All of the quotes in this article were compiled from real women with real experiences in eating disorder recovery. Thank you to all of the strong men and women fighting eating disorders everyday.
One of the most helpful tools in fighting an eating disorder is a strong support system. In recovery, we need to lean on those around us to help us on the days that seem too hard and unmanageable. This can be your treatment team, friends, family, coach, significant other or the recovery community. As the supporter to your loved one it can be difficult know what to say and how to say it. Remember that eating disorders do not make logical sense. It is impossible to reason your way out of an eating disorder making it challenging on the person suffering to explain it and others around them to understand it. Here’s what we want you to know to better help your loved one in recovery.
1. Being physically recovered doesn’t mean we’re mentally recovered
Eating disorders are just as, if not more, mentally deteriorating as they are physically. Physical recovery comes much quicker than mental recovery. Mental recovery is changing your entire mindset about nutrition, body image, and yourself and can take much longer.
“Being physically recovered from my ED didn’t mean I was “recovered”. Eating
disorders aren’t just about physical health, but about mental and emotional health.
Recovering from an eating disorder takes time and can’t happen rapidly like some
2. Eating Disorders dominate our entire lives
It’s more than just meal time freak outs and anxiety when we step on the scale — it’s all day, everyday. There’s not a moment in the day that ED isn’t screaming at us and telling us we’re not good enough. It’s constant, it’s the first thing we think about in the morning and the last thing we think about at night.
3. Saying anything about appearance won’t help
Even if you tell us we’re beautiful twenty times a day — we won’t believe it. Your compliments about our appearance won’t change our insecurities or help our disordered thoughts. Even when well meaning a seemingly positive compliment can be fuel for the eating disorder. Try complimenting us on who we are instead (kind, funny, smart…)
“No matter how much you compliment someone with an ED, they will not view
themselves differently, their (our) view of self is distorted.”
4. Recovery is literally the hardest thing we will ever do
Recovery is every minute of every day. There’s never a point in the day that we aren’t making the choice to recover. It’s mental torture, facing your biggest fear and extreme physical pain associated with refeeding all thrown at you. It’s not easy, so be understanding.
”Recovering from an eating disorder is literally the hardest thing I’ve ever had to
do. Harder than undergrad, harder than my professional internship working with
hospitalized kids, harder than financial stressors.”
5. It’s not about the food. It’s not about how we look. It’s about control.
Eating disorders aren’t about food, they’re not about vanity, and they’re not about attention. They’re about being able to be in control of something when we feel too confused and out of control in the world.
“It’s often about everything else in life spinning out of control and us wanting to
control at least something; one thing; even a small thing. It is about control
stressors, difficulty with unmanageable circumstances.”
6. We do appreciate and love you.
We appreciate and love you more than you could know. And sometimes, it’s going to feel like we don’t. Recovery is hard! It’s hard for us, and it’s hard for everyone who loves us. But just remember, even on the bad days, we know how hard you’re trying and we’re so grateful for your support.
If you or a loved one needs help with eating disorder recovery, make an appointment with one of our dietitians by clicking here or calling 301-474-2499.