No Wellness Wankery

89: How to talk to someone with an eating disorder

November 28, 2023 Lyndi Cohen
No Wellness Wankery
89: How to talk to someone with an eating disorder
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

At just 12 years of age, Jaimee Krawitz struggled with an eating disorder and had no idea how to communicate how she was feeling to her friends and family. It's a tricky conversation for adults, let alone a child! 

Jaimee is now a counsellor who has dedicated her work to transforming the dialogue around eating disorders.

Because what should you say to someone with an eating disorder? What language is helpful?

It is so important we take the time to find out, rather than saying nothing at all and adding loneliness to an already incredibly lonely time.

At the core of her mission lies the belief that language can be a powerful tool to nurture understanding, reduce stigma, and promote positive mental well-being, specifically in the context of eating disorders among young people.

Whether you're a parent, teacher, or healthcare professional, you're sure to find an abundance of practical tips to help you navigate these often challenging conversations.

I'd love you to share this episode with friends and family, widening the network of support to those living with eating disorders.

Want to know more about Jaimee's work?

Hide N Seek, is a non profit organisation dedicated to creating an open and supportive language of conversation, raising awareness, and providing essential resources to caregivers of individuals experiencing eating disorders.

Check her out on Instagram or Facebook

Want to feel more in control around food? My FREE webinar has my top 4 strategies to help you stop overeating.

Try my Back to Basics app FREE for 7 days.
It's got everthing you need to be healthy without dieting at your fingertips.

Looking for more support to feel in control around food? I'd love to support you in my Binge Free Academy

If you don't already - come follow me on the gram at @nude_nutritionist (no nude pics, sorry).

Want to share some feedback or have an idea for an episode, I'd LOVE to hear from you - hit me up at hello@lyndicohen.com

Lyndi Cohen:

Hello everyone and welcome to this week's episode of no Wellness Wankery podcast. I am your faithful host, Lindy Cohen, a dietitian and nutritionist who experienced an eating disorder growing up, and I'd always wish that we could have had better conversations about my eating disorder. I feel like I was undiagnosed for far too long, struggling in silence because the people around me didn't yet know what they should say or what they shouldn't say. So I'm very excited to have today's guest. Her name is Jamie Croetz. Her name is Jamie Croetz and she's a counsellor. She's only just 26 years old, but she's doing amazing things. She's the co-founder of an organization called Hide and Seek, who is a new not-for-profit organization, and the aim is to help people have better conversations around eating disorders. So we don't have experiences like I had when I was growing up. And, like me, Jamie also has personal experience with an eating disorder from the age of 12, and she was diagnosed with an eating disorder and this is a huge reason why she now does what she does as a registered counsellor, having doing the hard work helping people have better conversations around eating disorders. Hey, Jamie, and welcome to the no Wellness Wankery podcast, Jamie.

Jaimee Krawitz:

Croetz, thank you so much for having me, lindy.

Lyndi Cohen:

Cohen, I think it's so fascinating you're doing because it sounds like you have lived experience, having experienced an eating disorder when you were growing up. Can you tell us a bit about why you decided to start Hide and Seek? Where does this all come from?

Jaimee Krawitz:

Jamie Croetz. So Hide and Seek came from an idea that I had after I had experienced an eating disorder when I was 12 years old, when I was younger. I remember at the time that I had no one really to talk to. People didn't know how to talk to me about it. People didn't know how to address the issue. There was such a stigma around the topic of an eating disorder that people kind of shied away. And I remember there was this one clear moment that kind of gave me this idea that when I was younger and this has always stuck with me that when I came back to school after my experience I had taken some time off and someone just staring at me and they were just looking at me and just not knowing what to say and they just paused and I remember that feeling of thinking like, oh my God, is there something completely wrong with me?

Lyndi Cohen:

Jamie.

