9% of the population is affected by eating disorders. You are not alone. It is common for eating disorders to develop in teenage years through young adulthood. After realizing you may have an eating disorder, you have decided it’s important to tell your mom. Maybe mom can help connect you to a treatment center. Maybe you are worried about her figuring out before you talk with hter. Maybe you just want her support through the process. This article will help you decide how to best have that conversation with your mother. Because eating disorders develop at an early age, parents, stereotypically mothers play a critical role in the healing journey. While challenging, embarrassing, shameful, uncomfortable, scary, and difficult, talking about your eating disorder with your mom is a key step in creating your support team.
Having an eating disorder can feel very scary when you think about telling your mom about your situation. It’s very possible to feel overwhelmed by the idea of talking about your eating disorder with your mom. There may be fears that your mom will be mad at you. You may worry that your mother will judge you about having an eating disorder. You might feel embarrassed to have your mom see you like this or even like a disappointment. If your mom has often provided support for you in hard times in your life, then this is no exception. However, moms often provide a great support whenever we are going through hard times in our life, and this is no exception. As young people, we rely on the adults in our life for emotional, physical, and financial support. Having support through your eating disorder is crucial to ensuring your recovery. Therefore, it is incredibly important to bring your mom into the loop.
When It’s Not Safe to Talk To Your Mom
Sometimes moms are not the people we disclose our eating disorders to. If you fear that you will be punished when you tell your mom about your eating disorder, she is not a safe person to talk to about this subject. If you believe telling your mom would cause you physical harm, do not tell your mom. You could try your dad, or other caregiver. Sometimes talking with a therapist can help you find a way to talk with a mom. If you live in Pennsylvania and you are 14 years old, you can talk to a therapist without the consent or knowledge of a parent. Sometimes people tell their parents that they want to talk to a therapist to help them deal with their emotions, and neglect to mention the eating disorder part. Other options of people to talk with is a teacher and your doctor. The point is that while this article is about talking about your eating disorder with your mom, there are many other types of adults who you could talk with.
Common Worries about Talking About Your Eating Disorder With Your Mom
There are a lot of worries people may have when thinking about talking to your mom about your eating disorder. Some people may worry that by telling their mom, their mom may blame herself for you having the eating disorder. That belief is an oversimplification. Eating disorders are caused by a variety of factors including biology, genetics, social influences, family influences, and media influences, to only name a few. Therefore, you can explain to your mom that this is a condition caused by a myriad of sources and that she is not solely responsible. You can also set a boundary with your mom around your eating disorder so she keeps these feelings to herself. They are not yours to be responsible for, nor are you expected to talk her out of the feelings. By setting this boundary, you can protect your emotional space and experience in the eating disorder from outside factors. You may worry that by telling your mom, you will lose a sense of privacy. For example, there may feel like there is more focus on your eating habits than there had been before. While things may feel scrutinizing, your mom may be a good support for you to better understand your nutrition and eating habits. Having outside sources of support is necessary when healing from eating disorders.
Ways to Prepare for Talking About Your Eating Disorder with Your Mom
When preparing to tell your mom about your eating disorder, there are a few things you can do to make the process easier. Below you will find a list of things to do in order to make this process of talking about your eating disorder with your mom easier.
Make sure to set a time and space aside to talk with your mom where there will be no distractions.
It can also be beneficial to make sure nothing is scheduled after the talk so that there is no rush or haste to fully explaining what is going on. If there is something scheduled after the talk, you may not be able to get all of your feelings out fully or create a plan of where to go next.
If you are feeling nervous talking to your mom about your eating disorder, it can be useful to make a bullet point list of certain topics you would like to cover in your talk. That way, you have a plan and not get off track based on conversation or questions that may develop.
Ask your mom to hold her questions until the end to ensure that you get to say everything you need to say without having your train of thought interrupted.
Make sure to take care of yourself prior and after talking with your mom. Routine things such as getting enough sleep the night before, making sure you eat something the day of, and drinking water is essential to making sure you are in the headspace to have this conversation. Self-care prior and after is beneficial as well. Think of activities that help calm you down or soothe you, such as lighting candles, taking a bath, or reading a book. These will be good ways to destress before and after the talk.
Develop a plan for if the talk does not go in a productive way. This could look like an exit plan for taking physical space from your mom if possible, such as leaving your house for a bit if you are allowed to do so. It could be also developing something to say for wanting to take a break such as, “This talk is not moving in the direction that feels helpful for me. I need to take a break to gather my thoughts and feelings, so both of us can have a productive conversation.”
Talking to Your Mom About Your Eating Disorder
Now that it is time to talk to your mom about your eating disorder, let’s look at a few key ideas for how to have this conversation. No one way is more “right” than the other. Choose what fits you based off of preference and your communication style.
One method may be to explain the eating disorder from when it first started developing up until the present moment. Using this type of framework can help your mother understand the events and the progression that have contributed to your current state. It may be more logical for you as well to talk about your disorder in this way. In times of high stress, like talking to your mom about your eating disorder, it can be easy to forget events and important details. Therefore, using a sequential order can be beneficial to make it easier on you in explaining the entire process of what has happened.
Laying Out Physical Changes
One of the most intense parts of eating disorders is the way that it affects you physically. Depending on what your eating disorder experience has been, you may have physical symptoms that have been appearing. Some common physical symptoms can be significant weight changes, tiredness, cold extremities, hair falling out, dizziness, lack of menstruation for people who menstruate, and fuzzy hair growth, amongst many others. Physical changes are directly observable, which can help your mother see exactly how this disorder has been affecting you. Bringing attention to these physical changes can help your mom directly see how this disorder has physically hurt you. Even physical changes that may feel obvious to you are important to bring up, as parents sometimes get distracted with their own lives.
Explaining Your Emotions
When talking to your mom about your eating disorder, it can be helpful to explain the emotions behind your eating disorder. Your emotions may seem clear to you, but it can be harder for your mom to understand what you’re experiencing. For some examples, think about the feelings you are experiencing in relation to your body, your eating habits, or your realization of your eating disorder. Some common emotions can be guilt, shame, nervousness, disgust, anxious, or frustration, though there are lots more. No emotion is the “right” way to feel. Describing your personal experience helps your mom understand how emotionally the eating disorder is affecting you. This can also be explaining the thoughts you have around food. Saying out loud what sort of things go through your mind when thinking about eating or while actually eating will help your mom understand your experience.
To make the process easier for you, below are some starter sentences. Feel free to use these to begin a conversation you can then input your own experiences into. Feel free to adapt these sentences to your experience. By no means are these the “right” things to say, but they are possible ways to begin the conversation.
I have been struggling lately with my eating habits and would like to talk to you about how it’s affecting me so I can get support moving forward.
My eating is not what it normally is, and I think it is getting harmful. Can I talk to you about it so we can figure out the best way to address this?
I’m worried about my (insert physical symptom). I think it’s related to the struggle I’ve felt recently around eating.
Getting Support in Your Journey
Are you interested in learning more about how to manage your eating disorder? Then schedule an appointment with me or another one of the skilled and knowledgeable Center for Growth therapists. You can self schedule an in-person or virtual individual or couples therapy session or by calling the Center for Growth at (215) 922-5683 x 100.
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