Curbing Eating Disorders

Types of Eating Disorders

  • Anorexia: An anorexic person will make active attempts to lose weight by purposefully not eating. She will think she is fat, no matter how considerable the weight loss, and will ask if she looks fat. 

  • Bulimia: A bulimic person will binge and purge. Binging is rapid consumption of large amounts of food in a relatively short amount of time, and purging is getting rid of food, either by vomiting, using laxatives, enemas, or diuretics. Binging usually occurs in secret.

  • Compulsive overeating: A person who compulsively overeats will have episodes of uncontrollable eating and will gain weight. In order to get rid of the excess weight, the compulsive overeater may turn to dieting. Dieting causes feelings of deprivation for the overeater, which causes more eating. Compulsive eaters feel out of control and know that something is wrong with their eating behavior.

Approaching the Problem

  • Pick a time when you are feeling calm: When you are upset or hurt, you won’t be able to communicate clearly. Also, your feelings will be burdensome to the person you are trying to help, which will make it more difficult for him to open up. Don’t bring up your concerns in the middle of a fight. Accusations or pleas for him to change will quickly shut down lines of communication. You will be perceived as criticizing, and the reaction will be a defensive one.

  • Stop the conversation before it gets out of control: This discussion will be difficult. If you’re not careful, it will become a battle of wills. You must be in control. Do not let it turn into a fight. Let your concern show, but if you are becoming angry or upset, stop the conversation. You don’t have to say everything at once. Making a start is good, and you can finish when things aren’t so heated.

  • Practice the discussion with someone: If someone else is aware of the problem, present your ideas to him. Role play what you want to say before actually talking to the eating-disordered individual. Have the person you are practicing with respond as if he were the person with an eating disorder.

  • If the problem is severe, seek professional help.

Be ready for possible reactions.

  • Relief: For some, knowing that someone else is aware of the problem is a great comfort. They are no longer alone with the secret. Finally, someone can help.

  • Admission: Sometimes, once she realizes that someone else is aware of the problem, she can admit that something is wrong.

  • Defense or denial: When confronted, many will deny a problem exists. Particularly, those who are suffering from anorexia don’t think there is a problem and will try to convince you of that. At first, she may feel shame for being found out, especially bulimics and overeaters. The person may become mad at you. Feeling intruded upon, she will react defensively.

Siegel, M., J. Brishman and M. Weinshel. Surviving an Eating Disorder