Jaimee Krawitz:

Croetz. Anyway, fast forwarding 16 years now, I'm now 26. This was at the age of 12. I have released this and it was about two or three years ago before I started working in private practice, because I'm a registered counselor now at the moment I work in private practice and before I started working on this and kind of coming to this idea, I always wanted to do something within the eating disorder field and I always wanted to do something along the lines of communication, because what I had experienced, that was something that really stuck with me and I wish that I had more resources or more acknowledgement or more communication or the skills at the time.

Lyndi Cohen:

Jamie Croetz. So you said, like you turned up to school, the kids your age, your peers, your friends. They had no idea what to say and, as a result, they said nothing. Is that right? And how did that make you feel, Jamie?

Jaimee Krawitz:

Croetz. I think it makes you feel very isolated and I think it makes you feel like you're not really that understood, which can be very detrimental, especially for kids at a young age.

Lyndi Cohen:

Jamie Croetz, I think people are so scared about saying the wrong thing to someone with an eating disorder, or either fear of I don't want to make them feel sad or I don't want to make them feel bad, and therefore they say absolutely nothing. I think that makes us feel, as you said, alone, and I think we have this belief that if we don't talk about an eating disorder it's better. But I actually think not talking about an eating disorder is the problem. So how did you find that? The adults in your life when you're a 12 year old, how did you think? Were they any better than the 12 year old who was staring at you?

Jaimee Krawitz:

Jamie Croetz. Look, I think adults at the time I think obviously adults and just say a caregiver of someone who is looking after you I mean one of their main roles just say if it's a parent and just say my caregivers were my parents at that time. For them, communication and understanding what was going on is a big part of all of this. I mean, thankfully, my mom's in the healthcare system, my parents really understood what to do. But throughout this time I have seen with other people that parents don't know what to do and they don't know what to say and they don't know where to go, and there's a lack of education around this topic as well. And I think, obviously, as a caregiver, you just want whether it's your child, whether it's your friend, whether it's your child, whoever the individual may be, you just want them to be okay. But an eating disorder isn't a quick fix. So often people either remove themselves from the situation because it can be too overwhelming, or they say too much, which completely detracts from the whole issue, and this can actually enhance the issue within themselves as well and it becomes more of an intensified cycle.

Lyndi Cohen:

Sarah Holt. So there is a lot of nuance around this communication. How do we talk to someone with an eating disorder? What are some things that we shouldn't be saying? You did mention there about saying too much. What should we be mindful of not saying?

Jaimee Krawitz:

Sarah Holt. I think focusing on the physical appearance is a huge thing and using words such as you look so skinny or it could be the other side like. You look like you've put on so much weight. You should start going to the gym more or even just focusing on the conversation and being like why are you eating that? Or you shouldn't be eating that and the shoulds and the restriction, whether it be with someone who has lost a lot of weight or someone who may have put on weight, whatever the case may be, focusing on those issues and focusing on the physical appearance isn't something that should be said, because that can really trigger an individual and that adds further damage within the scenario as well.

Lyndi Cohen:

I think for someone who just to explain this as well, let's say you say to someone who's gained a bit of weight as a result of a very essential part of their recovery their eating disorder voice attaches to those words and their eating disorder goes we need to fix this. This is bad, even as someone who doesn't have an eating disorder as well. Commenting on anyone's weight, irrespective of where they are in the eating disorder spectrum, I never think this is a helpful thing to do. One of my friends, when they're a really serious bout of depression, found it really hard to eat and the comments she would get you look amazing, you look so good, you look so skinny she was going I have just been so depressed, I haven't been able to eat, I haven't been able to keep food down. And here you are telling me what, how fabulous I am for feeling the worst I've ever felt in my life. We have to be so mindful not commenting on someone's weight, certainly when they have an eating disorder, and also just never. I just never think it's a good idea to do Absolutely. If in doubt, should we make an appearance based comment. No, I think that's what you're saying, jamie. It's not a helpful thing to be doing.

