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8 Things To Help You Talk To Your Family About Your Eating Disorder

We spoke to a professional about how to open up to your family, what you can do to prepare and how you should steer away from blame.

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1. Don't focus on blame.

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Eating disorders are complicated and come in many different forms. BuzzFeed spoke to Ilene V. Fishman, LCSW who has specialised in private practice for the treatment of eating disorders for the past 30 years. When you begin to talk to your family about your eating disorder Fishman suggests: "Try not to get caught up in the whys or the blame. Just keep the focus on figuring out what will be most helpful."

You might find it useful to research services you think you'd want to use before you speak to your family. A lot of counseling services offer a session for parents, which will help them learn more about eating disorders as well as help them come to terms with their own feelings.

2. Set time aside.

To set your mind at ease, pick out a time for the initial conversation and pick a time a few days later for a follow-up conversation (more on this later). Ideally, choose a place that's private and comfortable. Before you open up to your family have a think about what it is you want to say and what you'd rather not say at this time. According to Fishman: "It's good to get internally organised about it in advance of the talk and go in as grounded as possible."
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To set your mind at ease, pick out a time for the initial conversation and pick a time a few days later for a follow-up conversation (more on this later). Ideally, choose a place that's private and comfortable.

Before you open up to your family have a think about what it is you want to say and what you'd rather not say at this time. According to Fishman: "It's good to get internally organised about it in advance of the talk and go in as grounded as possible."

3. Be prepared for all sorts of reactions.

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Your parents might react in a way you never expected. As difficult as it might be, try not to take it to heart. The best thing you can do is go into the conversation being totally aware of your own feelings, so you can give your parents the space to figure out theirs. You've known about this for some time, they may need time too.

4. Be honest.

Fishman shared: "I recommend that you prepare to talk about it as authentically as you can. If you have pain and shame about your eating disorder, try to be honest about it."Not only will this be helpful with this particular conversation but it'll help you long-term in your recovery.
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Fishman shared: "I recommend that you prepare to talk about it as authentically as you can. If you have pain and shame about your eating disorder, try to be honest about it."

Not only will this be helpful with this particular conversation but it'll help you long-term in your recovery.

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5. Do your research.

Fishman advises to have reading material on hand. Perhaps a book that you have found particularly helpful or an article. To get you started, NEDA has a great deal of information available here. They also have a programme called NEDA Navigators that is a terrific resource for parents. It is designed to support family members by matching them with trained non-professional "navigators" who have gone through an eating disorder experience themselves or with a family member. If you feel this might be helpful, you can let your parents know about it as an option.Keep in mind that you can over do it on the research front. Remind your parents to stick to you and your situation rather than getting bogged down by everything that's available out there.
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Fishman advises to have reading material on hand. Perhaps a book that you have found particularly helpful or an article. To get you started, NEDA has a great deal of information available here.

They also have a programme called NEDA Navigators that is a terrific resource for parents. It is designed to support family members by matching them with trained non-professional "navigators" who have gone through an eating disorder experience themselves or with a family member. If you feel this might be helpful, you can let your parents know about it as an option.

Keep in mind that you can over do it on the research front. Remind your parents to stick to you and your situation rather than getting bogged down by everything that's available out there.

6. Set some ground rules.

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For a plan of action, Fishman suggests to not only set up a time for the meeting but also set some time aside for the next meeting. If it helps you could even set a "rule" that you don't talk about anything eating disorder related between those times.

This may seem overly formal but by saving questions and thoughts for the next planned meeting time you avoid ongoing conflict, because talking about eating disorders and your health can be a difficult and stressful subject to bring up over and over again.

7. Take your time.

Fishman told BuzzFeed: "Recovery from an eating disorder is a marathon not a race. Taking time for full, sustainable recovery is important and usually requires professional treatment and sometimes more than anyone first anticipates." It's useful to be open about this with your parents. As much as you and they might want, you're not going to recover overnight. At the same time full recovery is possible and it's important to keep that in mind as you go through this together.
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Fishman told BuzzFeed: "Recovery from an eating disorder is a marathon not a race. Taking time for full, sustainable recovery is important and usually requires professional treatment and sometimes more than anyone first anticipates."

It's useful to be open about this with your parents. As much as you and they might want, you're not going to recover overnight. At the same time full recovery is possible and it's important to keep that in mind as you go through this together.

8. And lastly, don't isolate yourself.

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Whilst sharing what you're going through can be a valuable thing, you have to remember that the people you're confiding in may not offer the help that you need, at least not immediately.

Don't be frustrated by this or feel like you have to give up on recovery. Help your family learn to be more open. Ultimately your family will benefit from opening up and talking with each other throughout the process. Don't be ashamed, don't feel guilty and don't let your eating disorder isolate you any more than it already has. You don't have to go through this alone.

The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) is a non-profit organisation in the United States advocating on behalf of and supporting individuals and families affected by eating disorders. You can call their helpline on 1-800-931-2237.

In the UK ABC, the Anorexia and Bulimia Care charity, offers befriending support to sufferers and has support helplines open 9am-5pm, Monday to Friday. You can call them on: 03000 11 12 13.