In life, it’s easy to miss the little signs that someone in our social circle may be suffering from an illness. Are you worried that someone in your life may be suffering from an eating disorder, or have some issues with eating? Then it’s important to think about your next step. While the solution may be easy in theory, it’s anything but easy. It’s not about weight gain or loss, or even food, but about being a coping mechanism to deal with significant emotional issues.
You cannot force someone who suffers from an eating disorder to change. You can, however, offer to provide them with the encouragement they need to change for themselves. Before you do so, though, it’s important to note the following:
Eating disorders are extreme in that they involved a heightened level of inner reflection. The often self-destructive nature of their own thoughts provides fuel for the behaviour itself.
Those who suffer from eating disorders tend to be using the food, or lack of food, to try and cope with other emotions. Over time, if left to fester, this becomes their primary concern in life.
There are many forms of eating disorder to contend with. From anorexia to bulimia through to binge eating, many forms of this condition do exist. Eating issues and their symptoms are not universal.
Typically there are some warning signs that might apply to eating disorders like the above. Most of the time, you will find that part of the problem goes from the lengths taken by the sufferer to try and cloak or hide the issue. If you can look behind this attempt you can look for the following signs:
Considerable change in eating habits over a period of time.
Regularly being ‘too busy’ or ‘out’ to eat meals with others.
Removing large chunks of food from their diet and refusing an increasingly large number of foods.
Alterations in how they eat as much as what they eat; constant cutting, repetitive chewing and obsessive re-arrangement of food.
A change in reading food labels, managing portions and counting what they eat outside of a normal desire i.e. getting fit, might not be as big of a concern. However, if it’s followed by an obsessive and compulsive desire to scrutinise every ingredient, always looking for an opt-out, it could be a sign. If combined with the above traits, it certainly could be a cause for concern..
Of course, it could go the other way entirely and involve a binge eater. This typically involves a rapid change in appearance, food vanishing from the home in larger than usual quantities and often secrecy when eating in the presence of others.
There are many causes for concern with someone who may or may not be binge eating. What you should always do at this stage is to look to find assistance. Speaking with the person in consideration could help to release them and let them open up. Otherwise, avoid giving them clear ultimatums, blaming them for the issue or making comments about their appearance in a bid to ‘spur them on’ – this is a challenging issue, and will take time to deal with.
As ever, be there to offer support and to help them recognise, in the best way possible, that they need help to overcome the issue. Encourage them to seek out help and to beat the problem once and for all; don’t let the problem fester, or try to force them into action.