relationships

How Do I Tell My Husband about My Eating Disorder?

How to tell my husband about my eating disorder

This one comes from a reader in Australia…

Question:

I’m in a bind. How do I tell my husband about my eating disorder?

I want to tell my husband about my eating disorder but I’m so stressed out because I really don’t know how to tell my husband about my eating disorder.   I know things have to change. I don’t know how to have this conversation, how to start it or where to get help. I’ve had this since I was 17 and i’m 29 now I really don’t want to go on like this.

Answer: I’m so sorry that you’re dealing with this, but I want to commend you on putting it out there and dedicating yourself to recovery. It’s extremely difficult to tell your husband about your eating disorder for so many reasons.

  1. You might feel embarrassed and ashamed and not want him to see you in a new light
  2. You might feel that if you tell him about your eating disorder that he might try to stop you
  3. Your eating disorder is so private and such a precious thing (even though we hate having them) disclosure would be exposing and difficult. 
  4. You might be afraid of his reaction since you don’t know how he’s going to react. 

Here are some ideas on how to tell your husband about your eating disorder. 

  1. Consider the worst case scenario. How will he react? What is the worst thing he will do? Will he leave you? Will he divorce you? In most situations, probably not, but really sit and think about what the worst thing can be. 
  2. After thinking about this, consider bringing your husband with you into your therapist (if you have one) or if not, check out ED referral and see if you can find an eating disorder therapist to bring your partner to. It might be easier if you have a professional there.  If you are not interesting in discussing it with a therapist, no problem at all. You can do this alone. 
  3. Set aside a day and time to tell him. Make sure that it’s not over a meal and make sure that it’s not at night. Your husband will likely have many questions and will spend a long time asking you. 
  4. Make sure that he knows that it’s not his fault and make sure that he knows that you are looking for help.
  5. Make sure that he knows that you don’t expect him to be the one to cure you. 
  6. Sit down with him or take a walk with him and gently explain that you’ve been dealing with this for a long time and you’re ready to reach out for support. You can say something like, “When I was 17 years old I started to make myself vomit after I ate. This habit sort of spun out of control.  I have spent the past 12 years dealing with this horrible secret and trying to stop on my own. I haven’t told you because I’m so embarrassed and so ashamed, but I don’t want to have secrets from you, and I don’t want to live like this anymore. I want treatment and I want to stop. And all I need from you is love and support. I know that I can beat this now that it’s out in the open and I’m asking for help.”
  7. Tell him that your eating issues have nothing to do with him. 
  8. Tell him that you don’t need him to “fix” you.
  9. Tell him not to tell you what to eat or what not to eat, that’s your responsibility, and it’s not good for your relationship. 
  10. Tell him what he can do to support you. Maybe that’s talking about feelings more often or helping you find a therapist or treatment program or driving you to treatment.
  11. Ask him not to talk about diets, calories, burning calories, losing weight, or what your body looks like.
  12. If there are some foods that you don’t want him to have in the house,  ask him to support you in that way
  13. Request that if he catches you in a binge, it’s not his responsibility to make you stop doing it, nor should he take food away from you, nor should he shame you. Instead, maybe he can say something like, “hey, is everything okay? do you want to talk? I’m here for you.”
  14. Ask him not to be your food police.
  15. Give him space to talk about his feelings and what it’s like for him to learn this about you.
  16. Give him the opportunity to ask you questions. If you feel uncomfortable with certain questions, let him know that you’re not ready to answer them yet or that you don’t know the answer right now,  but as you work through recovery, you will let him know what emerges for you.
  17. Ask him to READ THIS and to READ THIS

5 Simple Rules for Dealing With Hurt Feelings

keeping your side of the street cleanLast night, I was talking to Sarah, a client of mine who was filled with anger, rage and hurt because she felt that a friend had totally betrayed her. Sarah had told her best friend Angela about a job that she was going to apply to and then, without telling Sarah, Angela went ahead,  sent her resume in, was called in for an interview the next day and offered the position on the spot. All before Sarah had even had the chance to apply.  Angela called her Monday to tell her about the new job. Sarah was shocked, “wait, I was applying to that same job! I told you that.”

“Well,” said Angela, “when you told me about the job, I thought I’d throw my hat into the ring,”

“But you stole that job right out from under me!” Sarah said.

“You didn’t even apply,” Angela said, “If I hadn’t gotten it, someone else would have, it was never yours, I couldn’t have stolen it!”

Sarah was absolutely devastated. She’s not spoken to Angela, her bestie,  all week, and she’s been bingeing pretty much every day since she got the news. So what happened there?

