Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada

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St. Joseph's Care Group

Eating Disorders Programs

Worried about an Adult

What should I look out for?

The difficulty that anyone experiences depends on a number of factors. These include individual circumstances, our unique personality and the type of eating disorder in question. The following is a list of common concerns often noticed by family and friends

  • Excessive concern with weight
  • Distorted body image
  • Vomiting
  • Abnormal weight loss or fluctuation
  • Unusual eating habits or rituals
  • Restrictive Eating Pattern
  • Extreme physical activity
  • Overuse of laxatives, diuretics, emetics or diet pills
  • Social isolation
  • Denial of the problem
  • Evidence of binge eating
  • Hoarding of food
  • Regularly leaving for a bathroom visit right after a meal
  • Avoidance of restaurant or social events where food is present
  • Disruption of menstrual cycle in women
  • Dizziness
  • Gastrointestinal discomfort
  • Feel cold, paleness
  • Tooth decay
  • Excessive calorie counting
  • Dressing in layers to hide weight loss
  • Frequent weighing
  • Obsession with food and dieting
  • Denial of hunger

What can I do to help?

Here are some ideas for you to consider

Do Don't
  • LOVE as always. Love makes everyone feel worthwhile. Do not neglect other significant people in your life
  • GIVE her a goal that is not weight related. Get her involved in a hobby, keep her busy. Don't do anything that centers on food.
  • TRUST him to find his own values, ideals and standards rather than insisting on yours.
  • Do everything to ENCOURAGE initiative, independence and autonomy.
  • Do EDUCATE yourself about eating disorders
  • Do attend a SUPPORT group. Get advice from those who care and can help.
  • Do COMMUNICATE directly to the person the seriousness of you concern, your conviction that treatment is necessary and your willingness to provide emotional, financial and other practical support.
  • FOLLOW the recommendations of the treatment team if you are involved. Be honest with them. Ask to meet with them if you feel that this would help
  • Don't resist family or couple therapy if this is recommended to you. It is an important part of treatment.
  • Don't discuss your concerns without being able to recommend a source of treatment or help.
  • Don't expect her to acknowledge the problem. She may not see the problem or feel extremely threatened by the thought of giving up her eating patterns.
  • Don't allow disruptions in your life through manipulation, arguments, threats, blame, guilt, bribes or resentment.
  • Don't allow yourself to be affected by negative influences. Appearances, body weight or achievements should not be the most important focus
  • Don't let guilt take your time. You can contribute to recovery with a positive attitude and doing what you need to do for yourself.

What do I do if the adult refuses therapy?

  • He or she needs unconditional love during this difficult time. A love based on weight/food/eating will make her feel manipulated and controlled.
  • Denial happens because of fear… fear of having to give up control, fear that no one will understand, fear of what might happen.
  • Give some information about eating disorders.
  • Talking about food, weight or eating will usually turn into a power struggle. He will feel defensive, hostile and resentful. If you confront him about eating or his behaviour, he may resort to lying and avoid confrontation. Or he may feel embarrassed and attack you instead.
  • Remember that food is not the only issue. Your loved one is also dealing with many other problems:
  • Accept whatever she says as true and valid only to her. Say to her; "I know you feel afraid. I will be there to help you through the scary parts."
  • Listen. Don't interrupt, criticize or tell her how she feels. Sit silently facing her or holding her if she wants to. Let her know you are there for her.
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