Jaimee Krawitz:

No, not at all. And it was so interesting because recently I had a conversation with someone and we were talking about the topic of language and she has lost a lot of weight in response to something that's going on mentally. And she said everyone has so much to say to me about I've gone so skinny, or I've lost so much weight, or I'm not eating that much, or you should eat more, you should come out and you should have this, but no one's actually focused on the topic of checking in with me to see if I'm okay, because I've actually just witnessed something that is quite traumatic and it's a response with my eating, is actually a response to trauma. It's actually something that's going on mentally for me and no one has said to me I've noticed that you've been up a quiet lately and you haven't really been yourself. Is there something that's going on that you would want to talk about straight away? People are commenting on my physical appearance, because that's the first thing that you see in someone. That's on the outside, because a lot of people don't always know what's going on on the inside. So comments like that I mean that can flip a whole situation within a second as well.

Lyndi Cohen:

So what you're encouraging is that, instead of talking about how someone looks and those appearance based stuff which I think is the default and how we've all been taught to socialize what we can relearn that but what you're saying to do instead is to say to almost identify what you've noticed about your relationship with them. So you could say I noticed we haven't been connecting as much. I miss you. I feel like I love to know what's going on for you at the moment, because I care about you.

Jaimee Krawitz:

Absolutely, and I think also when you phrase that to someone and you use the I statements, it makes it a lot more personable as well and that forms connection. I mean, as humans, everyone thrives of connection and connecting to people and feeling safe and feeling welcomed and feeling that they can interact with people. And when you do use those statements, like I have noticed, I'm feeling you're not yourself. I have noticed that you've disengaged. That also makes the person feel like, wow, this person is really caring about me. They've noticed a lot about me personally. Maybe this is actually someone who I can talk to and this can actually really save someone down the line physically and mentally, because you're opening up that space for someone and you're developing that personable relationship with someone.

Lyndi Cohen:

And I think it's scary sometimes to have those conversations as a degree of discomfort and not all, but many eating disorders do start for kids and now we know it's happening earlier. It's eating disorder rates are on the rise for boys, for girls, for non-gender conforming kids as well. It's happening at earlier stages, and so what we're really encouraging is not only teachers and parents to have the right way to talk about it, but we're also going. How can the peers and the kids, the friends of this person, know how to have the right conversations? I had many friends who had eating disorders growing up. I had an eating disorder growing up, but some of my friends had anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa. As their friend, I knew the details and their parents didn't know and I never quite understood what was the best thing I should have done in that situation. There was, there were points where I could see their eating disorder was escalating. I knew they were probably doing a really good job of hiding it from their parents and I didn't know what the best way to do. I go to their parents. Do I talk to them first? Any ideas on this? What are your personal thoughts? It's a bit of a tricky one, isn't it?

Jaimee Krawitz:

Well, I think the first thing is having been transparent from the start, during this process as well, and just say, if there is a concern about your friend and you are wanting to throw that to their family as well, I think that is the best way to go about this, because this is someone's health, whether it's like that, and it's also their well-being as well. You know you're coming with a good intention and also phrasing to that person or your friend or whoever maybe, that you're coming from a really good place. You're not here to cause any harm, you're not here to do anything that could cause any damage as well. And I think, when you put it in a setting where it could be, just say you are having this conversation with your friend, whether it's an appropriate time or an appropriate place, and having that conversation to really connect and directly say to your friend I've noticed or you know, not even being like I've noticed you're not eating and I've noticed you've done A, b and C, but really connecting with them, as I said before, focusing on the I statements and saying you know, I am worried about you. I am here to help you. I am starting to notice or I can sense you are not 100% yourself, whatever it may be, but becoming attuned to those I statements I really think is so important within that space as well, because it also makes someone feel like you know this is a really safe space. It doesn't make the person feel embarrassed as well, like we are all watching you and we all have all noticed, because I think a lot of the time as well is when you phrase the sentence to someone or you say you know, I've noticed all these changes within you. At the moment, someone can also feel really embarrassed and a really negative response can come from this as well. I mean, it's a very sensitive topic. At the moment. There's still a huge stigma around having an eating disorder, which is something that is slowly being broken down, but a lot of people can respond in a very angry way as well. But I think the most important thing as well is understanding your friend and understanding how they work as well, and not just you know, obviously we go and we ask people for advice and we can talk doctors and so many health practitioners, but when you really understand your friend and you really understand the person and how they work and then you come up with an approach that's going to suit their needs and align to them. I think that completely changes the situation because it makes someone feel really understood as well.

