disorder. The fact is, most of us are never going to be able to eat or look at food like 'normal' people ever again. We can't, and telling us that we need to ignore food is going to be counterproductive. So this is a program, which you design yourself based on your safe foods and modify as according to the positive challenges of others, that is wildly different from anything you may have learned about recovery.
So, you take your fresh fruits and vegetables and design a plan around it so that you don't freak out. A plan like this usually goes along these lines: eat a serving of fruit every waking half hour without fail, or drink a glass - not a cup - of freshly-made juice. In the morning and night, have at least one serving of fresh vegetables, nuts or seeds.
Serving sizes for this program look like this:
Berries and grapes: 1 cup.
Cold-weather tree fruit: 1 piece.
Tropical tree-fruit: 1/2 piece.
Greens: 2 cups.
Nuts: 5-10 nuts (whichever is most comfortable)
The reason for eating every half an hour is to prevent people from 'cutting back' on a three-meal plan until there's nothing left to cut back from. It is also to let the food digest so that the stomach doesn't feel full (which is a terrible feeling to many of us) while still nourishing your body with the nutrients, both macro and micro, there is.
There is no calorie counting, nor even nutrient counting; counting numbers as goals to achieve will only serve to make us obsess over those numbers. Part of your challenge will be learning to eat when you are hungry, which may mean eating sooner than the half-hour interval - that's not only allowed, that's encouraged, but every half an hour is the minimum. I'll say that again: If you are hungry, eat.
One of the things that this plan does not have is cooked foods, oils, or sweeteners. For salads, try to use lime or lemon juice. There is no oil or cooked foods used in this program because, honestly, these foods are so dense that they make us panic and even purge. If you would like something sweet, there's always fruit - at the time I write this post, watermelon and cherries are at their peak, while peaches are just beginning to come into season.
You are encouraged to ask questions concerning budgeting and shopping, health, exercise (preferably mild weightlifting, and no strenuous exercise for more than half an hour) and how to find help, among the limitless possibilities that may pop into your head. You are also encouraged to share your feelings and talk openly about what it's like to recover. Simply try to keep your post oriented mostly on yourself and your recovery.
Nourishing our bodies is not a crime, and neither is nourishing ourselves. Even if it just tastes good so you want it, eat that slice of honeydew, that banana, that apricot or salad. You deserve it.