You want to help stop anorexia in your best friend or brother, sister or daughter.
But you don’t have anorexia yourself – and in all probability – you don’t have any experience in helping someone who does.
Furthermore – part of you probably thinks that if you can just sit down and have a sensible chat over a coffee, it can all be ironed out.
Somewhere in her mind (it’s usually a her – but increasingly it could be a him) you feel there is a bunch of common sense just waiting to be nudged by a sensible voice of reason.
And when the light bulb of recognition has started to glow brightly . . . the treatment to stop anorexia can swing smoothly into action.
If all that sounds reasonable to you, it’s because you are . . . well . . . reasonable.
But one thing an anorexic person is NOT – is reasonable.
Anorexia makes nice kids (and even adults) devious, secretive and delusional. Anorexia will turn them into masters of quiet deception.
In order to help – you first have to understand that anorexia has absolutely nothing to do with food.
That’s right – and it is most important to understand that fact if you truly want to help stop anorexia.
How Do I Stop Anorexia- Understand the Mind of an Anorexic
The mind of an anorexic person has a heap of issues and misconceptions going on, usually based on feelings of low self-worth or perceived low popularity with a peer group.
It could equally be fallout from a bereavement or maybe some seemingly powerful physical or social situation in her life that she feels she is unable to control.
So if she can’t control that – she will control her food intake instead. And because this control gives her a release from the underlying problem, it becomes almost impossible for her to stop.
For the parent, helper or carer – this is a simple concept to grasp but usually very difficult to translate into supportive action.
To be a good support for an anorexic, first you need to have the agreement of this person.
They will need to recognize that what they are doing is harmful and they must want to stop anorexia. Until that is understood and agreed – you will be unable to move forward.
But the wish to stop anorexia must come from the anorexic herself. You can’t reason or force the issue.
When Trying to Stop Anorexia – Would You Know Where to Start?
Let’s say you just discovered that your daughter or someone else you love is struggling with an eating disorder.
What would you say to try and tackle the problem?
How confident would you be that you’d get it right?
Remember – this is an extremely delicate situation and you are walking a very fine line. Handle it right and you will perhaps be able to get this person to confide in you.
However – say the wrong things, which is easy to do, and you risk them slamming the door and you could be seen as a threat and permanently excluded from further discussion.
When Trying to Stop Anorexia – The Seven Things NEVER to Say
Here are the seven things you must never say to someone with anorexia:
1. Never make a comment on his or her appearance. Neither congratulate her on her weight loss.
Saying things like “That’s amazing – how did you manage to loose so much weight?” Making this sort of observation only draws attention to their physical results from their eating disorder and offers praise for their rapid weight loss.
2. Don’t ask how much weight they have lost or make any comment about their current size or weight. Never ask their current weight or how much weight they have lost.
Doing that will simply draw attention to the fact that their decreasing size is noticeable and may have the effect of triggering further and greater interest in losing more weight.
3. It’s important never to talk about anything to do with weight loss. Never discuss techniques for losing weight or anything to do with diets or diet plans.
This will only have the effect of reinforcing eating disorders and weight loss behavior in the mind of the anorexic.
4. Never say anything like “Why not eat a normal meal because it would be so much better for you.”
Saying anything like that makes the person suffering from an eating disorder realize that you have absolutely no idea what she is thinking, or how she is suffering. Hearing something like that will cause the anorexic to try to put distance between themselves and you.
It is important to bear in mind that this disorder is not really about food – it is all about that person’s underlying psychological condition.
5. Never mention the person’s former weight or talk about how they used to look – particularly with reference to their appearance today, which will probably be received in a completely negative way.
When you make weight comparisons and comments – even in a kindly way – that she looked much healthier last year, this will almost unbelieveably be interpreted as a positive sign by the anorexic person.
She will hear something completely different.
In her mind she will equate “healthier” with “fatter” and “unhealthy” with “thinner”.
It’s a distortion – but that is how she will see it. So avoiding any sort of weight or appearance comparisons is really important.
6. Because people do not simply decide to become anorexic overnight – it is important not to attach any blame to their current eating disorder issues.
Attaching blame by asking:
“How on earth did you let this happen?”
“Why have you started to do this?”
“This is absolutely your fault.”
- or words to that effect – will be unhelpful and will create distance between yourself and the sufferer you want to help.
7. Do not share your thoughts and opinions unless you are specifically asked for them.
Instead work on becoming a good listener with as much empathy as possible. This is a golden opportunity for you to develop your support skills and this will be a key factor in trying to stop anorexia for your relative or friend.
Positive Action You CAN Take to Stop Anorexia
On a positive note – you might try to encourage your anorexic friend or relative to seek help. But you’ll have to get your timing right.
There is a lot of help and guidance available and a good place to start understanding this condition (and how you can help) can be found here > > > First Moves to Stop Anorexia
But you have to go carefully. It’s no good trying to force anyone into treatment or you will have the opposite effect.
It’s possible that your friend or relative may not be ready to seek help and you will just have to bide your time.
If you offer your support and you empathize well and show your unconditional love you will be able to slowly introduce the idea that some help is available.