having an eating disorder can feel absolutely crippling. its embarrassing to admit to yourself that you struggle with something as basic as eating; after all, eating is literally a basic life necessity. it feels like it should be easy. eating keeps us alive and its something that should be enjoyed, but sometimes it feels impossible. your mind manipulates your body into believing that something terrible will happen if you eat. your stomach feels full all the time, the smell of food nauseates you, and your throat feels closed. sometimes you feel healthy and hungry or crave certain food, but the moment you put food into your mouth its right back to the same cycle of tumultuous emotions.
after a period of not eating, the lightheadedness sets in, and your body kicks adrenaline in to keep your body functioning. the feeling of adrenaline rushing through your body gives you a high that is addicting. it feels amazing, but at the same time, it’s terrifying how quickly the lack of food starts to affect you. you can literally feel your energy levels get obliterated and your personality disappear. sometimes restricting food is about control, sometimes its related to body dysmorphia, and sometimes its because you want to feel that adrenaline fueled high, but regardless, it is terrifying and a very vulnerable time.
if you have a friend who struggles with an eating disorder, here are three ways that you can help them.
- use your words. encourage them. remember that an eating disorder affects their entire life and it hits really hard at random times. remind them that food is important, cheer them on as they are eating, and let them know that you are proud of them no matter what. celebrate when they do eat and sit with them when they can’t. I promise your words make a tremendous difference and even if you feel like you are repeating yourself or you feel like you aren’t making a difference, your supportive words are NEVER wasted.
- offer to FaceTime (or sit with them) while they are eating. I am extremely uncomfortable eating in front of people, but when I am struggling to eat, FaceTiming friends can really help. talking to someone while I’m eating gets my mind off how much my brain doesn’t want food and when someone takes the time to FaceTime me it feels like they are literally shouldering part of the burden of my eating disorder. when someone who loves me is literally watching me eat, I have more of a desire to finish my food because I want to make them proud and I don’t feel as utterly alone.
- make them or bring them food. my parents are the best at this, they cook meals for me and bring them to me perfectly packaged. sometimes I find the motivation to eat at random times, and it is very helpful to have a nutritious meal that I can just pop in the microwave without thinking about it.
If you have not experienced an eating disorder, it can be hard to understand, but please do not forget that you can absolutely make an incredible difference in someone’s life based on the way that you support them. its not about giving advice, it’s just about showing up every day for your friend and cheering them on.
if YOU struggle with eating, please know that you are not alone. it can feel very isolating and it’s ridiculously hard to talk about, but finding help is absolutely worth it. stay away from any place where unhealthy eating habits are encouraged, and please remember that your body loves you and you should love it back.