Do you know someone who clearly struggles with food or body issues? Have you ever wondered how you can best be with family, friends, loved ones, or anyone who’s in pain with body image, excess weight, binge eating, emotional eating, or any kind of disordered relationship with food? These days, so many people face challenges with eating, and it’s important to know how you can be with them in a way that’s supportive and helpful, and that empowers you in the face of something that seemingly can’t be fixed. In this fascinating video from IPEtv, Marc David, founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, shares 4 great strategies that can help you help just about anyone who’s facing an eating disorder – even when you don’t know what to do. These are some excellent insights that you can put into action immediately to make a real difference.
Below is a transcript of this week’s video:
Hi, I’m Marc David, Founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating.
Today’s topic: how to help someone with an eating challenge even when you don’t know what to do – in five minutes or less.
It’s important to take notice when someone you care about has a relationship with food that’s causing them pain.
I’m going to give you some suggestions on how to be helpful to friends, family or loved ones who either have been diagnosed with an eating disorder, or who simply have a very problematic relationship with food – meaning they overeat, binge eat, constantly diet, emotionally eat, or they have a deep dislike for their body that has them eating or exercising in very intense or restrictive ways.
Let’s make this simple:
I’m going to break this down into 4 simple strategies that you can practice helping someone with an eating disorder- which by the way are applicable for friends and loved ones, as well as clients and even yourself.
Strategy #1 – Love
Oddly enough, love is oftentimes the last place we go when it comes to supporting others around their food and body issues. And it’s not because we’re such unloving people – it’s often because we love to fix others. It’s easy to see people with eating challenges as somehow deficient, broken, and in need of something logical or scientific that will take them right out of their problem and into the sunlight.
As life would have it, though, if someone has an eating challenge, then by definition, I’m going to suggest that the nutrient they’re most deficient in is vitamin L: love. This is your number one strategy. Love first. Make sure the person in your life knows that even though they have an eating challenge that’s causing them pain and suffering, and is causing them to dislike their own self – that YOU still care.
If someone has an eating issue, they don’t have to change for me to love and accept them any more than I already do right now. Of course I want them to get better, of course I want them to get where they want to go, but they already have my unconditional acceptance. I think we live in a time when love as a healing strategy is vastly underrated. For those with eating challenges, keep loving them even when they’re not loving themselves. Eventually, they’ll love you for it.
Strategy #2 – Patience
For many of us, it’s easy to get impatient with others when they have habits or challenges that we might think are silly or easily managed. How many times have I heard someone say to their friend or loved one who has an eating issue, “Just get over it”? This may sound well-intentioned, and it might sound like it makes sense, but it’s unsophisticated. If people could fix their unwanted eating habits that simply, they would. The psychology of human beings is dynamic, fascinating, sometimes simple, and sometimes complex. Have patience. Those with eating challenges of all kinds, on a deeper level, need to know that you’re going to be there. Patience is an awesome virtue. Make sure to let the people you care about know that you’re in this for the long haul.
Strategy #3 – Authenticity
So often, it’s easy to look the other way, to not notice that someone is in pain around food and body. We might choose to ignore it, or to assume that things will just take care of themselves. We make the choice to not be real. We take what is essentially the easy way out. Authenticity means that we get down to business, and that we speak the truth. It might mean that we say something like, “Hey, it looks to me like you’re really struggling with dieting. It looks to me that you’re really not eating enough and that it’s affecting your energy and your mood. It looks to me that you’re really unhappy with your weight and you’re doing all kinds of strategies that seem to be making you even more unhappy.” Or you might say something like, “Hey, would it be helpful for you to have someone to talk to about where you’re at with food, eating, and your body? I’m really concerned, I honestly don’t know how to help you, but I really do care…”
At the very least, you’ve shown up, you’ve opened up a dialogue, you’ve offered yourself, you’ve been real, and you’re giving the person you care about an opportunity to meet you halfway. They might choose to simply not receive your help or your care, but on some level it will register.
Authenticity is a powerful healing agent. Authenticity is often like a seed that gets planted – you may not see a lot of activity and growth right away, but oftentimes, something unexpected sprouts up and is born. Dare to be real and authentic in a loving way. The universe cannot help but reward you and the person you’re being real with in some form or fashion.
Strategy #4 – Ownership
Here’s a strategy that might sound a little bit odd or unusual. If someone you know or love has any kind of eating challenge or eating disorder, it’s easy to think that it’s their issue, their problem, and it belongs to them. And of course in reality, it does belong to them. But think about it this way: if someone close to you has any kind of illness or disease, it will impact you. If it’s your husband, wife, child, or a family member, it might mean that you’re caring for them, that you’re taking them to get treatment, that you’re their personal or emotional confidante, and that overall, you cannot escape the fact that you need to take ownership of their challenge.
Yes, it belongs to the person that has it, but in a strange way it belongs to everyone else who’s closest to that person. Taking ownership doesn’t mean it’s your fault, or that you have to fix the person, or that everything falls on your shoulders, or that you’re taking responsibility away from your loved one who has the eating challenge. It means you’re showing up in a whole different way. It means you’re being responsible for what YOU can do.
Ask yourself this powerful question: “What would it mean for me to take ownership of my friend or loved ones eating challenge? How can I show up in a powerful way? How can I help? What is their challenge asking of me? How is their eating issue asking me to grow, to be a better person?”
If you think about it, these are some pretty darned powerful questions that if you approach them from a place of love and patience, some very powerful answers will eventually be forthcoming.
Try these 4 strategies out, my friends; give them your best efforts, and I’d love to know what happens.
I hope this was helpful, my friends.
In the comments below, please let us know your thoughts. We love hearing from you and we read and respond to every comment!
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