People with eating disorders eat.
Yup, it really ISN’T about food. It just appears that way. For some the food is restricted, and for others a loss of control. Even moreso often there are rules around good foods or bad foods. The food really is just a symptom of whats is going on in the internal experience.
People with eating disorders can look like various things
Someone with an eating disorder can appear “healthy”, overweight, or underweight. This can be an important fact to reminder as those working on recovery may appear well however are very much still struggling.
Eating disorders are not about vanity, diet, and social climate…. but that doesn’t help.
Yes our societal images of thin white models are wreaking havoc on our self esteem. However they are truly a symptom to a larger picture. Although they may add fuel to the fire, the obsessive need and control around food and body/shape is rarely solely about fitting into a certain size, it just may be a symptom or seem that way, and like I said, it certainly doesn’t make things any easier.
Just because someone is eating does not make them fine!
Great your friend is eating. But that doesn’t give you a full picture. I hear time and again from people, “Well I eat.” Or “I see him eating”. Yes people eat. Again, even people with eating disorders. BUT, this does not mean they are 1, better 2, eating enough 3, able to actually enjoy food 4, are treating their body Kindly before during and after. So regardless of what they may or may not be eating, if any of these pieces of the puzzle are not present, then chances are they still are struggling.
Eating around people can be a challenge
Be it a family gathering, dinner with friends, or spontaneous snacks. Eating around others can bring up a slough of other feelings that sometimes feel sticky. The feelings may be different but some can be shame, worth, overwhelm and fear.
Oftentimes what I hear is that people are scared to eat around people for fear that they are being judged, monitored, or praised for eating. All of which can bring up some emotions.
Its not just Anorexia and Bulimia
What we know is that there is a whole range of behaviours and symptoms in which eating disorders present and having an open mind and education can help us spot someone that maybe is struggling. Perhaps it is an overemphasis on health, perhaps it is exercise, perhaps secretive eating all subtle cues that maybe something is challenging. This is when the problem seems to be infringing on someones quality of life. There are various ways in which eating disorders present, more than what I touched on here. The biggest idea to remember is that if you feel like your relationship with food is a problem, it doesn’t matter whether you fit into a classification, you are so much more than a diagnosis and deserve the chance to heal.
Yes, they are fully aware of what they are doing to their bodies.
This is a hard one for loved ones and friends. The truth is, many people “in” their eating disorders are very much aware of the consequences to their bodies. For some, this may feel upsetting and others may not care at all. What is important to note however is that no matter the consequence, what is understood is that the disorder feels that much stronger than the desire at the time to choose differently for the body. This can change.
Its REALLY not about food
Again, just a reminder. It looks like food, it sounds like food, it is MORE than food. Find ways to connect to those you love or have concern over in a way that maybe gets your digging a little bit deeper into the inner world of your loved one that serves to explore with compassion the challenging times that they are facing.
Eating disorders affect the young, old, male and female. It does not discriminate
We still have this media driven image of a thin white teenager in our minds. But what we do know now is that eating disorders are affecting young children to seniors. From Male, female and non binary. Often the smaller demographic in eating disorders gets further silenced by the lack of awareness. Lets talk more about the diversity.
when the brain isn’t nourished
Due to starvation, the brain too becomes stressed, from lack of food, anxiety, harmful cycles, the brain often times will lean into depression, increased anxiety and the inability to cognitively work on the challenging thoughts that come up. SO not only is the individual struggling, but also struggling to work on changing things because the brain is not being supported by proper nourishment. SO ever wonder why it seems hard to get through to your friend? Maybe it is a biological reason that the brain just really does not have the resources to get on board to cognitively understand whats up
And it is available to all. Recovery IS possible. If you are struggling and thinking, there has got to be more to life than this? You are right. There is. Start here and now by giving your body what it needs and lean into the supports that are going to help you along the way.
So so happy for you Kate. It has been many many years since our paths crossed but even then you radiated such beautiful energy. Keep Shining bright and illuminating the path for others to find their way.