I’m not going to go into who is right and who is wrong. I don’t have an opinion about that one way or another. Life is life and things happen. But what happens when something that someone does totally hurts your feelings or has you feeling betrayed? What is an appropriate way to behave?

Let’s look at what happened to Sarah. She was hurt by what Angela did. And she took personal offense to it, feeling as though it was something that Angela did to her.

Rule #1. DON’T TAKE IT PERSONALLY.  This was not personal. Angela did not set out to intentionally hurt Sarah. This was something that Angela did without thinking about Sarah at all. It was completely about herself.  But, playing devil’s advocate, what if Angela did want to hurt Sarah’s feelings?  Maybe she did. Maybe she wanted to hurt Sarah by taking the job that Sarah wanted. However, that’s still not personal. If Angela did in fact want to hurt Sarah’s feelings, that’s still not about Sarah. That’s about Angela needing to feel better about herself by doing something to sabotage her best friend.

Sarah then sat there and ruminated about how she’ll never have a good job and how she’s a failure and how she was so irresponsible and how could she have totally blown her chance, why was she so lazy. 

Rule #2. DON’T BLAME YOURSELF.  Sarah’s response was to victimize herself. So she coined Angela as the perpetrator and then turned around and perpetrated herself. She became both the victim and the perpetrator. She became so stuck in this that she was numb and couldn’t take any action to move forward.

Sarah spent the next several days bingeing and even doing some purging after she found out. 

Rule #3. DON’T HURT YOURSELF.  Often, people wind up hurting themselves when they really want to hurt someone else. They will act out in self harming behaviors such as bingeing, cutting, binge drinking, drug using, smoking cigarettes or other self destructive behaviors because someone else hurt them. Just because you were hurt by someone else doesn’t mean you need to hurt yourself. It’s not okay. 

She was also telling anyone who would listen what a sneaky bitch Angela was to go behind her back. 

Rule #4. KEEP YOUR SIDE OF THE STREET CLEAN.  In AA, the motto keeping your side of the street clean means to hold yourself with respect when someone does something that hurts you. Don’t try to hurt them back, don’t try to sully their name and by all means, don’t hurt yourself.  You make your side of the street dirty when you try to retaliate or when you go around saying nasty things to lots of people about the other person. There is no reason to become a toxic person yourself. The best thing that you can do is begin to pay closer attention to yourself, be kind to you, be kind to the people around you, be the kind of person you respect, surround yourself with loving, kind friends and talk to someone who you love and trust about your hurt feelings (mom, husband, sister, brother, therapist). But it should be about you and how you were hurt.

Ultimately, as we talked, Sarah realized that the pain was more about feeling as though she didn’t know how to step up to the plate and get things done and how Angela’s ability to easily send in a resume and get a job illuminated Sarah’s shortcomings to her and made her feel bad about herself. 

Rule #5. IT’S NOT ABOUT THEM EITHER

Don’t make it about the other person, because just like their act wasn’t about you, your feelings aren’t about them. And you shouldn’t give them that space, this is about you healing your own wounds. Often when someone does something that hurts you, you get hurt because old wounds are opened, not because of the actual event. So your hurt feelings are often an opportunity to heal some old wounds.

10 Ways to Get a Healthy Body Now

10 ways to get a healthy body1. Eat mostly minimally processed and whole foods. This means choosing to actually eat a piece of chicken and broccoli that you get from the store rather than picking up a chicken and broccoli Lean Cuisine and having it pass for dinner. You want your food to have as few ingredients as possible. A steak is healthier than a 100 calorie snack pack. A baked potato is healthier than a slice of low fat  processed American cheese. You get what I’m saying. Try to keep it as simple as possible. It’s actually easier and will improve your health a million-fold. Check out these articles on the benefits of eating whole foods.

2. Don’t obsess about it.  So, eat processed foods most of the time, but say if a bag of cheez-its should pass your lips, you’re not going to ruin it all. You don’t have to binge on processed foods all day long and then vow to only eat apples and broccoli and chicken for the rest of your life. You’ve set up a baseline of healthy with eating mostly whole foods. So if you can eat healthy most of the time, you can have a little bit of the not so healthy every so often. It’s okay. It’s fine in fact. This is the way I suggest working it. When you see something that you really want, allow yourself to have it. But, first, go for the whole unprocessed so that you know you’re giving your body something healthy. Like if there is a choice between a fruit salad and a piece of (unhomemade/supermarket bought) cake, opt for both, but eat the fruit salad first, then eat the cake. You get your healthy food in, you don’t forgo one for the other. There’s no deprivation there and you are letting yourself eat for both health and enjoyment.  When you give yourself the healthy food first, there is also less opportunity for bingeing because you’re hungry or depriving yourself.  I differentiate between a piece of supermarket bought cake because I really believe that I homemade cake is healthier. There is less likely to be lots of artificial ingredients and preservatives and more love and whole ingredients added.

