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Communicating With Someone With an Eating Disorder

Posted Jun 07 2013 9:18am

My last blog dealt with the illness of Anorexia, but knowing the illness is not enough.  Communication is critically important and the person who suffers from eating disorders may be overly sensitive to words and actions.  This post should be of some help but I urge you to do further research to determine how you should deal with your specific situation.

Bob Aronson

Rules of Support…What to say and what not to say

Support is, at times, hard to give a person living with an eating disorder. He or she will most likely push you away when you try to help them, and they will isolate themselves as much as they can, as well as abuse things like laxatives, ipecac, and diuretics. They will sneak in exercising and hide food when you give it to them, but don’t let this discourage or infuriate you. Remember that the eating disorder that he or she has lived with is like an identity to them. Imagine one day waking up in a totally new place. A new house, job, life, planet, etc., with everything that you once knew so well now gone. That is what someone with an eating disorder encounters once they start the road to recovery. With an eating disorder, you become so use to the starving and rituals involved with anorexia, and the immediate relief and high you get from purging, that it is incredibly hard to just totally stop.

In the beginning, the person with the eating disorder will most likely deny that they even have a problem. Those with anorexia especially have a high denial rate because they cannot see how they really look, and instead only see themselves as obese failures. Most say they are “too fat” to be anorexic, and many have been regarded as the “perfect” children so they are too afraid to admit to themselves that there are actual problems. No matter what eating disorder, those with them feel they are not worth help, and their heads will tell them that they shouldn’t waste other people’s time when they are such “failures” anyways.

Knowing these things, never forget that recovery is a long road full of speed bumps and potholes. In recovery we tend to turn cold and unresponsive, and even shove and push those away from us, but don’t think that that doesn’t mean that we don’t want help. Deep down inside those suffering is a wish to truly be free from this hell. By pushing you away, those with an eating disorder are only isolating themselves more because they believe that they are not worthy or deserving of love/help.

Your support will be one of the most important things in that person’s recovery. Remember that getting angry or frustrated the person, or yelling at them, will only reinforce how much trouble and how much of a failure the person already feels, which always leads to the eating disorder worsening. Always have open ears and always calmly talk things, but don’t be fake (we can detect it like little radars). Most importantly, NEVER GIVE UP on the person.

What to do and what not to do

Do NOT comment on appearance. If you make comments such as, “Oh, you look so much healthier!”, the person with an eating disorder will twist that around and interpretate it as meaning that they have gained weight and are now “fat”. Also, don’t make this kind of comment either – “Wow, you are so thin! I wish I had your willpower.” The person will take that as a compliment and reinforce their weight loss.

Do NOT blame the person for what is going on. As I have commented before, if you yell, scream, fight, or blame the person for their eating disorder or for making your life “hell”, this will only reinforce how worthless they already feel and thus will trigger the eating disorder even more.

Do NOT make mealtimes a force feeding frenzy. Recovery is a long and slow process, and if you cram meal after meal down a person’s throat, you will only make them feel even more guilty and upset which leads to purging. SLOW is the key word. Work on eating snacks calmly and then move up to meals if it helps (this can go for all eating disorders, not just anorexia). Mealtimes should be as comfortable and friendly as possible so that the person doesn’t hate eating as much as possible.

DO listen and try to understand. Drawings, paintings, and poetry can help a great deal when those suffering can’t express themselves through talking.

DO remind and tell the person that they are not the only one fighting an eating disorder.

Do NOT harp on them about their eating behaviors, such as asking, “Are you going to puke that up?”, or, “Have you eaten anything today? What’d you have?” This only makes the person feel more ashamed (remember, someone with an eating disorder honestly believes that they don’t deserve to eat and they feel guilty every time they do).

Do NOT say things like, “I wish I could be anorexic, then I could be thin like you.” So many people think eating disorders are glamorous and that they can be flipped on and off like a light switch. But, go and ask anyone suffering, and they’ll tell you they wouldn’t wish this on their greatest enemies, so don’t treat this problem like a game instead of a deadly disorder.

DO understand that the person with an eating disorder is not out for attention or pity. We didn’t ask for this disorder to happen, nor did we want it to happen.

Do NOT make comments like, “You have four months to stop puring/to gain weight or else you are going to the hospital.” You cannot put a time limit on recovery and this will only panic the person with an eating disorder. Tell that to a person will only cause them to lie to you about their stages of recovery, not encourage them to “speed up” the recovery process .

Bob Aronson of Bob’s Newheart is a 2007 heart transplant recipient, the founder of Facebook’s nearly 2,500 member Organ Transplant Initiative and the author of most of these donation/transplantation blogs.

You may comment in the space provided or email your thoughts to me at bob@baronson.org. And – please spread the word about the immediate need for more organ donors. There is nothing you can do that is of greater importance. If you convince one person to be an organ and tissue donor you may save or positively affect over 60 lives. Some of those lives may be people you know and love.

Please view our video “Thank You From the Bottom of my Donor’s heart” on http://www.organti.org This video was produced to promote organ donation so it is free and no permission is needed for its use.

If you want to spread the word personally about organ donation, we have another PowerPoint slide show for your use free and without permission. Just go to http://www.organti.org and click on “Life Pass It On” on the left side of the screen and then just follow the directions. This is NOT a stand-alone show; it needs a presenter but is professionally produced and factually sound. If you decide to use the show I will send you a free copy of my e-book, “How to Get a Standing “O” that will help you with presentation skills. Just write to bob@baronson.org and usually you will get a copy the same day.

Also…there is more information on this blog site about other donation/transplantation issues. Additionally we would love to have you join our Facebook group, Organ Transplant Initiative The more members we get the greater our clout with decision makers.

 Espanol

Bob Aronson Newheart de Bob es un receptor de trasplante cardiaco 2007, el fundador de Facebook, casi 2.500 Iniciativa miembro de Trasplante de Órganos y el autor de la mayoría de los blogs de donación / trasplante.

Puede comentar en el espacio proporcionado o por correo electrónico sus pensamientos a mí en bob@baronson.org. Y – por favor, difundir la palabra acerca de la necesidad inmediata de más donantes de órganos. No hay nada que puedas hacer lo que es de mayor importancia. Si usted convence a una persona de ser donante de órganos y tejidos puede salvar o afectar positivamente a más de 60 vidas. Algunas de esas vidas pueden ser personas que conoces y amas.

Por favor vea nuestro video “Gracias desde el fondo de mi corazón Donante” en Este video fue producido para promover la donación de órganos por lo que es libre y no se necesita permiso para su uso.

Si quieres correr la voz acerca de la donación de órganos personalmente, tenemos otra presentación de PowerPoint para su uso libre y sin permiso. Sólo tienes que ir a y haga clic en “Life Pass It On” en el lado izquierdo de la pantalla y luego sólo tienes que seguir las instrucciones. Esto no es un espectáculo independiente, sino que necesita un presentador pero es profesionalmente producida y sonido hechos. Si usted decide usar el programa le enviaré una copia gratuita de mi libro electrónico, “Cómo obtener un pie” O “que le ayudará con habilidades de presentación. Sólo tiene que escribir a bob@baronson.org y por lo general usted recibirá una copia del mismo día.

Además … hay más información sobre este sitio de blogs sobre otros donación / trasplante temas. Además nos encantaría que te unas a nuestro grupo de Facebook, la Iniciativa de Trasplante de Órganos Cuantos más miembros que obtenemos mayor será nuestra influencia con los tomadores de decisione


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