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When Families Don’t Understand Eating Disorders

Posted Apr 23 2013 2:09am

Excuse the pun, but I just threw up a whole bunch of drama onto my tumblr in regards to an incident with my sister-in-law. I wasn’t going to write about it in my WP blog for two reasons: one, because I had already written an entry today, and two, because it seemed like such a petty thing that didn’t deserve its own entry.

But the event that happened, which you can read about here , just goes to show how clueless some family members can be in regards to eating disorders, eating disorder recovery, and relapse.

Now, in defense of my family, they never once took the time to educate themselves on eating disorders, even when they knew I was going to treatment for one. Per my request, they never talked about it once I got back, nor did they ever ask me anything about it: the whats, the whys, the how comes. In fact, when I was in relapse during the time my house burned down, my brother took me aside, told me I was being selfish, and that if I didn’t stop I was going to give our father a heart attack.

When I started a diet in 2010 with my sister-in-law, nobody questioned it. My husband found my obsessive calorie counting troubling, but that was the extent of that, and when I started losing weight, my father, the only other person who actually knew the severity of my eating disorder, commented how “fit and trim” I looked. Nobody thought it was a bad idea, or maybe they did, but didn’t feel it was their place to say anything.

My sister-in-laws are obsessed with dieting. One has lost over 100 pounds in the last two years, the other is a yo-yo dieter who goes back and forth between gaining and losing. BOTH have had liposuction.

When the obese sister-in-law went on a 500 calorie a day diet and I made a comment that it was practically an anorectic’s diet, my yo-yo diet sister-in-law said, “It’s not unhealthy unless we see bones. So don’t worry.”

Their concept of what is healthy and what isn’t just is not there. And I’ve never thought about it until this very moment typing this, but what THEY go through must be tough. Both have had liposuction to remove fat from their bodies — that alone is enough to worry about someone’s self-image. To feel so insecure and discontent with their bodies to fork over thousands of dollars to change them.

But in the end, the way they freely talk about dieting and calorie counting and losing weight in front of me is baffling. I often wonder if I were a recovering alcoholic if they would carry on with alcohol talk in front of me.

I think they think an eating disorder is curable. Or that eating disorders aren’t life-threatening. I was never on death’s door. I was never emaciated and hospitalized. I went to inpatient for six weeks, in which my brother referred to it as “just a summer camp,” and I came out weight restored and ALL BETTER.

And even when I dropped 30 pounds and both sister-in-laws said I looked a bit too thin in my blue halter top, the obese one told my brother to be quiet when he objected to my size and expressed concern.

I understand. I really do. I’m 26-years-old; from their perspective, my problems are not their problems, and they know no matter what they do, the decision to change is mine alone. They know it’s better to not rock the boat, because if they did, it wouldn’t make a difference.

But the thing that bothers me the most is the blatant talk of food, weight, and dieting around me. You’d think even a person with no eating disorder experience would know it may be a bad idea to talk about that stuff around someone who has been eating disordered before and is clearly underweight at present time.

My yo-yo diet sister-in-law is under the impression I count calories daily, and she thinks that’s normal and okay and healthy.

It’s not okay. Not even for a non-eating disordered person.

Looking at this objectively and rationally, I need to see my part in this. My part is that I told them not to mention it when I got back from treatment. My part is that I don’t set boundaries with them with the diet talk. My part is I openly talked about diets with my sister-in-law in 2010 and let her enable me in my relapse. My part is letting such a petty thing get to me. Her dieting is her business (even though she tries very hard to make it MY business every time I see her), and I don’t need to enable her by giving in to her conversations on food, dieting, and calorie counting. Those are my parts, and because I cannot change who she is, I can only change how I react to her and what she does.


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