Obsessing about eating whole foods is just another diet. You don’t want that. You want to eat for health and for enjoyment — it’s okay to eat for enjoyment!  Obsessing will also set you up for failure. Think of eating whole foods as your way of nurturing yourself, not punishing.

3. Exercise with love- Forget about reading about the best ways to lose weight or how to get a ripped physique and think of exercise as something to bring you pleasure and to help you destress. If you like to run, then run. If you like to swim, then swim. If power lifting is your thing, more power to you.  If you like to take long leisurely strolls, then do that. If  you love yoga, do yoga.  If dance classes bring you joy, do that. You don’t have to exercise hard, you just have to get out and move several times a week. And seriously, you don’t have to power through your exercise, moving can be slow.  It can be a nice walk through the park with a friend or pushing a stroller or listening to a podcast or book on tape. Think of exercise as quality time with yourself rather than something you have to do. If you can exercise outside and get a little vitamin D grade sunshine, it’s a bonus.

4. Sleep at night. – Seriously get your sleep in order.

One of the ways to begin to encourage good health into your life is to start with your sleep.  Sleep and mood go together. When your sleep is off, your mood is off. When your mood is off and your sleep is off, your immune system is compromised and your emotional stability is off. You then become more susceptible to colds, flu, disease, as well as anxiety, depression, and car accidents. Sleeping too much or too little sleep can both be hazardous to your health. Healthy adults need 7-8 hours each night. My husband, who lived for years with chronic insomnia was helped greatly by this book.

Make your bed a welcoming place.   Go out and buy a nice, comfortable set of sheets and a new comforter and lots of fluffy pillows. Make your bed someplace that is inviting and luxurious. If you can’t afford new sheets right now, wash your current sheets and bedding and fluff it up, spray it with some lavender and try to give it a little bit of new life. At night, an hour before you think you should go to sleep, get into bed. Let’s say you want to be asleep at 11, get into bed at 10. Don’t turn your TV on, don’t bring your computer into bed with you. Bring a book, or a magazine, or your iPod. Listen to some relaxing music with your eyes closed or listen to a guided visualization, and just begin to let yourself relax. This isn’t about sleep, this is about relaxing your body. Sleep is a natural biological process that your body can do once you begin to relax your body and your mind. You might also want to get into the bath about 90 minutes before you want to be asleep. A hot bath with Epson Salts is a great way to relax your muscles and calm your mind and warm your body up for sleep. Try to think of a nice bedtime routine that you can do every night that will help you fall into a restful sleep. You might draw for 1/2 hour before you get into bed, you might bathe, you might write in your journal, but find something that works for you and do it nightly.

If you find that sleep is impossible, there are lots of natural sleep solutions such as taking extra magnesium supplements at night or checking out herbal sleep aids out there such as valerian, chamomile and skullcap as well as amino acids like 5-HTP and L-Tryptophan or a synthetic hormone of melatonin. Definitely ask your doctor or Naturopath about supplementation for help with sleep before you take anything. There are also over the counter solutions as well as prescription solutions that your doctor can help you sort through. There’s no shame in finding something to help you sleep. Being sleep deprived leads to poor decision making, especially around food choices. It also leaves you looking for more energy and many people use caffeine and sugar to achieve this.

5. Floss Your Teeth– Did you know that having good oral hygiene is a way to keep your heart healthy? Gum-disease-causing bacteria can contribute to cardiovascular disease. This may work through inflammation; people with more gum disease bacteria also had more white blood cells circulating in their blood because white blood cells are part of the body’s response to infection.  So floss daily!

6. Hug Someone-Believe it or not, hugs can reduce stress. Hug your Mom, your Dad, your Rabbi, your Pastor, your Son or Daughter, even hug your dog or you cat. Human love, compassion, and touch can be so healing.  In fact, A University of Virginia neuroscientist has found that women under stress who hold their husbands’ hands show signs of immediate relief, which can clearly be seen on their brain scans.

