*Please note, I am not a doctor and this is not medical advice. If you or someone you know is having trouble coping with an eating disorder (or ED for short), please seek professional help from your doctor. By sharing this I hope to bring comfort to those dealing with an ED or those trying to help their significant others/loved ones overcome an eating disorder. This has been my experience working people who have ED’s as well as overcoming one myself. You are not alone!
When it comes to food, we all have our own unique complex relationship. Most of it is stemmed from our past, society pressures, our jobs, culture, how we were raised and our outlook on ourselves. Many people have dealt with some kind of disorderly eating in their lifetimes. Mine has been binge eating.
I have never had a disorder with food or eating until I competed in my first bodybuilding show a few years ago. After that, things changed because I was forced to look at food and what I was eating completely differently. When you focus so much on your looks and your food, it’s only natural to develop some kind of unhealthy habits to go along with that.
There is no “best way” to combat an eating disorder because each eating disorder is different and each person dealing with that particular eating disorder is different.
Humans are complex creatures. In my experience as the coach and as an athlete who has dealt with one, I have noticed some consistent red flags that may signify an ED:
- Obsession with food and planning of your next meals
- Tracking macros and calories obsessively
- Fear of eating out in public
- Avoiding social situations that have anything to do with eating
- Usage of drugs or alcohol
- Hiding of food from others.
- Eating 2-4 or more portions of food in one sitting
- Mood swings
- Excessive amounts of gym time or cardio
- Equating self worth to sticking to their meal plans
- Eating very little or next to nothing when you do see them eat
So you or someone you know exhibits most of these red flags. Now what?
I have learned that unless the person is willing to acknowledge that they have an unhealthy relationship with food and that they want to get help, there is not much else you as the outsider can do. There is a whole slew of physiological challenges that go along with ED’s and the person dealing with them. Things you shouldn’t do/say to someone dealing from an ED:
- Don’t pressure them to eat with you or make them feel guilty for not eating
- Don’t pressure them to attend a social setting with food which may make them uncomfortable
- Don’t use your knowing as a weapon against them
- Do not threaten them
- Do not lecture them
Here is what you CAN do to help:
- Let them know that you love them
- Let them know when and if they are willing to get help, you will be there
- Let them know they are in a judgement free zone and that they can trust you
If the person uses social media a lot, let them know about the amazing body positive community on Instagram. All you need to do is search the hashtag “BodyPositive” or “BodyPositiveCommunity” and get ready to become inspired by some amazing people combating what our society has been telling us for decades is the standard for “beautiful.”
I personally found this community of women on IG about a year ago and they literally changed my life. They encourage people to adopt a more forgiving attitude towards their bodies no matter what shape or size they are. In a world where all we see are often perfect (photoshopped) images of what we are “supposed” to look like, their pages are authentic, refreshing and inspiring.
The main objective you want to do establish for people living with ED’s is to make them feel as safe as possible. However, if the person you know or you yourself is in a life threatening state of being, seek professional help ASAP. If you are afraid, tell someone you know and trust that you need their help. Sit them down in a quiet environment where you feel safe to confide in them.
I combated my disorder but it is something I still have to deal on a daily basis. I still have my “weird” habits I do when it comes to food but I have come a long way. Things that personally helped me, especially if I feel the need to binge are:
- Doing a mental self check in. Why am I feeling the need to binge? (Usually I am stressed, worried, anxious, etc)
- Go for a walk. Fresh air and changing my environment helps
- I’ll call a friend
- I’ll take a bath
- I’ll write or put on some music to dance to
Being the physical person I am, when I feel vulnerable or the need to binge, doing something physical usually helps derail my urge significantly. Even if that means doing some stretches on my floor, foam rolling or doing a head/handstand. Physically moving my body helps take my mind to another place and changes my mood therefore altering my behavior.
When it comes to eating disorders, know that you are not alone and understand that most people have some unhealthy habits with their diets and food in general. Practicing positive self talk and changing the way you speak to yourself is the first step in altering behavior and forming new positive habits.
Overcoming ED’s can be a difficult journey but being patient with yourself and not judging yourself- especially if you fall off the wagon, is an important part of overcoming it. Having people you trust and love in your corner will also help to keep your mind, body and spirit in the right place. You got this! Stay UP, stay POSITIVE and remember you have the ability to do ANYTHING you put your mind to. You ARE worth it and you are always loved.