I have an Eating Disorder. Here’s what I need YOU, as a FitPro, to do”
1. Consider my immediate risk.
Carly had no obvious way of knowing this, and you likely won’t either.
Because you can’t always SEE an Eating Disorder and you certainly can’t tell someone’s health from their size or how they look. So be kind to yourself with this initial step. Gather the information you can, listen to your intuition and if something is telling you…
‘This person needs more immediate support than I can offer now’
…don’t be afraid to go and find that support for them.
I didn’t need this when I approached Carly, but if I had, I would have thanked her in the future for finding it (even if I’d struggled to accept my need for this at the time. Remember, Eating Disorders can be a secretive illness so seeking out and/or accepting help isn’t often at the top of someone’s list).
2. It’s okay to be scared and not know what to do.
Carly and I have spoken about this a lot (we’ve spoken about EVERYTHING a lot actually!). But we’ve certainly mused over her initial reaction to my Eating Disorder disclosure. I don’t remember her coming across as scared, worried or shocked but she’s since told me she was, in parts. However her face didn’t show it, and to me this was invaluable.
I turned up with a pen and paper (big ol’ LOL to this!) wanting to know…
‘The Right Exercise Regime For Me’.
Of course, there wasn’t one (and my use of the word ‘regime’ demonstrated how I felt about it at the time), but Carly was proactive in bringing me right back to the start.
How did I like to move my body?
What exercise did I enjoy?
What made me feel like exercise was some sort of punishment?
She didn’t know *exactly* what she was doing.
I certainly didn’t know what I was doing.
But we talked openly and honestly over coffee and cake (please don’t feel like you can’t eat in front of someone with an Eating Disorder history…we won’t be offended (!) ..more on this another time!) and that was the best thing we could do TOGETHER.
The only plan I had for that first meeting with Carly was a time and a place. I had no idea what I was going to say, or how I was going to say it. But I can’t explain the feeling of relief I felt when I told her my story and she listened.
It was the best thing she could have done. You don’t have to pretend to understand. I lived with it, and even I will never fully understand. My eating disorder had kept me silent for so long, the most liberating thing Carly enabled me to do was speak about it.
Hold that space for someone. I promise you, you don’t have to fill it.
4. Don’t forget ‘me’
My fear around telling Carly about my anorexia was that she would treat me differently in her classes. I didn’t want ‘special adjustments’, I didn’t want concerned looks, I didn’t want to feel like I couldn’t do what everyone else was doing. I was in recovery from an Eating Disorder, but `I was not my Eating Disorder.
I needed and wanted her to look out for me. That’s why I told her in the first place. But I didn’t need or want her to single me out.
Through rejecting diet culture within her classes, Carly helped disempower the Eating Disorders grip on my relationship with movement, and empowered the recovering ‘me’.
Keep your eye out, but don’t keep your eye on someone with an Eating Disorder.
5. Consider yourself a Very Special Person (VSP)
Someone will have chosen to speak to you for a reason. Maybe you made them feel safe. Maybe you made them feel empowered. Maybe you just made them feel like it was okay to speak about one of the most secretive mental illnesses in our society.
But don’t forget you will never be fully responsible for the human being in front of you. Be aware of staying within your professional remit, and be aware not to ‘take this on’.
Others cannot heal us, they can simply help us heal.
Everything I write and speak about is purely experienced based. Please stay within your professional remit at all times and refer on when necessary.
See our resources page for signposting.