National Eating Disorders Association

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How to approach a defensive situation

Hi everyone,

My sister has had at least an ED for some years now, but now it has gotten worse. Looking backwards I guess I fell (and everyone around) on the typical mistake of “maybe this is not an issue, maybe is not that bad and it will go away”, but yeah hindsight is 20/20. She was 20 years old when she started to lose some weight by exercising a bit too much, had a average of below average BMI at a time which made me think that something was off BUT she was 20, so I thought to myself (and again everyone around) “well, she’s 20, what 20 year old doesn’t want to get fit even if she doesn’t quite need it, have a good time with friends, find a boyfriend and to trendy things?” Well, she lost a good amount of weight and stayed that way for a couple of years, gaining some weight year after year.

Fast forward to the present (she’s 34) and suddenly she gained weight, maybe like 50% of her starting weight, which is not a bad thing, but to all of us around her, it contrasted with her normal (or past) weight so it caught our attention. At the beginning I thought, well, normally the majority of us gain weight as we age, nothing wrong there, she’s healthy so everything good right?

Well, long story short, it turns out she’s been having some serious ED (I don’t exactly what at this point), she’s seeing a psychologist and a psychiatrist, and she’s on some medication (from the psychiatrist) and all these weight gain she has it’s after the result of throwing up and some long fastings. Well I wish it would end there but no, apparently what fueled (or maybe is the root) at least all of this is that she was being sexually repressed because she’s lesbian but afraid to come out, and this 10 year long relationship she has (and with whom she has a daughter with) makes it the more the difficult to acept, deal and process.

All of this information I mentioned is information I’ve gathered after some months, many many attempts to talk to her and piecing together information from here and there from all of us around her. In reality, it is extremely hard to talk to her, she’d get upset incredibly fast and with no warning at all and say things like “I’m tired of thinking/talking about this” in a very defensive way that shuts down the conversation. In general it’s a very hostile/tense situation where she doesn’t clearly talk to anyone about her situation, like I said, I don’t know what ED she’s experiencing or what medication is taking. Even at first it shocked me to learn that she’s seeing both a psychologist and a psychiatrist, which made me think that her situation is that dire she needed both. What can I do in this situation? How can I approach her (or anyone) to say “hey I’m here for you to help, let’s talk”.

Lately, the way I’m trying to approach her is helping her with Daughter whenever and whatever way I can. Normally it is when she has to go to the office (she works 80/20 mostly from home) or when goes to her therapy sessions. I’m good with kids so it’s something that I really can do and enjoy. She doesn’t feel comfortable now telling her daughter she’s having issues and that she has to go to session so I’d normally take the role of “hey here’s your fun uncle, how about we do this and this while mom does some chores?” Anyways, these past weeks helping her with her daughter has enabled me to be nearer and at least talk more with her, even if it’s not very deep or meaningful topics, I take it as a good progress.

Well, how should I approach her? It would be discouraging to see all this time and effort to get closer to her go to waste because I made a “book example” of how not to do it. Does anyone has had an experience similar to this where her sexual repression might be the source of her ED? Should I talk to her about her ED or her repressions?

Any comment would be greatly appreciated.
Be safe, thanks.

Ways to support

Hi Sanchez, we are so sorry to hear that your sister has been struggling, but it is awesome she has you in her life. It's great that you are wanting to help and support her, even though it is a difficult topic to discuss. If you click on the tab "Help & Support" you can click on "How Do I Help?" where you can find information on some ways to start a conversation with her. We hope you find the support you are looking for and keep it up with your sister! 

Thanks, yeah that's one of

Thanks, yeah that's one of the places I looked first, didn't find something specific to my case , and yes I know all cases are different and very specific but I guess I was looking for a prompt answer. I feel much better now with this, thanks for your help :)


Honestly, it sounds like you are doing a good job already. If she knows that you have an idea of what her issues are, then things like "I imagine that things might be rough now" is probably all that you need to say. If she feels like taking things further with you, then fine. If not, then at least she knows that you're still on her side.
Plus stepping in when she's off to her sessions shows her that you are supportive of her endeavors in that realm as well.
Otherwise stuff like this is just difficult. If there were magic words, or magic approaches, trust me; we'd know them by now.
So yeah, sometimes it's simply the "being there" that counts for a lot, and it sounds to me like you're doing a good job with that.

Thanks. Yeah now that I re

Thanks. Yeah now that I re-analyzed the situation I see it in a better light, I think writing it down in the first place helped me A LOT... I guess it organized my thoughts. And now that I'm re-reading it makes me feel better. I was afraid things were not under control and that I was missing time to step in and stop that "event" or "moment" it should not happen at all, what moment? I don't know, I guess it was all fear talking inside me. Now that I think about it I believe it was the original shock I got when I found about all this and I had never stopped to reflect on it (as in seat down and write it down like I did here).

Yeah, so simple yet I hadn't reached that level, yeah she knows that I have an idea of what's going on with her so telling phrases like the one you mentioned should get the message across of "Hey, at least I have an idea of how tough your life is right now AND I'm here whenever you wanna talk about it and if not that's an acceptable option too".