Nowadays, when we know about another person suffering from mental illnesses (eating disorders are definitely included!), we tend to think different things: I DON'T KNOW WHAT TO SAY / it's not my business anyway / they seem fine / they have close friends to help them / they're not asking for help, so why should I talk to them first?
Because of those thoughts, we end up not helping them out. Who knows what positive impact you may have had on them if you asked a simple, "How have your eating habits been lately?" But sometimes, even those with good intentions have no idea how to approach and help those facing mental illnesses.
You are here to help your loved ones who are going through binge eating disorder. Mental illnesses are still stigmatized and not talked about openly at all and enough in our society. It starts with us - you must not feel scared or embarrassed to talk to your loved one about mental illnesses. Here are 5 top tips for you to help a loved one going through binge eating disorder:
1) Empathize With Us
Offer to be the one we can call when we are in the middle of binges. Binge eating is uncontrollable and it is terrifying. The guilt that comes with binge eating is extremely cruel. You need to understand that this is a very difficult psychological and physical struggle for us. Understand that B.E.D. is a mental illness that cannot be solved in a day. It requires the person to change their mindset and attitude towards food, and it could take months, years, or even a lifetime.
Educate yourself on B.E.D. Ask your loved one if they feel like talking about it or certain issues strongly related to it, such as their views to their own body images, or their bad days eg. after a binge.
Instead of just saying, "I am sorry that you are going through this", stand in our shoes and try to understand how difficult life can be for us.
Some examples of supporting your loved one and displaying empathy:
- "It must be really difficult for you to go through this."
- "It's okay that you have binges. I know you are working hard to make things right, and that's what matters."
- "We'll get through this together."
- "You are human being. You have struggles and you are not a burden to me."
- "I believe you."
2) Encourage Us to Get Our Minds Off Food
It is not going to be easy, but even a half-day hangout (that doesn't only involve food) may help them forget about food temporarily. Go for a hike, walk dogs, chat over lunch, go shopping together, take lots of selfies and feel confident in your own skins. Blast music and dance in your rooms. Listen to Summer 2011 music. Play board games. Picnic together. If you are doing an activity that involves eating, remember to EAT MINDFULLY together.
3) Make Them A Care Package or Sunshine Box
I made a sunshine box for a close friend of mine who was under lots of stress this year, the cover of the box read:
These little surprises will really make their day! Even writing a card to your friend is great. Encourage your friend and tell us that you are there with them and you will help them conquer this terrible mental illness. There is no harm in putting in some FOOD inside. [I have loads of ideas for these care boxes, leave a comment if you'd like to know!]
4) Do not question their choices of eating the same foods over and over again.
During my binge eating days, I would only accept eating tomato beef macaroni every day at school. I was too scared to break my routine, as it may lead to another binge.
Suggest new food choices kindly. Suggest natural or unnatural delicious foods, but not entirely sugary or super processed. That could be avocados, muesli bars, raisin bread, sunflower seeds bars. Ask them if they would like to try something new today. Make them homemade banana bread! Be positive around them. They are under so much stress and pain already, they really need that touch of positivity in their lives.
5) Check In On Them Regularly.
With an unpredictable mental illness like B.E.D, we may have complications and suffer from bouts of depression, anxiety or display other mental or physical signs. Read up on B.E.D. and make sure you hold a non-judgmental attitude towards their behaviour. It is a very tough time for them and your love and support will be highly appreciated.
It never hurts to just ask them, "How are you today?" or "Have you been eating well?" or "Do you feel comfortable talking to me about this...How are your eating habits lately?"
Honestly, I wish more people supported me when I was suffering from B.E.D - it was a terrible time in my life. I am thankful for school counselors and friends that helped me recover. Yet, most of my binges happened at home, so family could have been key to be part of my support system.
Always remember to take care of your own mental health above all.
Shoutout to you if you have been/ are being there for and with your loved one throughout their B.E.D. journey.
Guest Post From: I'M STRONGER THAN THE URGE TO BINGE EAT:
RAW THOUGHTS OF A RECOVERED BINGE EATER