Archive for September 21, 2016

Being a Friend to Someone with an Eating Disorder

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By Cathy Paper

Throughout the years I’ve seen many people move through eating disorders.  People of all ages at various times in their lives. And being a friend to someone with an eating disorder can be both exhausting and rewarding.  

What do you say to someone you care about when the person you see in front of you is clearly struggling?  Do you ask about their recovery?  Do you talk about food or weight and shape ever?  So many activities are around food that it can be challenging to find ways to connect.  Or maybe you’re mad because your friend is so absorbed in their eating disorder that they don’t appear to want to talk about anything anymore related to your lives.   

These are just a few examples of why being a friend to someone in recovery is tricky.

I’ve heard stories of young girls who have told their friend who is in a recovery program that they “Can’t be friends with them right now as it’s too difficult to maintain a relationship.”    This breaks my heart as the isolation that can accompany an eating disorder is great enough.

I’ve personally felt that feeling of being out at meals with someone who pushes their food around all night long and ultimately eats two or maybe three bites.  Do I say something?  Do I let it go?  Do I ask them if they are ok?  

It depends.

All of these instances are where being a friend requires figuring out how to support or ask questions of your friend who is working to manage their eating disorder.  Maybe you choose not to say anything in the moment, but you say something the next day.  Or you offer to go with your friend to a friends and family support group as that might spark good conversation.  Or you can acknowledge that you’re not sure what to say but you want them to be healthy and that you are there for them if they ever want to talk.  You can also encourage them to share with a professional if you feel anxious they may harm themselves.

Here are three tips I try to follow:

1. Be upfront. Ask how the person is doing with their recovery.  This way you can see what they want to talk about without saying anything about weight or food.

2. Spend time with the person or send a text to say “I’m thinking of you. Do you need anything?” Asking for help doesn’t come naturally to many people and friends offer to help even when they don’t know what to do.

3. Encourage your friend that you believe in them and you love and care about them. Just being present is reassuring.

I get tired of thinking about what I can and can’t say to my friends with eating disorders that are active.  I miss my friend that used to laugh and joke with me about silly stuff.  I worry about their long term health, but by being silent and not saying anything I am making it more difficult to feel like I’ve been a good friend.  And, a good friend, speaks up even when it’s uncomfortable.

 

 

 

Eating Disorders Coalition Roundtable at the White House

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by Kitty Westin, eating disorder activist

It felt like I was in a dream this week when I was standing in line for security clearance to get into the White House for a meeting with top level White House staff, key government agencies, and eating disorders leaders from across the United States. I wondered if I would wake up and realize that I was having a really good dream. I didn’t wake up, it was real! It was a dream come true!

When I started advocating for attention to eating disorders at the national public policy level 16 years ago I often dreamed that someday our national leaders would pay attention and address the many issues that people affected by eating disorders face. I dreamed of a time when health care professionals, school personnel, and the general public would understand that eating disorders are serious, and sometimes, life threatening illness. I dreamed of the day when insurance companies would routinely APPROVE treatment for eating disorders at all levels of care. On Wednesday, September 14, 2016 I felt like I was living my dream!

The Eating Disorders Coalition for Research, Policy & Action (EDC), our Washington DC based advocacy organization, was invited by White House staff to convene a roundtable discussion on eating disorders. For the first time in history, eating disorders caught the attention of the Executive Branch of the United States government. It was an amazing day!

The EDC pulled together nationally known leaders in the areas of training, treatment and research of eating disorders. The White House invited representatives from several agencies including; Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, Office of Women’s Health, Department of Health and Human Services, SAMHSA, and NIMH. We discussed issues around mental health parity, early identification for school personnel and health professionals, and research needs as it relates to eating disorders. The end result included key follow-ups from the eating disorders community around all three areas. Overall, the conversations were very productive in all three areas, especially around the parity discussion. The White House and the agencies were extremely engaged and communicated how much they would like to have follow-ups and continue these discussions.

We are making amazing progress thanks to our advocates, our leaders, and our champions on the Hill! My dream of a world where eating disorders are no longer ignored, are no longer misunderstood and people with eating disorders (and all mental health issues) are able to get the care they need is in sight.

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