9 thoughts on “Helping A Friend With Body Image Or Eating Issues

  • February 15, 2012 at 11:54 am

    I’m not sure that encouraging a friend that has body image issues or ED to leave situations that bother them is healthy. If I did that my anxiety would grow and before I knew it my world would indeed become quite small. Therapy, CBT and ACT therapy has been instrumental in my healing process (which is in progress) but if anyone even gave me the hint that I should run away from my fears it would validate my anxiety and make it feel even more real. The same as telling me that you feel X sometimes, too. When ladies do that (because let’s face it most women have some areas of image insecurity) with me it makes me feel like the way that I view my body and food is indeed normal, when it most certainly is not. It’s actually quite distorted, but if I make myself believe it is, then I will not have to take any of the uncomfortable steps in challenging or changing my distorted beliefs.

    • February 15, 2012 at 12:00 pm

      @ Quiet Contemplation, thank you for bringing up such great points! If you do start avoiding situations, then your anxiety only spikes, and it also gives you the sense that you can’t overcome a situation. (I can relate to this.) CBT and ACT are excellent for anxiety! I struggle with anxiety, too, and I’ve used those techniques to help me.

      I think that bashing one’s body has become normal in our culture — to an extent. But that doesn’t mean it’s healthy. So while it’s helpful for a friend to know that they might not be alone in their concerns, it’s a fine line between that and normalizing an unhealthy behavior. I absolutely agree.

      Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment!

  • February 17, 2012 at 12:21 am

    QC, Thank you for giving me an opportunity to clarify. I did not intend to convey that a person with body image issues should be advised to avoid all situations that are triggering. Simply that before a friend tries to intervene that they find a calm place to do it so the situation doesn’t escalate.

    I’m glad to read that you have recognized your issues and have found a professional to help. Sadly, most people with body image issues have not identified them as important enough/destructive enough to get help for, and many don’t even realize that help exists. That is why it is so essential for friends to speak up.

    Kudos to you on your recovery, and thank you for sharing your experience.

  • February 18, 2012 at 1:55 pm

    I feel like there’s a lot of advice about how to talk to someone about their eating disorder, but how do you talk to someone about your own disordered eating? I had a problem with binge eating in college, and now, six years later, it’s back. People hear about anorexia and bulimia and understand that those are serious problems, but if I tell someone I find it impossible to control myself around food, they tell me they do too. If I stress that no, my binges have included an entire box of Oreos, a bag of chili cheese Fritos, and a family-size bag of Skittles all in one sitting, they look at me like they’re impressed, and not sure why I think this is an issue. Where is the information about how to have a conversation about the binge eating disorder I’ve been covering up by piling other trash on top of my junk food bags?

    • February 20, 2012 at 12:07 pm

      @ Jenna, you bring up a very important topic! I totally agree with you that there’s not much out there about how to talk to someone about your ED. I’ll absolutely look into this and interview an expert.

      Also, binge eating disorder is highly treatable, and you can recover. It’d be incredibly helpful if you could see a therapist who specializes in BED. I wish you all the best!

      • February 20, 2012 at 2:09 pm

        @ Jenna, I was thinking some more about your question. Something that could be helpful when sharing your ED with someone is to provide them with literature on BED. I think people automatically want to help a loved one feel better and instead of truly listening to you, your family and friends might rush to make it all better. And, unfortunately, BED is also very misunderstood in our society. Just like with depression, people don’t understand that you can’t just snap out of it, that you can’t just stop. But giving people good information to read can help them better understand what you’re going through.

    • May 2, 2012 at 12:40 pm

      Jenna, I regret that I just now saw your post. You are so right on and part of healing from an eating disorder is talking about it and getting support. I am sad to read that those you have shared with are not able to set aside their own biases and really “hear” what you are saying. It sounds very similar to when someone has anorexia and others say unhelpful things like, “Oh I wish I had to try to gain weight!” when they really don’t understand how painful it is to be in that situation. I had a couple of suggestions for you – one is to find a group, whether in person or on-line, either an eating disorder support group or an al-anon group, where not only will you find others who do understand what you are going through, but there are actually goals to not comment on other people’s stories, but just listen. Perhaps having a forum where you can be heard will be helpful, even if it is not the friends and family that you wish would take the time to understand. My other suggestion is to consider sharing with others the way you feel when your eating disorder strikes, rather than what you eat. Perhaps that would help them take the focus off the food and put it back onto the part where you are asking for support? Then again lots of people really want eating disorders to be about food (not you, I mean the people you are sharing with) because that is something tangible, and talking about feelings is a lot more challenging for them. Ultimately if you have 2 or 3 people in your life that you can be really vulnerable with, that may be enough. Sadly, until society changes, there are going to be a lot of people out there who do not understand what eating disorders are all about. I am hopeful that with the inclusion of binge eating disorder in the DSM that information will improve. Best wishes in your recovery, Jessica

  • February 18, 2012 at 2:36 pm

    Thanks for your article. You’ve made some good points and provided good resources for those looking to help a friend or loved one. Those with EDs can benefit too.

    Great job!


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