How To Talk About An Eating Disorder
According to The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), 20 million women and 10 million men will develop an eating disorder sometime in their life. Eating disorders are often difficult to detect because they affect people of every shape, size, and age. Many times a person with an eating disorder will try to hide their problem. In an attempt to remove stigmas surrounding eating disorders, the NEDA wants us to learn more about them.
Talking to your kids and loved ones about eating disorders can be difficult. Here are some tips to consider to help start the conversation.
When concerned for a loved one who may be suffering from an eating disorder, showing support for them is one of the most beneficial actions to take. Knowing there are people to lean on provides comfort to those struggling.
Practice and Talk in Private
Practice what you want to say to them to calm your nerves and then set up a time to talk in private. This conversation is personal, make sure to dedicate time to it so they do not feel rushed.
Use "I" Statements
Do not place blame on your loved one. Using statements about what you have observed and how it makes you feel takes the accusatory tone out of the concern. Statements such as, “You haven’t eaten a proper meal in days!” can be perceived as confrontational, shameful, and accusatory. Avoid finger-wagging.
Try statements such as, “I have noticed that you have been saying you’re not hungry for dinner the past few nights and it is making me feel worried that you aren’t getting the proper amount of nutrients you need.”
Validate Feelings and Observations
When talking to younger children about eating disorders, validate that there is a problem and that it is alright to feel upset by it. Children are observant and may sense something is not right, even if they do not understand what it is.
Be Prepared for Questions
Children may have questions regarding what eating disorders are, why they occur and what will happen to their loved one. Do research prior to this conversation in order to provide comfort and answers to children.