I’ve really been struggling a lot more than usual lately. And I’m not talking to anyone about it. At least yet. I’m just not ready to even come close to being able to put what I’m feeling into words that are somewhat understandable. I don’t even understand what’s going on with me anymore really. I’ve been a diagnosed Bipolar II patient for almost 10 years now and you’d think I’d have some what more of a grip on my reality.
Today’s article is a guest post I stumbled upon here. It covers Eating Disorders which is yet another struggle I can sadly say I have been actively dealing with since a very early age. Like 11-12 years old. Some years are obviously better than others. My weight yo-yo’s constantly. I’m never happy with the way I’ve looked or do today. It’s just something I’m starting to accept as a flaw that I won’t really ever be able to fully change. I will always have this disordered manner of thinking. A disorder way of life to put it simply. Some things just won’t ever change.
The difference now today is that I’ve accepted myself a bit more. Acceptance makes all things easier to deal with and rather then fighting a never ending battle, I’ve just come to a certain degree of peace within myself regarding my struggles and downfalls. Why just continue to further the nasty downwards spiral of depression with negative thoughts and constant self-pity..
- Familiarize yourself with the different types of eating disorders. The three main eating disorders Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa and Binge Eating Disorder are described throughout this article. Eating disorders fall into two DSM-IV categories (psychiatric categorization), with Anorexia Nervosa in one and Bulimia Nervosa in the other category, although overlap between both often occurs. It’s important to be aware that there are other types of eating disorders too and if you have any difficult or unhappy relationship with food, speak with someone in the medical or therapy profession who can help to identify your particular problem.
- Anorexia Nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by not eating and excessive weight loss. For people with anorexia, the desire to lose weight becomes an all-consuming obsession. It has three main characteristics: The inability or refusal to have a healthy body weight, the fear of gaining weight, and a distorted body image.
- People with Bulimia Nervosa have recurrent binge eating obsessions and then use various purging methods, such as vomiting or laxative abuse in order to keep themselves from gaining weight as a result of binge eating.
- Binge Eating disorder is when a person impulsively eats uncontrollably. Unlike bulimia, people with a binge eating disorder do not purge afterwards, although they may diet sporadically because of guilt or self-hatred or shame. 
- Learn about the factors that cause or contribute to eating disorders. There are a number of possible causes behind eating disorders and the causes may include neurobiological and hereditary factors, low self-esteem, the desire to be perfect, the constant need to please people around the sufferer, troubled relationships, sexual or physical abuse, family conflict or the inability to express emotions.
- Consider donating to organizations working towards helping those with eating disorders. There are many organizations working to improve the knowledge of eating disorders and to help those suffering from such disorders. If you know someone or are caring for someone suffering from an eating disorder, making a donation can help to fight against eating disorders by improving the services offered and the dissemination of knowledge.
For those afflicted with an eating disorder
- Pay attention to the warning signs. You must be honest with yourself when you spot the warning signs; your condition is dangerous and yet your mind is keeping you at risk through self-deception, hiding and deceiving. After a while, these ways of self- and other-deceiving become a bad habit that you don’t even notice. Some of the warning signs to heed include:
- You’re underweight (less than 85 percent of the accepted norm for your age and height)
- You’re obsessed with diets, talking about dieting and with finding ways to eat less food
- You’re terrified of being or getting “fat”; you’re harsh on yourself about your shape and weight
- You’re prone to wearing baggy or loose clothing to try and hide the sudden or dramatic weight loss
- You’re making excuses not to be present at meals or you’ve found ways to eat very little, hide the food or throw it up afterward
- Your health is poor – you’ve noticed that you bruise easily, you have no energy, your skin is pale and sallow and your hair is dull and dry, you’re dizzy, you feel the cold much more than others (bad circulation), your eyes are dry, your tongue is swollen, your gums are bleeding, you’re retaining water a lot, and if you’re female, you’ve missed three or more menstrual cycles; for bulimia some addition signs may be that you have teeth marks on the back of your fingers, nausea, diarrhea, constipation, swollen joints, etc.
- If someone told you that you’re underweight, you wouldn’t believe them and you’d even argue the opposite; and you may not be able to take any suggestions about your being underweight seriously.
- You’re avoiding relationships or going out with people.
- You’re following a grueling and punishing exercise regime that could be viewed as over-exercising.
