Monday, July 22, 2013

What To Do If You Suspect Your Friend Has an Eating Disorder

I am often asked, "I have a friend who I suspect may have an eating disorder, how can I help them?"

Your first inclination may be to feed them, take them out to eat, force food down their throats, etc. Yes, that is an important aspect to helping them but what they are really looking for is Love.

Love heals.

Unconditional love is the ultimate healer to someone suffering.

I get it. I know its hard to truly love this person when they hate themselves so much that they would starve themselves, purge their food, isolate from you, lash out as a defense mechanism, etc.

I can only speak from experience what I think may help and what I have observed being around other eating disorder patients that could change your loved one's life.

What are you to do if you know someone is battling an eating disorder?

1. Be there. This loved one of yours is in so much pain inside that she/he is hurting her/himself on the outside too. Be present with them. If they talk, don't become the fixer. Become the listener. Listen with a kind compassionate heart. You may not understand why they feel so low or why they won't eat but you have compassion and love for them so just be there. Show them you have faith in them! Reassure them they will find love, peace, vigor for life again. Ask them, how can I help? What would make them feel better?

2. Do not focus on the food. I repeat, do not focus on the food. Try not to be too watchful of your friend's eating habits, food amounts, and choices. Do not stare. Do not lecture or judge what they are eating. They will feel judged and attacked. I know this sounds complicated but eating disorders are extremely complicated. Take the focus off food and talk about other cool things. Plan a trip somewhere fun with them as you eat. Rearrange their bedroom after the meal. Value their spirit and what they love.

2. Figure out what they love to do and do it with them. What was one of their hobbies before they spiraled down? Paint pottery? Go get a pedicure? Go see a movie? Take a short walk? Take the focus off food and exercise and spend time with them. Quality time. I think this is the biggest key to helping your pal. Show them they matter and you value the relationship. Show them too that they are fun and you enjoy doing fun things together.

3. Don't take anything personally. This person is in the battle of their life. Their thoughts are mostly negative about themselves. If they shut you out or call you names, its not about you. They are saying these things to you because this how they really feel about themselves.

4. Hug. I remember specifically people saying they just couldn't hug me when I was severely underweight. That broke my heart into tiny little pieces because that's all I wanted was a hug. I wanted someone to take me in their arms and say, "you are gonna be okay, I love you." I was also told when I hugged, I hugged really hard and people were turned off by that. I was so desperate for love, I wanted to feel it and never let go. No matter how painful it may feel to hug your emaciated friend, do it. They absolutely, positively need to know they are supported, loved, and cared for. Physical touch is necessary.

5. Take care of you. This may sound odd but you must take care of you too. This disease can be time consuming and painful to your entire family and network of friends. Call someone. See a therapist. You need support too. Its hard to see your loved one so deeply hurt and struggling. Make sure to nurture your soul and seek support from people who care for you too.

6. Tough love. If the disease seems to be progressing and you have done all the listening, consoling, and praying you can possibly your doctor, therapist, inpatient/outpatient eating disorder center and get the patient in as soon as possible I can pretty much guarantee your loved one will go in kicking and screaming but the problem is just too big for you to handle. Its not a funk they are in anymore. They are fighting for their life. They are slowly killing themselves. Be prepared for your friend to be angry at you. The eating disorder has clouded their reality and until they get help to manage their mind, they wont simply see that you are only trying to help. Let any guilt subside, you are really doing the best thing for them.

You are a gem to the person hurting. Stay strong for them. It may be hard because, of course, you have your own life too. Make sure to not let this become your life. I promise you, they value your love as if their life depends on it. Because you know what it? It does.

Be the beacon of hope and light for them. They will never ever forget what you did for them as they recover. Stay strong. Thank you for all you continue to do.

Love and Light,

Thursday, July 18, 2013

What's Eating Us?

We live in a world where the diet industry is a mega cash cow! The Wall Street Journal recently published a press release stating that the diet industry is currently worth $109 Billion and is expected to reach 137 billion in 2017.

