Talking to your friends and family about your eating disorder can be daunting and overwhelming, but it can be helpful for building a strong support system. Having a support system is an essential part of recovering from an eating disorder. Eating disorders involve a wide range of physical and emotional difficulties that require a great deal of patience, understanding, and support to work through. Having people who understand what you are dealing with and who can provide unconditional love and support can play a major role in helping you make strides in your recovery journey.
Below are some tips on how to talk about your eating disorder with your friends or family.
Remember they care about you.
If you have decided to share your eating disorder with trusted friends or family, you have probably carefully selected the people because you know they care about you. It can be helpful to remember this and use it as motivation for having this difficult conversation. Our relationships with our friends or family may not always be perfect, but the people you have selected to talk about your eating disorder with care about you and likely have your best interest in mind. Remember they will likely support you and want you to get the treatment that you need.
Practice saying what you want to share.
Knowing what you want to say in advance will help reduce anxiety about the conversation and it will help you clarify what you want to express. You may have a lot of mixed emotions about what you want to share or how to describe your feelings. Practicing the conversation with a therapist or journaling about your thoughts can really make a difference. I
Consider the environment.
It is important to find a space that is private, calming, and free of distractions. This will help put the everybody at ease and allow your friends or family to focus their full attention on you. In addition, a quiet environment will help make sure that everyone feels seen and heard.
Be aware of your feelings.
It is important to be aware of your own emotions when talking about your eating disorder to your friends and family. If you are feeling vulnerable or scared, it is perfectly okay to take your time before getting into too much detail. Remember, you don’t owe any explanation or justification of your experience. You have the right and autonomy to decide which parts of your story you are comfortable with sharing.
If you feel comfortable, be honest.
If you feel comfortable, it might help build mutual understanding if you explain how you have been feeling, how long you have been struggling, and why you are deciding to tell them now. Some people find it beneficial to share the physical and emotional changes they have experienced as a result of the disorder. It might be helpful to explain that you are not trying to scare them, but you are allowing them to take part in your journey to recovery.
Ask for what you need.
For example, you may want to remind them that recovery is a process that will take time and that you need their support throughout it. Many people struggling with eating disorders feel shame, guilt, and anxiety when talking about such a sensitive issue and you might want to remind your friends and family that you may have these feelings throughout the recovery process. Sharing this will help people in your support system be mindful about what emotions you might be going through.
If you feel comfortable, allow them to ask questions.
Depending on your comfort level, you might want to let them know that it is okay if they have questions or if they do not understand everything about eating disorders. Eating disorders are complex conditions and it takes time for those who are unfamiliar with them to understand. Speaking about your struggle should be free of judgment and should be a conversation where mutual respect exists.
Remember that learning about eating disorders is a process and it takes time for people to understand something they’ve never encountered before. If the other person doesn’t respond favorably, trying to be understanding and give them the benefit of the doubt. Depending on the individual, it may take time for them to accept what you have to say about your eating disorder, so try be patient and allow for room for them to process.
Remember this does not define you.
It’s important to remember that talking about your eating disorder does not define you. You are not defined by your eating disorder and you should not be put into a box or labelled based on what you are going through. Celebrating your journey as you grow and heal is a powerful way to reclaim your identity and maintain a sense of hope and progress.
Talk about next steps.
Do you have a diagnosis and treatment plan that you would like to talk about? Is there an action plan for recovery that you would like to update people on? If you are feeling overwhelmed about giving too much detail, sticking to the basics about your next steps can be a great way of ending the conversation on a positive note. For example, you might simply say, “I’m going to be working on this with a therapist.”
Throughout your journey to recovery, it will be essential to have your loved ones’ support. Reach out and start the conversation. With time, patience, and understanding from one another, you can make a real and lasting impact in your own life and ultimately be an example of hope and strength for others. Most importantly, remember that you are worthy and deserving of acceptance and respect, no matter how the conversation goes.
Written by Lauren Presutti