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Eating Disorders: Allowing Others to Help

Eating Disorders: Allowing Others to Help

An important part of your recovery journey involves reaching out to others for love and support. The shame, distress, and lack of self-control and self-worth you felt because of your eating disorder or disordered eating have gradually isolated you from your friends and family members. Now it is time to break out of that circle of loneliness and get the help you need.

It is important, however, that you make it clear to others that you are not expecting them to fix you, criticize you, or judge you according to their value system. Instead, you are asking them for love, acceptance, and understanding. If they are to truly help you, it will be necessary for them to educate themselves about your eating disorder. Oftentimes, it’s also necessary for them to investigate their own patterns and feelings about food, weight, and body image. Because of this, it will be important for you to clearly articulate your needs and feelings every step of the way.

Consider the following guidelines as you reach out to others for help.

  • Be clear and fair. Others, even those nearest to you, will not always be able to help you exactly as you would like. Resist the tendency to try to control how they help you. Give grace.
  • Model respect by being respectful to those near you. Use the language of respect in your dealings with others. Don’t allow fear, anger, shame, or guilt to keep you from saying, “Thank you,” “I appreciate all you’ve done,” “I love you.” Remove insults and sarcastic comments from your speech.
  • Actively redefine who you are. As you are actively changing your behaviors, you can drop works like dysfunctional and codependent. Defining yourself by these terms can be an excuse not to change. Try using words like recovering and growing.
  • Accept responsibility for your eating disorder or your pattern of disordered eating. No matter what kind of childhood past you have had, remember that parents and others are not the only cause of how you’ve related to food and yourself. You bear responsibility for the choices you have made and are making. Take responsibility for yourself and for your relationships. As you take responsibility, you will be able to eliminate the blame.
  • Have appropriate limits for how much you allow others to do for you. Real love includes having appropriate limits. An eating disorder or pattern of disordered eating can be a strong vacuum, sucking others into a caretaking role. You must learn to care for yourself, without the crutch of these behaviors. Beware of resentment as you shift from being cared for to caring for yourself. Resentment can go two ways, on your part and on the part of others, who may have gained a sense of their own identity through caring for you.
  • Use the fruit of the Spirit as your relational guide. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). Seek to give and to receive these attributes in your relationships. Use them as a guide to determine the health of your relationships.

Our heavenly Father put us on this earth to help one another, and you need to trust that others will open up to you even as you open up your heart to them.

Authored by Dr. Gregory Jantz, founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE and author of 30 books. Pioneering whole-person care nearly 30 years ago, Dr. Jantz has dedicated his life’s work to creating possibilities for others, and helping people change their lives for good. The Center • A Place of HOPE, located on the Puget Sound in Edmonds, Washington, creates individualized programs to treat behavioral and mental health issues, including eating disorders, addiction, depression, anxiety and others. For more information about eating disorder treatment, fill out this form or call 1-888-747-5592 to speak confidentially with a specialist today.


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