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Thursday, 15 August 2013

Sharing Meals: Carers And Eating Disorders

I haven't been here for a while, sometimes you just have to think about other things, like walks in the woods, going to the sea with family and eating ice creams (Cornish of course) and rejoicing in having the best fish and chips in the world arguably at Rick Stein's takeaway at Padstow.

And how nice that we were all able to sit down as a family and enjoy.

I think that it's possibly the worst thing in the world is to be with someone who won't share in the meal because they are on some kind of strange diet or they are allergic to fish or because they are terrified of eating. I've done a family check and everyone finds it traumatic and distressing when there is someone who won't or can't eat with everyone else.

Why? We're all individuals. Perhaps we have a caveman gene which puts us on alert when someone in the tribe is not thriving or participating. I have no idea why sharing a meal with  loved ones and sharing enjoyment is so important. Last night, youngest daughter cooked for us and eating together was central to the fun.

People with eating disorders really don't know how much of a burden they put on other people. Much more than other mental health problems. Maybe because sharing food seems to important to social health.

People with eating disorders  under-estimate the impact on carers, siblings and friends of strained atmospheres, the overall burdens of being with them and  the worries carers have about the future. Loved ones  worry about the effects of bizarre eating  on the sufferer and the effects of parent's behaviour on their children.

People with eating issues under-estimate the effort it takes to pretend not to notice bizarre eating habits or to try not to make comments. They under-estimate the stress of trying to encourage someone who is struggling.

When we offer unwanted care or attention is being offered, the person with the eating issue is likely to get aggressive or convince themselves that we are the problem not them.  Then we have to cope with their anger  AS WELL AS the stress and worry of their disorder. The carer struggles to figure out how to communicate their feelings without unleashing a tsunami.

It's not YOUR business says the sufferer. It's my choice to eat what I please. And so it is. No-one wants to be forced to eat things they don't want or like. Yet there is a fine dividing line where we can see that eating has become a form of self harm, and we react to it.

Poor carers.  How can we bridge the gap to make sure that people with eating issues are at least sympathetic to the trauma of living with someone who cannot eat around  the campfire with us.


  1. I have an eating disorder and I wouldn't be able to eat with you. Not because I want to burden you, not even by choice not to eat with you. I just wouldn't be able to do it. Believe me I would want nothing more in the world than to eat with the group. Its truly out of my control. My eating disorder would take over and stop me. I'm sorry that its hard for carers- truly: Its painful for us too. This post seemed to hold quite a lot of blame for the suffer, which I found distressing. Please know, if we could chose not to be like this we would. Its not a choice.

    1. There was no intention to blame, since I once had an eating disorder. I had no choice my behaviour was a compulsion and I could not have done it differently. With good treatment with a very caring therapist you can take steps out of the disorder. Good treatment is about building your strength, not just changing your eating habits

    2. And also, this was written as a request from a carer. I would say if you have an eating disorder, be really sympathetic for those who love you and try not to get angry if a carer is showing concern for you.

    3. Thank you for your reply. I just felt I needed to share the perspective of someone with an Eating disorder because I was worried there was an assumption that eating disorders are a choice rather than a compulsion. So it has been very refreshing to read your response and see that there is an understanding of both perspectives.