7. Stop drinking, or cut down dramatically if you are drinking daily-  I’m sorry to report that drinking alcohol daily dramatically increases your risk for cancer.  A new study shows that even as little as 1 drink per day increases your risk for breast cancer, mouth and throat cancers and stomach cancers. I wasn’t super surprised to hear this. I have a close friend who is an oncology nurse, who told me that what she often sees on people’s assessment forms is that they drink excessively. She said that it’s the one thing that is confirmed to her over and over and over again, that alcohol use and cancer have a very strong correlation.  Sorry folks. If you’re trying to quit drinking, I highly suggest checking out an AA meeting or a Smart Recovery. You might even try hypnosis to help you stop drinking.

8. Take a vitamin D3 supplement– We are super vitamin D deficient. If you don’t want to take something without getting first checked, ask your doctor to run a lab to check your level. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to infertility, breast cancer, depression, colon cancer, anxiety, heart disease, obesity, recurrent miscarriage, and all sorts of other crappy things. Studies also show that folks who have higher vitamin D levels have lower risk of disease in general and better immune function.  However, the best way to integrate Vitamin D is with sunshine, so get out into the sun and soak up some vitamin D. Mushrooms are also a great source of vitamin D, so don’t be shy about your fungi.

9.Have Lots of Sex– You will be happier, calmer, you will sleep better and you will reduce your risk of heart disease, depression and anxiety. Now, if you don’t have a partner, going out and having sex with strangers probably won’t improve your health (or self esteem). However, there are proven benefits to having a healthy sexual relationship with yourself! 

10. Drink Honey and Cinnamon- Each morning, make a mixture of raw honey and organic cinnamon in a cup of warm water and drink it down for good health. This has long been a folk remedy that claims you can lose weight, decrease insomnia, fight anxiety, ward off cancer and heart disease and keep your skin clear and supple.  Is it true? Maybe a little. Snopes says sort of true.  But, it’s a pleasant morning drink if anything. If you see an improvement in whatever ails you in a few weeks, great, if not, stop drinking it.

When Food is Your Other (or only) Lover

eatingdatingrejectionDo you ever come home after a long day of work or school and the only thing you can think about is just relaxing in front of the television set with a bowl of chips or a pint of ice cream? Or do you look forward to your husband or wife being out so that you can sit by yourself and dig in to a big plate of pasta? Do you ever feel like food is the only thing that you have to look forward to, that you look forward to your evening alone with food like a date night with yourself?  Does food sometimes feel like your secret lover? Do you cherish your time alone with it? If so, you might find that you’re having an intimate relationship with food rather than with your partner or with other people.

Today I was discussing with one of my clients how food serves as her closest relationship. She was reflecting on how she wanted to cut a date short so that she could go home alone and eat– she couldn’t well binge in front of him, and she spent the date thinking about getting home and ordering in so that she could eat the way she wanted to– alone.

She realized that she has been involved in a long, intense, tumultuous, close, unrequited love affair with food. She’s obsessed with food and loves spending time with it, but she knows that food does not make her feel good about herself.

Does this resonate for anyone else? Do you feel like you’d rather be alone with food than most anyone else? If so, you might be substituting food real intimacy.

So what to do?

Well, the first thing is to become aware of it. Consciousness is always the first step in transforming behaviors. When you notice that you are looking forward to going home and eating alone, remind yourself that food will never give you the love that you’re looking for.

Next, understand what your motivation for using food is. Are you having trouble finding intimacy in your current relationship? Are you and your partner not nurturing your relationship? Not spending time talking about your feelings? Are you using food to stuff your feelings? If so, you might begin to discuss with your partner how you both might change that, how you both might learn to sit down and discuss your feelings together. How you might “check in”  with each other throughout the day and sit down together after work to talk about your respective days and your feelings.

If you are single, are you using food as a substitute for a relationship? Are you afraid of getting into a relationship or afraid of trying? Afraid of rejection? If so,  can you begin to look away from food as a companion and begin to look toward friends and possible lovers for companionship? If so, you will need to let go of your fear of rejection. Rejection is always part of dating and relationships and it happens to everyone. Check out this post on dealing with rejection.  

When you are with people, try to look them in the eye and really connect. Try to enjoy the people you are with, especially if you find that you are fixated on food, try to refocus on the conversation you’re having. Like in meditation, it’s okay if your mind drifts, but bring yourself back. Bring yourself into the present moment with the person you are with rather than leaving the conversation for your fantasy about being alone and eating. Don’t let that fantasy carry you away. Notice it and come back to the present moment.

If food really feels like the only thing that you have to look forward to, sit down and make out a list of the other things that you enjoy doing. Think about what you’d like to do when you are home and alone. Think about what goals you might have that you’d like to accomplish, things that you would be doing if you weren’t in this intense relationship with food.  If this feels impossible, you might want to find ways not to be alone very much.  You can invite friends over for a movie, you can meet out for coffee, you can go make a phone date to talk to someone. You can go to support group meetings or online or telephone into group meetings. The idea is to not let food be your companion or your best friend.  You’re looking to integrate safe people into your life to help you feel more comfortable out in the world without using food.