At the dentist this morning, I felt bombarded by diet chit chat. The office has these fancy TVs pointing at you as they polish your smile. Commercials, news segments on the Today Show showing the latest diet trends, and celebrity banter about weight loss pointed me to write this post.

The North America Weight Loss / Obesity Management Market was worth $104 billion in the year 2012 and is expected to reach $139.5 billion by 2017. U.S. is the largest market, followed by Canada. The market will grow at a healthy pace in the next five years due to the increasing number of lifestyle diseases such as diabetes and cardiac problems, increasing personal disposable income, government initiatives to increase awareness of health and fitness, and technological advancements.

This market includes: commercial diets such as Weight Watchers, weight loss surgery, pills, wellness plans, nutritional counseling, diet foods, books and yes diet soda. One of the companies highlighted as a big diet industry player is Coca-Cola. (And pepsi too.)

As a recovered anorexic, I have passion to understand why we use food (or lack thereof in an anorexic's case) to numb out, pig out, or tune out our hard emotions. Food is a legalized drug.

No diet book, surgery, calorie counting, restricting, gluten free, fat free, sugar free, low sodium food item is going to solve your weighty woes.

The hard work starts with the 'ol noggin.

The food is not the problem. It's the symptom.

What is going on in your life that you want to restrict or overeat? Are any of your important relationships suffering? Are you in a job you dislike? Is your house a mess and full of clutter? Are you holding onto resentment? Are you holding a grudge? Are you scared to be who you were meant to be?

You see it time and time again. Even with me, I tried to heal anorexia by eating again. Sure, I thought, I will gain back the weight, eat some foods I had been avoiding, and exercise moderately. It worked for awhile and then I relapsed...back to my old ways. I did not work on what was eating me. For others, they go on a crazy exercise regimen, eat high protein foods, drop weight and then six months later, they are back to their old size. You gotta fix the inside too! It's not just an outside job.

I dug deep to the pit of my soul to heal anorexia. And it took A LOT of tries. It is still an inside job I take seriously day by day.

Any of you suffering with an eating disorder (binging, emotional eating, anorexia, obesity, restricting, overexercising, bulimia), I want you to know three things.

1. No diet will ever work. No fat burners, prescription drugs, prepackaged diet foods will solve your unhealthy relationship with food. Start today with sitting quietly for one minute. One. Ask yourself, this question, what is Eating me? What is one thing I can let go of today that will free me from this prison of treating myself poorly? It may be very emotional. Believe me its heavy stuff. Why do you reach for the 7th cookie? What are you avoiding or stuffing? Why do you look in the mirror and hate what you see? A therapist may help. Talk to a trusted friend. Journal it out.

2. Watch a healthy person eat and move. Do you know someone who exercises moderately, is at a healthy weight, and eats what they want? I am pretty sure they do not calorie count, exercise for two hours a day, and eat a box of chocolates at ten o'clock at night. They listen to their bodies. They don't worry while they are eating, "is this gonna make me fat? I shouldn't be eating this!, (blah blah mind chatter)I really think the best advice is eat real food (i.e., no food label on it) and enjoy some junk food when you feel like indulging but be sensible. Catch yourself eating too much and go distract yourself with your favorite hobby or have some fun with your favorite pal.

3. From the bottom of my heart, I want you to know this: You are full of possibility. You are full of courage. You are full of love. Set all of that on fire today and make just one person's day with your words or actions. I promise it will change your day. :) And your life!

I don't have the answers and either does the diet industry or the government. There is no magic pill.

Anyone I have ever known who has ever successfully recovered from depression, an addiction, divorce, eating disorder, being overweight has done it through loving themselves enough to do the hard work of healing emotional wounds and surrounding themselves with a great support team of unconditional loving people. Do the work, keep the faith, and keep your circle tight with loving caring pals.

Save your money and love yourself inside and out.

Love and Light,