Lyndi Cohen:

So what you're saying here is it's not, we're not ganging up on them, and I think I probably would have made that mistake when I was young. You know, in year five, all of our friends would talk about oh, if you notice so, and so they're not really eating so much. What are we going to do about that? We all feel really worried about them. We all felt too scared to go up to her and tell her. So, as a result, we all got together and we all had a conversation with her at the same time, and I could see how that would have felt really like it was us versus her, how it was like, you know, all these people coming to her with this big problem and would have been a really much kinder way to approach it would have been. I could have gone up to her and said, hey, I've noticed this. And rather than us having these conversations behind her back, scared to approach her, scared to say the wrong thing, and so not doing it until it was ready, becoming more and more of a problem. So I think that's what you're saying here so we can have these hard conversations, but not wait until it becomes even more of a problem. Not gang up, not make someone feel even more ashamed about something they feel already very siloed about, and so I guess this is such a huge part about eating disorder. Eating disorders are something we hide. We feel shame around, we feel embarrassed around, we feel excitement about. You know the ways in which we hide it as well. I think there's a general thrill that can be that part of what keeps an eating disorder going is the challenge of how do I keep hiding this, and so we don't want that person to feel like they've been caught out, got your moment. That's certainly not what it is, and so I agree with you the coming with those eye statements. That's such a nice way to be thinking about it.

Jaimee Krawitz:

Yeah, yeah, and I think also going back to the reason why I had started this as well is because, as I said, during the COVID time, the eating disorder rates just accelerated immensely and they started becoming new trends at schools that I was hearing about, about there used to be a topic called the Belime Club, or there used to be a competition on people who would only eat one apple a day, and then it became a whole competition and this it was like there was a ripple effect and how this impacted people. You know different people and this is why I went up this journey and I really wanted to discover what can I do to say if it's in a school environment or whether it is at home, to change what happens behind closed doors and really work with the wording on how we approach different situations and what we hear from different people and the comments people say, because a lot of the time when we're having conversations with people and people say their thoughts or people say their beliefs, they can tint one's belief in a way to be like, oh, wow, they said this, so maybe I should be thinking this or maybe I should be acting in another way and people who aren't extremely educated within eating disorders, within the signs, within the symptoms, even myths and misconceptions that can happen regarding an eating disorder, One can be really influenced, especially at a young age. I think these different concepts and these factors of including appropriate information even within a family as well, when you go home and you're having conversations with your whole family, I mean, it impacts a parent, it could impact your sibling, it could impact anyone around you as well, and it's the little things that actually make the biggest difference down the line.

Lyndi Cohen:

So everyone listening. Jamie is the founder, the starter of Hyden's Seek, which is a not-for-profit, and the purpose of Hyden's Seek is to help give you the tools to have better conversations to people who you think might have an eating disorder, who are experiencing eating disorder, so that we can change the way we have these conversations. They need to be better and Jamie is there to support you, giving you the words, and you have actually a free resource. What I'll do is I'll leave a link in the show notes to Hyden's Seek website and you can go get e-book all about giving the right language if you are in the situation. Can we talk about parents for a moment? So you mentioned that your parents dealt with your eating disorder or supported you through your eating disorder really well. From your perception, what is it that parents could do? Let's say we go. I fear my child is developing an eating disorder, has an eating disorder, or perhaps we're already in recovery. What are some things that you know? What would be the first steps that a parent goes? I'm feeling really scared. What do I do?

