National Eating Disorders Association

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Needing some insight

My sister has an eating disorder going on three years. The thing is, she isn't sooo bad. That's not me in denial. She's definitely too thin, she needs to gain some weight. But she doesn't starve herself completely, nor does she throw up - she eats, and she's been doing so much better the past 6 weeks. She's been eating three meals a day (I think), and isn't as concerned with what she's been eating. But now, she has the chance to be admitted as an in or out patient (not sure which at this moment) at a facility, and I can tell she's unwilling to go through with it. She wants to enjoy her summer. I want that for her too. But I want her to get better, first and foremost. But I'm not even sure if this is the kind of treatment she needs. The menu they provide seems to be less than what she's eating now. She's gained some weight in the last 4 months. Progress is progress, but I can see how hard it is for her to gain weight, on a physical level. How long does it usually take for someone with an ED to fulfill proper weight restoration? I imagine its different for everyone. Do you think she should go in for treatment? Because maybe if she remains diligent, she can recover on her own, with the support of myself and my parents.

I also think going to a therapist is extremely important for her, so she can confront the body image and dysmorphia she's been struggling with for a long, long time. However, she's seen two, both of which seem to not really help. I think its about finding the right person. Would you recommend she talks to someone who has recovered? Like a sponsor of sorts? Where could she find help like that? She's been to a group session, but they have restrictions on what they can talk about as to not trigger anything. I get it, but I think she needs someone she can really be open and honest with, and someone removed from her friend group and family.

I'm just so unsure of everything. I don't know how to be there for her when she complains about the way she looks. I try not to engage with that kind of conversation, but I just never know what to say or what the right thing to say is. Often, she gets mad and upset no matter what I do. She says that I insinuate that she looks "different" aka fat, if I refuse to engage about how she looks, or if I tell her to remember that she doesn't see herself accurately. I try not to take it personally, but I've been having bad anxiety and panic attacks afterwards. I've been very supportive, and she knows that I'm always going to be there for her. I tell her how proud I am of her, and how this is just another battle that she will conquer. But it's taken a big f'ing toll on me. I just feel so bad. I am constantly thinking about it, and I'm so worried about her.

Any insight would be really appreciated.

Dear sistersforever, we would

Dear sistersforever, we would like to let you know that we edited your post to remove specific numbers. You can review our community guidelines here: You or your sister can contact our Information and Treatment Option Helpline to get help with treatment and support options. Helpline number is 1-800-931-2237 and hours are Monday-Thursday 9am-9pm ET, Friday 9am-5pm ET. Thank you and please keep posting!

Dear Sisters

If your sister has continued to gain, over a period of 4 months, that actually is fairly impressive. There's the eating and the weight of course, but the fact that she seems to have been able to persist with gaining for this long seems like the important thing. One thing to remember though, often it doesn't take much for the person to fall back into their old habit. Issues involving the theme of control can put a person back into a spin again.

It's hard to say if she needs a program or not. If she feels that it's not needed, and someone would have to force her to go, then that's something to take into consideration. The control issue, you know ? if it were her choice rather than someone else's, things would probably be better from the control angle.

You are right about the therapist situation. Finding someone who seems to "get it" is going to be important. Talking with someone who's recovered themselves could help too. NEDA may offer something like that, and check their "Help and Support" tab above, as there seems to be some peer-to-peer forums she could access.

" if I refuse to engage about how she looks, " Good Idea ! You don't want to let her bait you into questions about appearance, because it's likely that nothing you say is going to be interpreted correctly. "You look fine" actually means "You look fat". If you say she looks thin, then you are only saying that to try and make her feel better, when what you really mean is that you think she looks fat. There's no way you can win in conversations like this, so you're right about not allowing yourself to get involved in it !

"But it's taken a big f'ing toll on me. I just feel so bad. I am constantly thinking about it, and I'm so worried about her." To be honest, this os how a LOT of people find themselves feeling, so don't get down on yourself if you find yourself feeling worried all the time. It comes with the territory it seems. Frankly, people in your position often get therapy of their own, to help them to deal with the feelings they have, so if you find that these feelings are starting to get in the way of things, and are draining your energy in ways feel like they are taking a toll, it's reasonable to think about getting your own therapy to help deal with that. Again, a lot of people do, so it's not something that's weak or silly to think about.

You can keep writing here too, if it seems to help.

Whatever the case, your sister is fortunate to have a caring person like yourself in her life. Not everyone is always interested in understanding or being supportive, so you really are ahead of a lot of people in that regard. xx

Bob J.


I really appreciate you taking the time to respond in a such an engaged way. I think finding the help that I need too is something I shouldn't brush off. Thanks a lot for your insight.