Think about the following questions and see if they resonate for you.

Have you been using food to avoid intimacy? If so, how? Is this something that you’re ready to give up? If so, what would you (could you) be doing to create real intimacy instead of eating?

 

A recovery story- Finally choosing to let go of Ed

This amazing and intense recovery story was submitted by April via email.

My name is April and when I was 8 I started having serious body issues. I started my period and didn’t really know why or what it was. My mother was not a very nurturing mother always competing with me about weight and clothes and she would take over my friends so they liked her better. I hated my body. I remember praying to die at 8. I always felt awkward in my skin never comfortable.  I got the message early on that being fat like my aunt Kathy was unacceptable.  I was told fat people were not worthy of love and were failures in not so many words.  I started my first diet at 8 eating just an apple and orange every day for a week and lost weight. I saw the pride in my parents faces when I dropped weight.  The next few years were a blur until I hit junior high. I had friends and I felt like I belonged but my body was an issue.  I hated my body. I hated being in it. I would throw up but it was getting out of hand. Just when I felt stressed. I just sort of hated my body and then it was time for high school.  All my friends went to one school I went to another. I was shell shocked. I had no idea how to make new friends. I hated my body and myself and was in awe of all the pretty girls.  I turned inward. I was sad my old friends left no room for me in their life.  My home life was a little scary as my dad and brother constantly fought.  I would live in my room never coming out unless I had to. I also ate the same thing every day for over a year.  Then that summer I turned 15 and the binging and purging took over. I became a full-fledged bulimic. I lost weight I was like 95lbs and I loved being thin and I was 5’2” and usually 113 to 110. My parents put me in a hospital for kids with behavior issues. This only pissed me off because all they said was get to 100 and you can go home. I got to 100 in two weeks they never put me in with the eating disorder unit they just stuck me with gang members and drug addicts. I was so angry at my parents. I had no control and I felt so alone.  When I got out of high school I started exercising and running. I think started on anorexia. I would eat very little like an apple and glass of milk and then throw it up.  From the age of 19 to 33 I was severely anorexic and bulimic and exercise crazed. I had no life, no friends, and just was waiting to die. My life was sad and lonely.  I did manage to get a college degree, a paralegal certificate cause my dad wanted me to and then a master’s in business management. I quit any job if my weight came in question. I floated between 69lbs and 84lbs for that period of time.  I thought I would die and I wanted to. I somehow married and had two kids.  My kids are healthy but I was starving and binging and purging all through my pregnancies. I lost one but I blame myself cause I purged and was exercising two hours a day. Therapy after therapy couldn’t help me. I was married to a man that ignored me and treated me like servant. I realize now I picked that man because I could continue practicing my behavior because it went unnoticed. I started for some reason reaching out to people through FB. I don’t know why I did it but something in me changed. I saw my daughter being left out by my parents who treated my son like the number one grandchild and I just snapped. I thought I had to get better. I read the book by Portia De Rossi and one night I believe I heard the voice of God tell me to stop. I stopped. I stopped the crazy behavior and I stopped allowing a man to dominate and ignore me. I have had to cut out my parents because they are very sick and controlling and will never get help. I have had to get better for myself for my kids. The sad part is I had to recover alone with the help of God and the support of some friends.  I am getting divorced but it is the right thing to do.  Even if I end up alone forever, I have my health and my mind back. I am sad I wasted all those years and all that time stuck in an eating disorder without knowing how to lift the fog. I have no idea what the future holds for me but I know I am a good mother and I love my children and nurture them and will see they group up with love and self-esteem.  I had to come to terms too with the fact just cause I got sober doesn’t mean I can get everything I ever wanted. It doesn’t mean I can turn back the clock and recover lost time with people. That is probably the hardest part. Letting go of the pain and the hurt that I caused myself is really hard to do but I am trying to and it feels so good not being consumed with starving and exercising or purging. Life is hard enough and surviving an eating disorder for 22 years was hard but I did it, so I think I can pretty much do anything.  I lost so much time.  22 years wasted, and I don’t want to waste another minute, another day, another hour.

