Eating disorders, like many mental illnesses, thrive in secrecy and isolation. It is therefore unsurprising that having people around you who can recognise when you’re struggling is so important to avoid relapse.
At this stage in my recovery, the support of my family is even more necessary. I want to recover but the ED ‘voice’ is still very much present and trying to influence my food choices. My parents are my ‘voice of reason’, encouraging me to challenge myself.
For people with a recent diagnosis of an eating disorder, or whose parents/carers might be unfamiliar with how to help, I have some tips that I hope will prove useful:
- As I said at the beginning of this post, eating disorders thrive in secrecy, therefore the sooner they are exposed, the sooner you can be on the road to recovery. In order to recognise when you are struggling, it can be really helpful to create a list of triggers. Everyone’s triggers are different, but one of mine, to provide an example, includes the overconsumption of social media, particuarly accounts that promote excessive exercise/ ‘clean’ eating. Other common triggers for people with a history of eating disorders include; changes to routine, comments being made about your appearance, diet talk, feeling ‘out of control’, etc. By recognising your triggers, you can try to avoid them as much as possible to minimise the risk of your ED ‘latching on.’
- Making other people aware of your triggers too is incredibly beneficial as it can reduce the risk of someone saying/doing something that could, unknowingly to them, potentially negatively impact you.
- It is important to remember however that you are responsible for your own recovery and wellbeing, therefore its paramount that you formulate coping strategies to use in the event that you do come across a trigger. Coping strategies can range from writing your thoughts down to going for a walk. Use healthy distraction techniques to occupy your mind when the eating disorder ‘voice’ appears.
- Creating a list of ‘warning signs’ that may suggest to onlookers that you are struggling is equally as helpful, as eating disorders esculate so quickly, sometimes before you even realise there is a problem. By making other people aware of what to look out for, you can access early intervention to prevent the issue from spiralling. Because I have been in hospital with an eating disorder in the past, my parents know the warning signs and they have been amazing this time round in helping me to recognise them in myself and ultimatley challenge my irrational fears. Warning signs for me include; cutting out foods I used to enjoy because I consider them to be ‘unhealthy’, eating larger quantities of fruit and veg while reducing portion sizes of other food groups, loosing interest and motivation in things I used to love, being overly tired despite going to bed earlier and waking up later, acting more reserved and not talking as much, eating the same foods/meals every day, taking longer to make food choices, looking at packets to observe the calorie content, lying about what I’ve eaten, and the list could go on.
- Don’t worry about confiding in someone in fear that you will worry them, because chances are they have already noticed that something isn’t right and are already worrying. I promise you that the best way to get through this is to talk. The more you communicate about your eating disorder and the way it effects you, the sooner you can reclaim your life back and get on with living it!
- Sit down and right a plan. If you have been restricting your food intake and need to restore weight, create a meal plan with input from someone you trust. Don’t let the eating disorder have any say in the choices you make from now on. You can do this!
I hope that this post has been helpful and will guide both eating disorder sufferers and their parents/carers in the, often confusing, journey through recovery.