Craving Food Freedom podcast ep 39 Listen to this if your loved one is struggling with food

Ep 39. Listen to this if your loved one is struggling with food

PSA to friends/family of those struggling with food

Hello loved one, friend or family member of the person who shared this with you.

My goal in the next few minutes is help you see what they’re experiencing with food and how they would like to be supported during this time.

As you know, they have been struggling with food and their bodies for a while, maybe months, maybe years, even decades. 

You know people who start a diet with the best of intentions but ended up with a frayed relationship with food, maybe obsessing about what they’re eating, what they’re not eating, how many calories they have left, how much they’ve burned. That person is likely your friend, family member, or loved one at this very moment. Maybe you’ve noticed that they overeating or even bingeing in secret. 

I’m a dietitian who has worked with hundreds of patients over the years restore a normal relationship with food without obsession, fear, or guilt. 

You might be wondering why your loved one sent you here. It’s because they’re having a hard time sharing with you what they’re trying to achieve. They’re not trying to be perfect with food or lose weight anymore. No. They want to find peace of mind with food, they are seeking food freedom. They just want to be a normal eater again and they need your support. 

I know you have the best of intentions, you love them and want them to be healthy. You want them to achieve their health goals and not be consumed by guilt or obsession. Well I’m going to share with you how you can support them.

Here are 3 things to keep in mind. 

  1. Their goals might not be what you think. 
    • Sometimes, your loved one might be trying to eat more because they’ve been restricting for so long. Let them be and try not to comment on how little or how much they’ve had. They’re figuring it out and trying to listen to this hunger and fullness signals. Sometimes it might look a little funny but stay neutral unless they say something.
    • Perhaps this is what they want to say to you but don’t know how: “I’m working on learning what it’s like to feel full and satisfied but my fullness cues are so wonky that I end up eating more than I intended to but that’s ok, it’s a learning process and I’m working on it.” 
    • Perhaps they’re trying to feel less afraid of “bad” foods like sugar or dairy or bread. So you might see them eating a bowl of ice cream at night. Try to restrain any comments (positive or negative). Maybe it’s a huge milestone that they were able to pause at 2 scoops instead of eating the whole pint. What a win! Or perhaps they’re trying to eat ice cream for the first time in years, what a win! You not going to eat dessert, you’re eating dessert? Keep that to yourself whenever possible.          
  2. Maybe food is a huge source of comfort for them.
    • If they’re feeling judged from you, it can just cause them to feel more embarrassed, ashamed, and not comforted, so they go towards food for more comfort at the end of the night.
    • Ask them: “What are you working on today? What are your wins today?” Let them tell you, try not to assume. 
  3. Their body might fluctuate wildly from week to week.
    • Again, they’re in the process of relearning what it feels like to be hungry and full. They need time to figure out how much to eat to feel comfortable. For you it may be second nature but for them they might find themselves oscillating between bingeing and restricting as they figure it out. So as much as you can, try not to make any comments about weight loss, weight gain.
    • Compliment them on who they are as a human beyond their bodies i.e. you handled that tough situation so well, you baked that cake with such dedication, you cared for that friend with such empathy, etc

Ultimately, they are finding their own balance with food. Let them figure it out, they are right where they need to be today. 

The best support you can give them is letting them voice their thoughts, struggles, and wins on their terms. Leave food and body judgments out until they feel more comfortable and confident on how and what to eat.

Ask them: “How can I support you? When and what are you comfortable with eating today? What will satisfy you?”

The main goal is to help them restore a normal, healthy and happy relationship with food. Judgment will only perpetuate shame and worst case scenario is when they start eating in secret because they can’t bear what you think. 

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