Tips For Recovery
- Learn to distinguish between emotional hunger and physical hunger.
- Learn about the symptoms, causes and solutions of eating disorders.
- Seek professional help if you suspect that you may have an eating disorder.
- Understand that an eating disorder is an expression of emotional pain -- not a lack of willpower. Issues around food and weight (unless developmental or medical) are about feelings.
- Because your struggles with food and weight derived from pain, seek out compassion and support, not shame or criticism.
- Remind yourself that the cultural emphasis on unnatural thinness is unrealistic and often unhealthy. Many of the models and actresses you aspire to look like may have eating disorders themselves and may have had their photographs drastically altered by computers.
- Remember that all bodies are naturally different and that as you learn how to feed your body what it needs and wants (physically and emotionally), your body will settle into its natural weight.
- Get your emotional support from people who understand the language of emotions and the process of healing from food and weight problems.
- Learn about distorted body image and know that every time you think you feel "fat", you are having other, "big", feelings that need attention.
- Learn how to label the emotions that lead you to obsess on your food and your body. (Remember, "fat" is not a feeling!)
- Remember that diets do not work. (98% of the people who lose weight on diets gain it back within 5 years and 90% of those people gain back more than they lost!)
- Find non-food related ways to reward yourself and provide sweetness in your life.
- Learn how to listen to your body's signals. Practice eating when you are hungry and not eating when you aren't hungry (regardless of what others are doing or may think).
- Know that in order to stop eating (or undereating) compulsively, you will need to become willing to get help with the emotions that you have been eating (or dieting) over.
- Know that there is hope and help to do all of the above. Many people have achieved complete and total recovery from food and weight issues. No matter how severe your issues are, recovery is possible.
Tips For Parents
- Do encourage healthy expression of feelings in your family ("fat" is not a feeling!)
- Do educate yourself and your child about the symptoms, causes and solutions of eating disorders (including exercise addiction)
- Do understand that an eating disorder is an expression of emotional pain -- not a lack of willpower
- Do address your own issues with food, weight, exercise and body image
- Do seek professional help if you suspect that you or your child may have an eating disorder
- Do encourage open discussion about the cultural emphasis on unnatural thinness
- Do get your emotional support from other adults
- Do emphasize and teach about distorted body image
- Do educate your child about all bodies being naturally different
- Do compliment your child on things that have nothing to do with her or his appearance
- Do teach your child that diets do not work
- Do encourage non-food related forms of treats, sweetness and celebration
- Do encourage your child to listen to her or his body
- Do educate your child (and yourself) on how to differentiate between emotional and physical hunger
- Do let your daughter or son know that you love them no matter what they weigh
- Do try to make meals a relaxing and enjoyable experience
- Do encourage your child to label emotions and triggers when they tell you they "feel fat"
- Do discuss any changes you are committed to so your child can know what to expect
- Do realize that all the issues around food and weight (unless developmental or medical) are about feelings
- Do not shame, criticize or tease your child about their weight, food intake or clothes
- Do not say anything to your child that you wouldn't want someone to say to you
- Do not demand that your child eat or not eat
- Do not become directly involved with your child's weight (gain or loss)
- Do not blame any family problems on your child's weight or eating
- Do not criticize your (or anyone else's) body in front of your child
- Do not keep a scale in the house if anyone in the family is using it as a self-esteem check
- Do not push food on your child or make comments on their food choices and portions
- Do not put your child on any type of diet if they have gained weight or push food on them if they have lost weight. Know that weight gain and loss (unless developmental or medical) are symptoms of emotional problems that need to be addressed lovingly
- Do not tell your child that they are wrong to feel the way they do (whatever their feelings may be)
- Do not expect your child to accept their body if you will not accept your own
- Do not avoid your own problems by focusing on your child's food and weight issues
A Letter to Your DaughterUse any of the following messages that might feel appropriate for you to say or write to your daughter. Feel free to use our words or make up your own.
Include any of the following:Dear Daughter,
Our culture is extremely messed up around food and weight. I am so sorry you have gotten such crazy and confusing messages about how girls should look. It must be so hard for you, as a young girl, to like and accept your body with all these negative messages constantly coming at you.To me, the most lovely way for you to look, is how you would naturally look at whatever weight you end up when you eat healthy and treat your body really well for a long period of time.
You don't have to be perfect. I'm not. Nobody is. I don't need for your grades, your performance in sports or for anything you do to be perfect. I just care that you are healthy and balanced.I understand that it is so hard to stop the eating disorder behaviors since they have become such a habit. I know that you must have felt really badly about yourself and your body to turn to the eating disorder but I want you to know that YOU are not bad. I now get that you developed this both as a result of dieting and because of not knowing how to deal with difficult feelings. It is not your fault that you got an eating disorder. Now that I understand this, I no longer blame you.
I really want to understand how you feel. I want to get better at talking about all kinds of things together and I want to become a better listener. I will no longer focus on or criticize what you eat.You don't need to be only happy around me. You can be sad and mad and scared too. These are all normal feelings. I am sorry if I haven't been the best at listening to all your feelings. I want to try to get better at that. All of us in the family need to grow and change and look at how we are with food and body image and with welcoming all feelings. I am open to changing.
I also want to try to spend more time together, just you and I. Just hanging out, talking or not talking. Just being together. You are important to me and I am so sorry that I have been unavailable and so caught up in my own work that I forgot to give us time together.I want you to know that I adore you and that you mean the world to me and that if I do anything that adds to your poor body image or feeling that you need to be perfect, I want you to tell me. Also, if there is anything I can start doing that might help you get better, I want to know.
I love you and I want you to get better and I also know that it takes time and it is not easy to do. I am proud of you for getting help. All you need to do is keep trying--and I will too.Love,