Last week, the tips I shared focused on being prepared for the events to come at the end of the month if you have an eating disorder. This week the focus is for the family member trying to navigate the well-meaning aunt, grandmother, best friend.
- How to Avoid Conversation Traps with Well Meaning Relatives. As far as the dreaded conversation with the concerned/nosey/well-meaning/rude (take your pick of adjectives) family member who comments or asks about your loved one’s eating habits or looks, transitions will be your best friend. For example:
Well-meaning family member: How is she? (concerned furrowed eyebrows)
You: She’s good. How are you? or She’s good. Did you see this new recipe I’m trying? or She’s good. Did you see I made grandma’s green beans? or She’s good. Did I tell you i just started watching this new television series on Netflix that I love? Do you have Netflix? It’s so much better than cable.
Well-meaning family member: God, she looks so thin.
You: (Saying nothing.) Did I tell you I’m going full out black Friday shopping tomorrow? I’m literally lining up at 6am to buy a television for $5. (or whatever). or (Say nothing and ignore the comment) Hey I’m thinking about going to see Second City’s Holidazed and Confused at Playhouse in the Park for the holidays. I saw them on TV, and it looks so funny. When you directly ignore the comment, it sends a very strong message.
- Don’t Be the One to Bring It Up. If you are the well-meaning family member described above, please do not bring up how much or how little food might be on your loved one’s plate. Please also don’t comment on how their body looks. Seriously, don’t say it looks good, better and for sure not alarming. Really do not comment on the person’s looks. You cannot even say “Your outfit looks great” because you are indirectly saying something about their body. If you just cannot resist paying them a compliment, you can say your hair looks great. Remember that they are in RECOVERY and are feeling the pressure of the holidays, you will only add to it, if you comment on their looks, no matter how well-intended you are.
- Handling the difficult conversations. If you have tried transitions and the person still does not get the hint, then try this. It is called behavioral extinction. Nod when you like what the person is saying, make eye contact and smile. Give no response, not even a nervous smile, and make no eye contact if you don’t like what the person is saying. Look away, then get up and say “It’s time to go do the dishes.” Eventually even an amoeba will learn to stop commenting.
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