If you have a recovery story that you would like to be published, please send it to bingeeatingtherapy (at) gmail.com

Friday Q&A- My husband doesn’t know I have an Eating Disorder, what should I do?

my husband doesn't know i have an eating disorderQuestion: I’m 34 years old and have been suffering with bulimia on and off  since I was 18 years old.  I’ve been married for the past 7 years and we have two kids, my husband doesn’t know that I binge and purge. I am really good at hiding the evidence. I can go weeks sometimes months, and in one case over a year without bingeing and purging. I’m afraid that if my husband knew he would look at me differently, and I don’t want him watching over me or monitoring me. At the same time, I feel like I’m living a double life and I hate it. I’m miserable and I feel like a liar. What should I do?     -D

Answer: Hi D, I’m sorry that you’re struggling so much.  I understand what a challenging position you are in. There’s a lot at stake here, by telling your husband you might potentially:

1.)Change the image that he has of you.

2.)Leave him to feel betrayed and depressed.

3.)Have to give up your eating disorder because he will know.

These are all valid points, but, in my opinion, not enough to warrant keeping this secret. First off, if you are in a loving, sharing relationship, you are there to support each other. Ideally your husband will to help you through your recovery process. We all enter marriages in sickness and in health and allowing him to support you is important not just for your recovery but for the long term health of your relationship. Many people want to try to recover by themselves without telling their partners, however, eating disorders thrive in isolation. By keeping them secret, you keep the fire going that continues to ignite the eating disorder. Think about some of the reasons that you don’t want to tell him. Perhaps you are afraid that by telling him, you will no longer be able to hold onto your eating disorder any longer. Perhaps you are afraid of the way he will act around you or that he will monitor your food intake.  You might want to bring him into couples counseling with an eating disorder specialist to help you explain to him what’s going on. He might have the instinct to fix it.  It’s your responsibility to let him know that it’s not his issue to fix, but to tell him what you do need.  Getting this secret out will help you to feel less anxious and stressed out about it. Often, partners do know that something is going on and the longer it goes on, the more it can drive a wedge between the two of you.

If you don’t have faith that your relationship is loving and supportive and you don’t believe that it would survive this disclosure, I would definitely recommend couples counseling.

Do you have a question about binge eating, bulimia, anorexia, or anything associated with eating disorders? Send an email to bingeeatingtherapy  at gmail dot com. All questions will be kept confidential. Include your first name or the name you want to be referred to as and your location.

How to Talk to a Loved One with an Eating Disorder

how to talk to a friend with an eating disorder

 

Watching someone that you love being active in their eating disorder is devastating.  It’s so painful to watch your mother, sister, wife or girlfriend (or husband, father, brother or son) either restrict their food, or binge on foods that are unhealthy for them, or to know that they’re purging in the bathroom after they’ve eaten. It’s painful and upsetting and scary.

You might find yourself becoming very angry at the person whom you love when you see them taking such poor care of themselves. It’s important to find compassion for the person who has the eating disorder when you choose to talk to them about it.

1.)Although you might feel angry, please try to understand that this is a serious problem that she/he has. They would certainly stop if they could.

2.)When you talk to them, don’t be attacking. If you come at the person and say things like, “you really need to be eating more,” or  “you have to take better care of yourself,” or “I want you to stop purging now,” you’re going to create a face off and a defensive stance. The person is going to be forced to defend themselves against this attack. Instead, talk to them using I statements. For example:

“I have noticed lately that you look very, very thin, and I’m worried. I haven’t seen you eat at all in several weeks. It’s really hard for me to watch this because I love you so much and I’m terrified that I’m going to lose you. I just don’t know what I would do without you. Is there anything I can do to support you? Would you be willing to do some family counseling with me with an eating disorder specialist? Or can we go see a nutritionist together and perhaps I can help you go shopping? I just really love you and want you to be healthy.”

Really contact your own feelings of fear rather than anger in order to get a conversation going.

3.)Don’t try to fix the person. Don’t try to take food away from them or force food on them. Don’t refuse to eat if they’re not eating. Don’t make comments about what they are or are not eating.

4.)Don’t be afraid to talk openly and honestly about how their eating is affecting you.

5.)Remember that this is a very hard topic and the person who you confront will most likely feel embarrassed and ashamed. You don’t want to shame them into recovery. In fact, this can often backfire. Let them know how much you love them and want to be there for them and you’re not going to let them go through this alone.

6.)Understand that recovery takes time, don’t expect them to see a therapist once and then all of a sudden to be cured. Be patient and if you can, try to be an active participant in their recovery.

7.)If this person is completely unreceptive to you, don’t push or get angry. Get help for yourself. You need support when you love someone with an active eating disorder. You might want to check out Al-anon or Codependents Anonymous or seek therapy or a support group for family members of people with EDs.