Jaimee Krawitz:

Well, I think the first part I mean the thing about an eating disorder is, if I go back a little bit, just a bit of education around this there's six different stages of change in the eating disorder recovery process. There's pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, and then there's termination. And even from the very start of the pre-contemplation, the initial stages, I think the most important thing for a parent to do is to stay calm and compassionate during the situation and to create a very safe and supportive environment for whether it be their child or whoever the individual may be, to express their feelings. I think as well, it's also the parent or the caregiver should not be afraid to address changes that have occurred within the individual and what they've been going through at the moment. I think that's really important as well.

Lyndi Cohen:

What do you mean by that? Do you mean so, if we notice? I notice you've been hiding food? What does that look like?

Jaimee Krawitz:

I think either I've noticed you've been hiding food, or I've noticed that you've been a lot more quiet, or I've noticed you haven't been your usual self.

Lyndi Cohen:

So once again coming back to those more personality and behavior things, as opposed to the food habits.

Jaimee Krawitz:

Right, yeah, absolutely, because also at this point, when your parent is having this conversation to you, it's also encouraging the individual to use their voice and to be able to say, okay, yeah, I actually have been feeling abiancy or these things have been crossing my mind and I have been having some negative thoughts lately and I have been having some worries and concerns. So, phrasing those comments and noticing the difference as well, I mean it shouldn't be apprehensive to notice these differences as well, because this is actually saying like, hang on, there actually could be a bit of an issue here and this actually could lead to early prevention and identification as well, which a lot of people do miss, and this sometimes can lead to a really bad stage. And this is where things can kind of accelerate down the line. And to have these conversations and to be open at an early stage to be like, okay, this is something that has been crossing my mind when can I turn to for help or maybe who would be the first person to talk to about this? A it's creating an open space for the individual and B it's creating a conversation for the person to feel hurt, either whether they can speak out loud about a situation or just guidance and just a very, very open space for the person to just feel comfortable to speak.

Lyndi Cohen:

I love this reminder with everyone with eating disorders the earlier we can intervene, the earlier the better. It is such an important thing if we're noticing those earlier symptoms and it's not going to the point that they're eating disorders getting worse and worse. So being brave and stepping in when we're noticing these things, I think it's very important to do. I think the parents as well can kind of be a very compassionate person that hopefully a compassionate person that you can speak to with your child. Remembering as well, with eating disorders it's not really about the food I know it presents as food. But what's behind an eating disorder? It's poor self-esteem, it's trauma and a response to that trauma. It's a way of coping with hard emotions, with difficulty, and the way we see that presented is through the control, the restriction, the compensation or the binging on food. And so I guess this just comes back to this idea of we're not addressing these food habits. But I'm noticing this in the way that you've been feeling, because remembering that's really what's at the core of it here. So if we can sidestep the just the way it's presenting and get to the core of it, then I think that is quite powerful, which I think is what you're saying.

Jaimee Krawitz:

I mean it can impact a whole family as well. I mean when there's just like siblings involved and sometimes parents. It does link back to education as well, because parents don't know what, they may not know what to say and they may not be educated themselves as well. And that's why I also encourage for parents to also take a moment and to actually be like hang on a second. I actually may need my own help as well and I may need an outlet, because these outlets can take me either to amazing resources. I mean, I know there's unbelievable organisations out there, like the Eating Disorders family Australia. They help the whole family as well, as well as the individual, and there are people there who are wanting to help everyone involved as well, because it also can have an impact on the parent. It could have the impact on the siblings as well, and then I mean the parents could be concerned. Could this impact my other child if I address this now? Could this add friction in any relationships? But it's kind of just creating that open environment to communicate with one another and within the family. How is everyone feeling about things and addressing things that sometimes we can tend to easily avoid?

