There are many factors of eating disorders that people don’t consider when someone suffers. It’s never just a matter of what a person with a disorder eats or doesn’t eat. Never tell someone with an eating disorder to “Just go eat a cheeseburger and have a shake.” It is never about the food when it comes to having an eating disorder. Like all illnesses, eating disorders are more about what a person is dealing with emotionally. They only choose to execute the illness through their choice of foods, or lack of food. To find out more about certain factors of eating disorders if you suffer or know someone who is, check out the factors below. I hope to show anyone suffering from an eating disorder or anyone who knows someone who is, that there are many considerations to be made when recovery becomes possible.
The number one thing people should know about factors of eating disorders that contribute to the inability to cope, heal, or have a normal relationship with food, is an issue with fear. Fear takes over a person, and they may fear gaining weight that really mirrors the fear of being accepted, loved, or adored. They may also fear losing control, or fear the feeling of being full because it makes them feel fat. For me, I feared gaining weight because I always thought less of myself, and by avoiding calories in my foods, I had control of that fear somehow. It doesn’t make sense, but almost every single person with an eating disorder has a fear issue, and recovery can be scary because a person has to face that fear and let go of the control fear has over them.
Another factor of eating disorders involves safety. For some reason, they have at some point suffered a loss in their life, making them feel unsafe and vulnerable. The eating disorder’s control makes them feel safe, even though both physically and emotionally they are far from it during the depths of an eating disorder. The number one thing anyone should consider when helping someone recover from an eating disorder is to help them find out why food or lack of food helps them feel safe. Getting to the core of the issue is the most important and most effective way to help someone heal.
Another factor to be considered when recovering from an eating disorder is the imbalance that occurs with your relationship with food. Not only are your calories imbalanced, but so are your beliefs about food, along with your beliefs about yourself. Be careful when you recover that you balance your food choices and you’ll naturally balance your emotions. Too much unhealthy fat, too much refined sugar, and too much junk food can just exacerbate the imbalance damage on your body and your mind. Don’t associate healthy weight gain with eating junk. This only sets you up for a risk to relapse or give in to disordered eating later. Instead, eat more healthy fats and healthy carbs, which will balance your relationship with your body and your emotions.
4. Take Things Slow
Don’t feel like you have to make too many changes at one time if you’re trying to recover from an eating disorder. Take things slow. Just making one or two changes a week will help you slowly adapt, and be more able to change. In the meantime, it also helps you from becoming so stressed that you panic and revert back to disordered, unhealthy behavior. Taking baby steps might take longer, but will help you get to the finish line, I promise!
5. Mood Factors
Other factors that the family of someone with an eating disorder, along with patients of eating disorders, fail to understand are certain mood factors that contribute to the inability to recover. This includes hormonal imbalances from lack of healthy proteins and fats, along with depleted B vitamins from carbs that can lead to low energy and fatigue. Hormones such as estrogen also drop significantly during a disorder, which contributes to depression and a low libido. Trytophan found in certain foods also helps to fight anxiety that comes with eating disorders, along with foods high in magnesium. Two of the best books I read to help me understand the influence my mood had on my disorder and my recovery were “The Mood Cure” and "The Diet Cure," both by Dr. Julia Ross, M.D. I highly recommend both and have read them numerous times myself.
6. Fear of Intimacy
A huge factor to be considered for someone recovering from an eating disorder is intimacy. Most all people with an eating disorder have intimacy issues. I personally lost touch with all my friends, was terrified of dating and meeting new people, and feared social situations of all kinds. One of the hardest parts about recovery is learning how to trust people in your life again. Most eating disorders start when someone in the sufferer's life hurts them, and the disorder becomes a crutch. Therefore, trying to develop relationships with people again during recovery is just as scary as gaining the weight, if not more.
Lastly, one of the most important factors to consider when recovering from an eating disorder is that it takes time, and a lot of it. I suffered from my disorder 15 years, therefore though I’m in my third year of recovery, I’m nowhere near through yet. Knowing this helps you stay aware and active towards recovery, because temptations to revert back to old behaviors will always be there. Even though I would never go back to my old life living with my disorder, I also know that I can’t ever pretend I’m numb to temptations. I would tell anyone with an eating disorder, or anyone who knows someone with an eating disorder, to always keep taking steps and be patient. As long as you’re moving forward, you can learn to heal.
If you know someone with an eating disorder, please offer them patience, though I know it is incredibly hard. My family suffered such a tragedy watching me try to heal and fail over and over, until I finally started to succeed. Don’t give up on anyone, or yourself, because recovery truly is possible. Which one of these factors have you ever dealt with if you’ve had an eating disorder, or know someone who has?