8.)Even though you might feel angry and frustrated (that’s so normal) don’t give up on someone you love. Let them know that you love them and you will be there for them when they are ready.

Recovery from eating disorders is hard. But watching someone struggle is downright painful. You feel helpless and scared and depressed. Please try to get love and support for yourself as well.

Some further reading and resources:

http://www.pbs.org/perfectillusions/help/friends.html

http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/information-resources/family-and-friends.php

https://bingeeatingtherapy.com/?p=277

https://bingeeatingtherapy.com/?p=283

https://bingeeatingtherapy.com/forum/index.php?board=27.0

https://bingeeatingtherapy.com/forum/index.php?board=29.0

https://bingeeatingtherapy.com/forum/index.php?board=35.0

Friday Q & A- I can’t stop binge eating at night, help!

please help me stop night eatingQuestion: Submitted via email by Theresa in Marrero, Louisiana

At least once or twice a week, late at night I binge eat.  I feel as if I cannot stop and it’s everything unhealthy that I can get my hands on.  Afterwards I feel horrible about myself, worthless.  I am 50 years old and up until five years ago weight was never really an issue with me.  Going through menopause and making the big “5-0″……is terribly depressing not to mention the unpleasant symptoms of menopause in and of itself.  I often think why bother, I’m old, middle aged, what does it matter anyway?  I realize though that all women, no matter what stage of life they’re in wants to feel good about themselves.  I don’t have to be 20, 30 or 40 again…….I just want this self destructive binge eating to stop completely.  I can go a few days with no binge eating and feel really great about myself, fight those urges, wake up and feel good that I “beat it”.  I’m usually extremely tired when I do this also.  Although not always. I do computer work and often up late at night. It’s embarrassing because very often I have to hurry and replace the foods I’ve completely emptied out, like ice-cream, chips, peanuts.  For example last weekend my husband bought some ice cream.  He ate a small bowl of it. Later on that night, when he was sleeping, I kept eating and eating and eating on this ice cream and realized it was almost all gone!  I had to hurry and replace it even going as far as to make it look like it did when he took some out!  I’m amazed at how my husband and daughter can open a bag of chips and eat maybe five and close the bag up and maybe not even eat anymore for a week or two later. I on the other hand, keep thinking about it……and not satisfied until I’ve killed the rest of the bag! I never realized how very hard it is to actually fight these binge eating urges.  Any tips on how I can fight these urges.  I’m not usually hungry when I do this, sometimes maybe a little hungry but not starving enough to tear into food like I do!

Hi Theresa,

Thanks so much for your question. It sounds like you’re really struggling and adding the symptoms of menopause into the mix can only be compounding your issue.

First off, I think that it’s important for you to open up to your husband about what’s been happening. It’s certainly not his job to control your eating or fix it. However, it’s obvious that you are going through a tough time and getting support around it and talking about it rather than having it locked up inside and trying desperately to hide your tracks is a great way to begin to work through it.

You’ve also identified that you do this at night and often you do this when you are very tired. When you’re tired, it’s really difficult to fight the urges. I wonder if you can perhaps put post-it notes on your computer or on the pantry or freezer that say something like, “remember to rest,” and when you are about to grab some food, tell yourself that you are allowed to eat, but first you have to lay down for 20 minutes and rest your body.

You can also elicit a support team for yourself. Here are a list of Overeaters Anonymous meetings that are online and many are in the middle of the night so they’re right there when you need to reach out get support.

Make sure that you eat a good healthy dinner each night, and make sure that you have adequate amounts of protein (like chicken or beef) at your evening meal. This will keep you sated.

You say that you work until late in the evening. Is it possible that eating is a distraction? A way for you to take a break or procrastinate work? You might try giving yourself non-eating breaks during work. You might stretch a bit or take a walk, or watch tv, or do something enjoyable that gives you a break from working.

Let yourself stop working and do something relaxing before you go to bed, such as taking a shower or bath, or knitting, or reading a fun book. You need some separation between work and bed. That is often difficult to get when people work from home. It’s super important that you let yourself unwind and find non-food ways to do that.

Drink warm milk when you are wanting to put something else in your mouth. It’s an old remedy for sleep and relaxation, but the fat and the protein will help curb your cravings as well. The ritual of sitting and doing something relaxing will help alleviate the compulsive urge. Brush your teeth afterwards and try to let yourself relax a bit. Sometimes just interrupting the binge can help stop it.

You might also consider talking to a naturopath or acupuncturist to learn about some ways to relieve the symptoms of menopause. You can also find some tips here and here and here.

