Unorthodox Tips to Help Someone Recovering from an Eating Disorder…

My husband is often baffled by my pickiness when it comes to food. He proudly boasts that he will try and eat anything, even if he likes it or not.

I reply back that if calories were free I would do the same…

But calories are not free, they come at an extremely high price, especially for someone who has had an eating disorder.

When someone has an eating disorder their whole world revolves around food. They get really good at excuses or justifications or anything else that allows them to eat how they want, what they want, and why they want to consume it the way they do…

Now that I am clean (and very proud of it) my past disorder no longer has power to dictate to me what I put in my body. But gosh, there’s still a really difficult feeling that never goes away…and it’s a feeling I just have had to learn to live with…

This feeling comes out especially when I have to go over to someone’s house for dinner…

When someone invites you into their home they invite you into a sacred part of their lives. Our homes are often our sanctuaries, our quiet enclosures of privacy and protection, they are a huge part of us that we only let a fair few inside of.

Naturally when we are invited over to someone’s house it feels like an honor, and certainly reminds us that it requires a level of respect on our part.

So for a person recovering from an eating disorder, someone else’s home can actually be a place of hell, where one is locked away and control of what he/she eats is put entirely in the hands and mercy of the home owner.

Ok. Ok. This might sound a little exaggerated or shocking for some people to hear. But people who haven’t had an eating disorder just don’t get it.

I mean it’s just food, right? It’s just a person's house — a person that loves you and will respect your wishes and just wants you to be happy…

Wrong

So very wrong

When addiction leaves us it actually still lingers, deep below…we learn to transfer our addictions to safer places, to places out of sight that even we ourselves can’t touch…But when temptation springs up we are painfully reminded of how close our disorder still is to us…

If your friend has had an eating disorder chances are coming to your house to eat dinner is going to bring up some strong feelings inside of them. They are going to feel obligated to eat in a certain way. They don’t want to offend you. They are trying to navigate their love for you and their need for control in what and how they eat…

But for a person recovering from an eating disorder, going to dinner at someone’s house can feel a lot like how a recovering cocaine addict must feel if he had to spend the night in a crack house.

If you know one of your friends has had a past eating disorder — and you want to help them maintain their recovery as best you can — take it from someone who’s been there before

Here are some unorthodox tips I would recommend when eating with your friend…

1. Never put pressure on the person to eat something. This includes cooking a nice dinner for them or telling them to try something off your plate. I know it sounds a bit crazy but you friend is struggling with control — they need your help and support. And they love you so they don’t want to offend you so they are going to eat whatever you make or ask them to try. So maybe instead of having them over just go out to eat instead and let them choose the place…or if you must have them over for dinner, make something that requires them to pick and choose and create their own dish — like a taco bar or something. Give them some form of control in one way or another.

2. Don’t tell your friend to eat more food because they are still looking too skinny.

I remember after one of my many first attempts to get a handle over my eating disorder in High School I had gained ten pounds in the process (but was still rather skinny for my size). I had a PE teacher come up to me while I was eating a salad during lunch and say I was looking really healthy and good (I think she had probably guessed what I was going through) but unlike everyone else who had told me to keep eating more food because I was too skinny, she was encouraging — even while I was eating a salad! It felt like I could breathe a sigh of relief…I’m really grateful for that moment in my life because it was helpful in having me move forward.

So, again, don’t tell your friend to eat more food because they are looking too skinny. Just don’t. You might mean it as a compliment…you might be wanting to express your love and concern…you might even be a little jealous I don’t know, but just don’t do it — because this will just become the start of an emotional roller coaster for your friend. They are working very very hard to have a good relationship with food where they can both eat the proper amount and also have the body they want. They are trying to recover. When you tell them to eat more it makes them feel out of control, and like they still have the disorder in the first place.

3. Along these lines, don’t tell others what your friend has or hasn’t eaten that day. Food is a private and personal matter for your friend so let them be the one to discuss it. Please don’t say things like, “I swear they eat like a bird” or “it’s like they never eat!” You bringing their eating habits out into a public space almost feels for them as if were talking about their sex life. It’s embarrassing, it’s painful, and it’s a topic they probably don’t want discussed in front of others.

4. Your friend is re-learning what healthy eating really means. Eating 5,000 calories a day is bad…but cutting that down and eating 500 calories a day is also bad… Get healthy together in a fun way — take a yoga class together, hike the mountains, take a cooking class that focuses on healthy eating.

These tips are specifically meant to help someone who has sustained a path of recovery for themselves from their past eating disorder. If you suspect your friend may currently be enslaved to an eating disorder, these tips may not need apply as well…Better tips may involve talking to them about it delicately and letting them know there are countless resources out there including hotlines, therapists, and clinics…

We have a dichotomy in our society — one where we have huge portions and fast foods on every corner and at the same time praise celebrities and athletes with their personal fitness and perfectly toned bodies. We project mixed messages on every corner so it’s really no wonder that 3 out of 4 women experience some sort of disordered eating behaviors in their life.

A lot of our happiness is taken away from us when we are a slave to something, an addiction or disorder that makes it feel as if the world is outside our control. But joy, true joy, is a life filled without any enslavement.

It’s just around the corner…and you can help someone find it…

So next time you know your friend is recovering from something like this, be there for them in the best ways possible. It might seem a little foreign or strange to you but I know from my own personal experience, these tips could help your friend go a really long way in maintaining his/her recovery…

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