Do you have a husband, wife, boyfriend, girlfriend, son, daughter, best friend, or roommate who has some difficult food issues? Maybe they don’t eat all day – or you never see them eat, but then a whole jar of peanut butter seems to disappear. Maybe they often tell you that they’ve just started a diet – but then you find them alone in the kitchen decimating a birthday cake. Maybe you’ve been saving a special dessert for yourself in the refrigerator and when you go to eat it, you find that it’s gone. Maybe they’ve cried to you about their issues with food. Maybe they’ve even told you that they have an eating disorder, maybe they’ve promised that they’re done with this habit and they’re never going to do it again.
And then it happens again. You overhear them throwing up in the bathroom, you find that all the food in the refrigerator has gone missing — or you cook yet another meal that they just push around on their plate only to throw out later. And you’re so frustrated you don’t know what to do. You feel like you can’t keep anything that you want to eat in your own house, you wish they’d just stop doing this and you can’t understand why they just won’t stop. You wish they could just stop these behaviors.
The mental processes around eating disorders are extremely complicated to understand if you’re not in it. But here’s a way to understand a little better: Imagine saying to a cocaine addict, “you need to never do cocaine again.” And then putting a giant pile of cocaine right under their nose. That’s what it’s like for someone who is battling an eating disorder. Food is their drug. But food is everywhere, so the process of recovery isn’t as simple as just not doing it. It’s hard enough for cocaine addicts to recover without having people pile cocaine under their nose constantly… but for someone with an eating disorder, their drug of choice– food– it’s everywhere. And it’s life-sustaining and necessary. It’s impossible to separate yourself from it completely.
It’s not as simple as just ending your relationship with food because you can’t just walk away from food but you have to fix your relationship with it. Have you ever tried to fix a relationship? It’s hard work. It involves breakups, make ups, fights, lots of open communication, kindness, gentleness, relaxation time, and most of all EXTREME, RADICAL PATIENCE.
So when someone you care about is attempting to repair their relationship with food, they need not just patience with themselves, but they require you to be exceedingly patient with their process. It’s not your job to fix them or their issue, so you can just let go of that. But, it is important that you get your own support while your partner or loved one deals with their issue.
Here are 11 things NOT TO SAY to your partner or loved one with an Eating Disorder
1. Where did that gallon of ice cream go? I
just bought it last night!
“You know where it went. I ate it. But when you ask this question—I just feel ashamed and I hate myself. I already feel terrible because I ate a whole gallon of ice cream. I’m so sick I can barely move today, but I’m also feeling like withering up and dying because I feel like such a failure.”
Better Question: Are you okay? Do you want to talk?