Good Luck!

Do you have a question about binge eating, bulimia, anorexia, or anything associated with eating disorders? Send an email to bingeeatingtherapy  at gmail dot com. All questions will be kept confidential. Include your first name or the name you want to be referred to as and your location.

Friday Q&A– How do approach someone who I think might have an eating disorder?

my best friend has an eating disorderQuestion: Submitted via email by Ronni in Boca Raton, FL.

I have a friend who I’m pretty sure is bulimic. She lives in my dorm and I know she’s bingeing and purging, but I don’t know what to do about it. I’m afraid that she’ll get mad at me if I say anything. I used to binge and purge all the time, but I haven’t done it since high school and I’d die if anyone knew, so I think that if I talk to her, she’ll stop being my friend.

Hi Ronni,

You’re right to be concerned about your friend. As you know, bulimia is incredibly addictive and deadly. Congratulations on recovering from your disease. This is a really good opportunity for you to maintain your recovery by beginning to talk about your own process. Rather than talking to your friend about her bulimia, it might be a good idea to tell her about your eating disorder. Perhaps the two of you can take a walk and you might disclose to her that part of what has been an important challenge for you in school has been staying clean from your bulimia symptoms.  It’s always easy to go on the defensive when being accused. However, when you speak from your own experience and talk about your own battle, it allows someone space to open up. Even if she doesn’t open up to you immediately, she will know that you are there to talk to about this.  It’s not your responsibility to cure her from her bulimia, however, keeping it a secret can only be harmful to her, so you should probably tell an R.A. or administrator what is going on so they can intercept.

 

Do you have a question about binge eating, bulimia, anorexia, or anything associated with eating disorders? Send an email to leora at leorafulvio dot com. All questions will be kept confidential. Include your first name or the name you want to be referred to as and your location.

How to talk to your partner about your eating disorder

my girlfriend has an eating disorderIt is so  common that someone comes into my office who is suffering terribly with bulimia or binge eating disorder but they haven’t told their boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife. There are some people who are in new relationships and don’t feel comfortable or ready to disclose that information yet. However,  there are many more people who have been married ten years or more and have been suffering terribly with bulimia or binge eating disorder or other eating disorders the whole time.  If you are in a relationship with someone who doesn’t know about your food issues, you’re not alone. Sometimes it’s hard to talk about, many people feel ashamed or embarrassed, they don’t want to expose themselves as having this big issue or open themselves up to judgments, or even let their partners know that they are not perfect and they’re struggling. Talking about the eating disorder, exposing it, makes it real. If it’s real,  it’s unsafe and unprotected secrecy. Once you expose it, it’s harder to act out with food. You might think that someone is watching over you or judging you. For lots of people, the eating issue is like a secret lover or a best friend and telling your partner about it might force you to give it up.

Here are some tips for talking to your partner about your eating issues.

Explain to them that your eating issues have nothing to do with them.

Explain to them that you don’t want them to “fix” you or to tell you how to eat or what to eat or what not to eat. That’s not their responsibility, nor is it good for the relationship, but they can help by being supportive or available to talk about your feelings with them.

Ask them not to talk about diets, calories, burning calories, losing weight, or what your body looks like.

If there are some foods that you would prefer they not bring into the house, ask them to support you in that way.

If they “catch” you in a binge, it’s not their responsibility to make you stop doing it, nor should they take food away from you. Instead, maybe they can say something like, “hey, is everything okay? do you want to talk? I’m here for you.”

Explain that it’s not about the food, it’s about what you’re feeling inside. Try to talk about what you might be feeling. If you need help, this might resonate for you.

Ask them not to interrogate you or police you.

Give them space to talk about their feelings and what it’s like for them to learn this about you.

Give them the opportunity to ask you questions. If you feel uncomfortable with certain questions, let them know that you’re not ready to answer that yet or that you don’t know the answer yet,  but as you work through recovery, you will let them know what emerges for you.

You can always bring them into your therapist with you or to an OA meeting or EDA meeting to help them understand more about what you are going through. If you don’t have a therapist, make sure that you work with an ED specialist who can help your partner understand through psychoeducation what you two are dealing with.

You are only as sick as your secrets, but secrets are like monsters. They grow and thrive in the dark. After you shine a  light on them, they disappear.

One of the beautiful things about revealing your truth it out is that it increases intimacy and communication with your partner. So many people reject their partners in order to be alone so they can act out with food. When a secret eating issue or addiction is present in a relationship it keeps the relationship distant and decreases love and intimacy. When it is acknowledged, it creates space for a deeper more intimate relationship with one another.