- Talk to a therapist who specializes in treating eating disorders. A trained professional can help you work through the thoughts and feelings that are compelling you to diet excessively or binge eat. If you feel too ashamed to talk to anyone, be reassured that a therapist trained in eating disorders will not make you feel ashamed of yourself. Of all people, these therapists have devoted their professional lives to helping others overcome eating disorders and they know what you’re going through and they understand the underlying causes and can help you work through them. Expect:
- To be listened to respectfully
- To have a chance to tell your entire story and to ask for targeted help
- To be released from the pressures family and friends might be placing on you; a therapist can act as a buffer and a counselor for them too or, at the very least, teach you coping strategies during the healing process and how to overcome conflicts within the family setting
- To be treated as someone valuable and to be reassured that you will get well again.
- Determine why you might be tempted to not eat right. You can help the therapy by doing some self-exploration into why you feel compelled to keep losing weight and to despise your body. There may be some self revelations that help you to personally better understand how your eating disorder has morphed into an unhealthy way of coping with something else that harms you such as family conflict, lack of love or never feeling good enough.
- Are you happy with the way you look? If not, why do you think you aren’t looking your best?
- Are you comparing yourself to others? Media images are the worst culprits in this instance but also friends, popular people and people you look up to can be a source of comparison.
- Do you eat junk food or eat more when you are emotional? If so, this may have become a habit that kicks in unconsciously and has taken the place of more appropriate self-soothing activities such as ignoring negative self-talk or learning to praise yourself for all the good you do.
- Keep a food journal. A food journal has two purposes. The first more practical and scientific purpose is to establish your eating patterns and to allow you (and your therapist if you allow them to see it) to work out what types of food you’re eating, when and how. The second more subjective part of a food journal is write down your thoughts, feelings and emotions associated with the food habits you’ve cultivated. And ultimately, it’s a place to write down your fears (so that you can face them) and your dreams (so that you can start planning goals and working toward them). Some things to explore in your food journal include:
- Ask yourself what you might be going through. Are you comparing yourself to models in magazines? Are you under tons of stress (school/college/work, family issues, peer pressure)?
- Write down the rituals around food that you’ve developed and how you feel about these.
- Write down your feelings about your struggle to control your eating patterns.
- If you’re manipulating people to deceive them and hide your behaviors, how does that make you feel? Explore this issue in your food journal.
- Write down things that you have accomplished in your life. It will help you to better realize what you have done. Such a list will make you feel better about yourself when you see the good things add up.
- Seek support from a trusted friend, parent, family member or someone else who matters to you. Talk to them about what you’re going through. It will often be the case that they’ll be worried about you and will be very willing to try and help you work through the eating disorder, even if it’s just about being there for you.
- Learn to express your feelings out loud, and be okay with the feelings that you have. One of the key factors underlying many disorders is an unwillingness or an inability to stand up for oneself and to fully express one’s own feelings and preferences. Once this becomes a habit, the loss of assertion makes you feel less worthy and less able to move through conflict and unhappiness and the disorder becomes a crutch of sorts that “orders” things (albeit in a very skewed and unhealthy way). Being assertive is not about being arrogant or self-absorbed – it’s about letting others know that you’re valuable too and deserve to be valued in turn.
- Find other ways to cope with your emotions. Find positive outlets in which to relax or unwind after a stressful day. Allow yourself these personal moments of down time, focused just on you. For example, listen to music, take a hike, watch the sunset, or write in a journal. The possibilities are endless – find something you enjoy doing that relaxes you to help you deal with harmful and stressful emotions.
- Do something you have long wanted to do but haven’t yet made the time or arrangements to do. Take a class to learn something new that you have always wanted to try, start a blog or website, pick up a musical instrument, go on a vacation, or read a book or series of books.
- Ground yourself when you feel out of control. Call someone on the phone, touch things close to you, such as a desk, counter, fluffy toy or wall, or hug someone you feel safe with.
- Learn techniques to remove stress from your current self. Meditation is an excellent option, and so are such activities as taking a warm bath, giving yourself a massage (or getting someone else to give you one), and practicing relaxation techniques.
- Get quality sleep and institute a healthy sleeping routine. Sleep can restore both your perspective and your energy. If you’re not getting enough already through stress and worry, explore ways to improve your sleep routine.
- Be as kind to yourself as you are to other people. Look at people around you that you find beautiful with all their quirks and unusualness, and appreciate yourself in the same ways. Look at the beauty inside you instead of focusing on the flaws. Stop being so harsh on your looks – every configuration of the human body is a miracle, a moment of life breathed into the continuum of time and you deserve to be happy and here right now.
