Supporting Friends through Eating Disorders

Below is tumblr question that was submitted to me and I thought it was a really important topic that should be spoken about. So often as fat people we have thin friends in our lives who are going through disordered eating patterns and negative thoughts about their own bodies. We want to support them but many times it is without thinking about our own mental health or how their negative beliefs about their body can be a direct attack on our own.

Not only does this touch on people believing that feeling fat is the same as being fat but it also discusses how someone doesn’t necessarily have the right to seek support of friends if they are in the middle of an eating disorder. Particularly if they are not trying to stop the disordered pattern of behavior. Far too often are we expected to shoulder the burden of others, when we need to create space for ourselves. When we need to support our own mental health and wellbeing first.

While I don’t know if that is what is truly going on within this friendship, the reality is that many people have the expectation we take on or support their behaviors even if it is destructive to everyone involved.

TRIGGER WARNING: Eating disorder / weight loss talk

This was submitted anonymously but I wanted to have a trigger warning on it as the person talks about disordered eating behaviors / weight loss.

So I’m in a healthy weight range and I’m talking to my best friend who is overweight about how I’m going to try to loose weight through diet and exercise cause I want her support. She starts getting upset saying how I’m not fat and don’t need to loose weight and I explain that it’s because I’ve been going to an old habit of not eating for three or four days at all then binging and purging (and repeat) and I’d like to loose weight the healthy way, because I feel fat. And she takes this as criticism to her. Yes she has fat and is overweight and by no means has a healthy lifestyle but I’m just trying to make sure I’m being healthy and not doing something I’d regret. She said I’m just trying to be the skinny friend and trying to make her look bad, so I told her that I just want to get in shape and she can come workout with me if she wants and it could be fun and she said I was calling her fat and not accepting her. Why is it wrong for me to want to be skinny?

What did I say that offended her and how can I fix it? I’m not trying to fat shame I’m just trying to be comfortable with myself and healthy while doing it.

So you’re in a healthy weight range, performing disordered behaviors and want to lose weight? TBH there is nothing wrong with wanting to live in whatever body you want to but you’re friend doesn’t need to support you, particularly if she is reacting to the harmful behavior you’ve outlined. I would seriously suggest seeking help to normalize your eating behaviors before attempting to diet or lose weight, because it sounds like there is something else going on other than your friend not supporting you. I mean this seriously, if you are not eating properly you need to regulate that and work toward having a more normalized eating pattern first and foremost. This includes healing your own self image because feeling fat and being fat are two totally different things. There are people who can support you through this.

It’s probably really hard for your friend to see you in the middle of this pattern while you are bingeing / purging and feeling like your body is wrong. You are saying that you feel fat while your friend is fat. I don’t know how there is any other way than to respond as hurt when your best friend is telling you the body you live in is wrong. She may not feel comfortable or safe being around you if you are in this pattern, especially if you are talking negatively about yourself and saying how you feel fat when she is fat.

So basically, I would suggest you get help and support to normalize your eating / thoughts about your body. Don’t expect your friend to support your disordered thinking and behaviors, because she is also trying to make sure she is ok. She is trying to feel better about her own body and to be really frank, as someone whose been friends with someone who is very similar to you, it is really hard to love yourself when your friend is telling you that they are terrified of being you.

I can also bet that if you stopped talking negatively about yourself and worked toward normalizing your own behaviors your friend would be supporting you to the best of her ability.