- Put away the scale. Nobody should weigh themselves daily, eating disorder or not. To do so is to map an unrealistic fluctuation of personal weight and to set oneself up for an obsession with numbers instead of focusing on the greater whole. Gradually reduce the frequency of self weighing until you’re only weighing yourself weekly.
- Let your clothes be your indicator rather than your scale. Choose your most favorite outfits that are in the healthy weight range and use them as the barometer of looking good and being at a healthy weight.
- Take baby steps and see every little change to a healthier self as a big step in the healing process. Increase your food portions gradually, exercise slightly less frequently, etc. Trying to stop abruptly will not only be harder on yourself emotionally but can shock your body and cause other health problems. Again, this aspect is best done under the supervision of a professional, such as your eating disorder specialist.
For those who have a friend with an eating disorder
- Pay attention to the warning signs listed above. If you see the signs in your friend, don’t hesitate to step in – her or his condition is very serious once these signs are evident and the sooner you can help your friend to fight the eating disorder, the better.
- Educate yourself on the eating disorder through reading about it.
- Be prepared to do all you can to get the sufferer into appropriate professional treatment as quickly as possible. Also be prepared to support the treatment process and to be a helper or supporter if needed.
- Talk to your friend privately about what they are going through, and what you have noticed. Be gentle and above all non judgmental. Explain to them that you’re worried about them and would like to help in any way you can. Ask them to suggest ways that you can help them.
- Be a source of calm in their lives. Avoid exaggerating, displaying shock or ranting.
- Be there. Listen to their problems without judgement, and let them express their emotions without them feeling like you don’t care about their problems. This requires genuine listening skills and rephrasing or summarizing of theirfeelings so that they are certain that you’ve both heard and acknowledged their pain. Be supportive but don’t seek to be controlling.
- See How to listen for more tips on active listening.
- Be affectionate, caring and open to them. Love them for who they are.
- Do not talk about food or weight in negative ways. If you go out for lunch, avoid saying things such as “I want an ice cream so badly, but I really shouldn’t…” Also, don’t ask them about what they have or have not eaten, how much weight they have lost or gained, and so forth, and neverexpress disappointment in their weight loss.
- Avoid demanding that they gain weight. That is like a red rag to a bull!
- Never humiliate or blame the sufferer for their eating disorder. This is well beyond willpower.
- Avoid making jokes about body weight or other things that your friend could take the wrong way.
- Stay positive. Give your friend compliments, and help boost their self-esteem in everything they do, not just their body image. Have a praise-fest whenever they’re around you!
- Get help for your friend. Talk to a counselor, therapist, spouse or parent about the best ways to help your friend. As stated earlier, this is the most important part of your friend’s ability to recover, so do what you can to facilitate it.
For parents and other caregivers and household members
- Note the suggestions outlined under the section for friends. Many of these approaches are equally applicable to those in a position of caring for or living with the sufferer of an eating disorder. Above all, be sure that the sufferer is getting medical attention and treatment; if you are legally responsible for the sufferer, then be sure to get them professional help immediately.
- Most of this section presumes that the sufferer is either a child or an adolescent but adult children or household members can be substituted for most of these steps too.
- Be calm and supportive. As a family or household member, you will be in constant contact with the child or adolescent sufferer and they need to know that you’re not angry with them or that you’ll burst out into demands every time they appear. This may feel very constraining for you but this is a time for your learning as much as for the sufferer and you’ll need patience, courage and a calm attitude to be a positive and effective supporter.
- Show affection and kindness. The sufferer needs to know they’re loved.
- Support the therapy process but don’t try to inveigle yourself into it or take control of it. Don’t ask intrusive questions, don’t address the issue of weight directly with the sufferer and if you have specific concerns, raise them directly with the therapist or doctor.
- Maintain a household of love and care for all members. Don’t neglect other people as a result of supporting the sufferer. If worry and attention is directed to the sufferer alone, others will feel neglected and the sufferer will feel unduly focused upon. As best you can (and expecting everyone else to do so too), focus on creating a balance in the household that nurtures and supports everyone.
- Be emotionally available. It may be tempting to ignore, withdraw or abandon the sufferer if you feel helpless or angry about the situation. However, withdrawal of your emotional support will harm the sufferer intensely. It is possible to love the sufferer and to handle their manipulative ways effectively and if you find this difficult, speak to the therapist for suggestions.
- Treat food as a life-sustaining, healthy and fulfilling part of the household routine. If anyone in the household has food or weight talk obsession, they will need to tone it right down. Avoid talking about weight or dieting obsessively – have a talk to any family or household member who does this unthinkingly. Moreover, do not use food as a punishment or reward when raising children. Food is something to be valued, not to be rationed or used as a reward and if this means that the whole family needs to change the way it views food, then this is a good way forward for everyone.
- Encourage the sufferer to learn how to self-nurture rather than being prone to nurture others. Do not have the sufferer cook meals for the family or shop for the groceries by themselves. This will simply encourage them to deny themselves by giving all to others, which continues the unhealthy patterns of thinking.
- Don’t try to limit the sufferer’s food intake, unless you have been specifically told to do so by a medical professional.
- Be critical of media messages. Teach the child or adolescent sufferer to not accept media messages outright. Teach them critical thinking skillsand encourage them to question the messages that media gives, as well as learning to question the messages from peers and others who influence them.
- Encourage open communication from a young age. Teach the child or adolescent to communicate with you openly and honestly, and talk to them in the same way. If they don’t feel like they have to hide anything, a key element of eating disorders is already removed.
- Build the child or adolescent sufferer’s self-esteem. Show the sufferer that you love them no matter what, and give them compliments and praise for things done well frequently. If they fail at something, accept it and help them learn to accept it as well. In fact, one of the best lessons a parent or caregiver can impart is how to learn from failure and how to build resilienceto try again.
- Help your child accept and appreciate their bodies. Encourage physical exercise and self confidence in their bodies from a young age. Explain the importance of flexibility and strength created through exercise and help them to gain an appreciation of being outdoors and in nature by taking frequent walks, bike rides, hikes and runs together. If you can, participate in family running, biking, triathlon, etc. events so that the children grow up seeing activity as healthy and bonding.
- Models and actors in real life do not look as perfect as they appear on magazine covers. They have professional make up, clothing and body artists who make them look. Moreover, every day more and more stories spill out revealing how much photoshopping is done on these people to make them look unreal – comparing yourself to a magazine’s created image is unfair to yourself.
- Find healthier beauty ideals than the skinny minnies in the mags. Don’t aspire to look like the extremely skinny runway models. Focus more on what you find beautiful about everyday people.
- Eat only when you’re hungry. Sometimes we feel tempted to eat something sweet when we’re sad, bored or frustrated, but this has negative side effects on our health and appearance. The reason for which you feel the need to eat sweets while in a certain mood is that sugar and sugar-based foods contain endorphin (a substance that induces a state of happiness and well-being) and when the endorphin level in your body is low, you often feel the need to eat something sweet. Try to get yours from physical activity- practicing a sport has the same effect on your happiness level, without negative side effects on your weight. If you find yourself carving sweets and snacks whenever you feel down, you may suffer from emotional eating (which is also an eating disorder).
- If this gets really serious, get help. There are healthy ways to get and stay thin that far outdo having eating disorders.
- If you ever feel tempted to try and not eat for several days in a row or throw up after you’ve just eaten, stop. This is how an eating disorder begins. You can’t develop an eating disorder if you don’t start to develop unhealthy eating habits, right?
- Not eating for several days or throwing up after eating may slow down your metabolism. This means if ,one day, you feel like eating and not throwing up, your body will not be able to burn as much calories. It will store what you ate as fat.
Edit Things You’ll Need
- Food journal
- Information about the eating disorder
- A therapist trained in eating disorders
Edit Related wikiHows
- How to Find Help For a Suspected Eating Disorder
- How to Cope With Weight Changes when Recovering from an Eating Disorder
- How to Tell Your Parents You Have an Eating Disorder
- How to Get Help for Your Eating Disorder
- How to Avoid Eating When You’re Bored
- How to Evaluate Your Eating Habits
Edit Sources and Citations
- Something Fishy, http://somethingfishy.org/ – research source
- National Eating Disorders Association, http://nationaleatingdisorders.org/p.asp?WebPage_ID=337 – research source
- Fighting Ed, http://FightingEd.com/ Fighting Ed — research source
- 50 Ways to Lose the 3Ds, http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/uploads/file/information-resources/50-Ways-to-Lose-the-3Ds.pdf – research source
- Dr Pamela Stephenson Connolly, All or Nothing: Eating Disorders, pp. 108-121, in Head Case: Treat Yourself to Better Mental Health, (2007), ISBN 978-0-7553-1721-9 – research source
- How Medication Treats Eating Disorders (everydayhealth.com)
- Eating Disorders: Anorexia, Bulimia, and Binge Eating Disorder (everydayhealth.com)
- Eating Disorders Also Affect Adults (everydayhealth.com)
- Kids and Eating Disorders (everydayhealth.com)