Lyndi Cohen:

I think that is such a beautiful part of this equation and a hard part of this equation. Just reflecting on my experience, once I had a diagnosable eating disorder or had anxiety. It was almost like I knew, other people knew, but then no one ever talked about it again and I always had this feeling. I wish someone had said hey, how's your anxiety been recently? How's it been feeling for you? But there was never a conversation. It's almost like people were just avoided ever talking about it because they were so scared about making me more anxious, but all it did is made me feel alone. So if you're going, I don't know if I should be asking them regularly about it. I think you probably should be asking them regularly to make sure that you're still care. It's one thing to have the initial conversation, but then if you never have that conversation again and it feels like they were feeling good about it and then that it's kind of a disconnect, so you can even ask them is there something I can talk to you about? And because I do really care about how you're feeling, can we keep connecting over this? And if the answer is yes and likely, they're going to go? Yes, I do want someone who's looking out for me, then ideally you keep coming back to hey, how have you been feeling recently? I know last week we had this conversation. I want to see how you're feeling this week and so it's not just a blip in the pan, one conversation. This is an ongoing thing that we need to keep making sure someone knows they're continuing to not be left alone and be isolated in this experience.

Jaimee Krawitz:

And going off from what you have just said as well, even using the phrases I don't understand what you're going through and I want to be there with you and I want to be by your side and, even using phrases, saying let me know how I can be there for you. You know, not all the time everyone is going to understand what everyone's going through. I mean, we all are human, we all individuals, we all have our own journeys and even if people are experiencing an eating disorder at the same time or at different stages of their life, their journey and their experience is still different as well. And to use the phrase to say right now, I'm not really understanding what you're going through, but I would love to be there for you on this journey, I mean that changes so much as well. I mean, even for me personally at the time, not many people were going through or from what I know of, and I had amazing, I did have amazing friends around me who stood by me and they weren't going through it, but they had said like we are by your side and we're with you, and that really accelerated my recovery All people around me as well, and that's something that really stuck with me is to really point that you may be in different stages, but you're still not alone during this process.

Lyndi Cohen:

Jamie, if I've got goosebumps just hearing you say all that, and it makes me feel very optimistic about the future that there are people like you who are doing this very important work so we can start to change that stigma and have such much better conversations around eating disorders than we currently are. For want to understand your current goals, start working within schools and hopefully providing education, which is so needed. What are you working on?

Jaimee Krawitz:

Why is it so important and just reiterating what it is that you're trying to do so at the moment, I'm trying to build an educational program that is going to be directed at educating the educators at schools. My main focus is on schools at the moment and down the line. I mean, I would love this to be within businesses and other organizations within the community too, but the main focus, what I'm trying to build into schools at the moment, is teaching teachers how to teach this topic on how to support someone who could be experiencing an eating disorder, and my main theme is to do with language and delivering this content within four different sections. So it would be delivering signs and symptoms, myths and misconceptions, prevention and then hope and recovery, and it can be delivered however teachers like. But I want to get across for young kids and for teachers to understand the early identification, to be educated and learn how to respond to someone who is struggling, because these are the little points and these little factors that can make the biggest difference along the way.

Lyndi Cohen:

I think that's incredible. I really excited and I wanted to support you and, if anyone listening, if you are a parent, a teacher, if you work in an organization, if you are a nurse or a healthcare professional, if you could see how this could fit into your organization, into your school, what would do is, in the show notes you'll find a link to hide and seek. You can reach out to Jamie and see whether or not this is something you could organize at wherever it is that you work and have that impact and that change, wherever you are, in your little pocket of the world in Australia at the moment, as far as I understand, jamie, and that's what you're working on. Jamie, I loved having you on this conversation. Thank you for having a great conversation with us so we can all have better chats with the people we care about.

Jaimee Krawitz:

Thank you so much for the opportunity and thank you for letting me share my story and speak about hide and seek. I feel very, very grateful and lucky, so thank you so much for all the work that you're doing as well.

Lyndi Cohen:

I really wish I had this information when I was growing up, when I was a kid. I'm so glad that you've now listened to this episode and you've got these skills. If you know someone who I don't know, maybe the young person who might be exposed to having friends who have an eating disorder, perhaps this is a really good podcast to send their way A parent who you know might be in the thick of it, this is a resource for them. Please do share no Wellness Wankery with your friends and family. I'm certainly hoping to keep no Wellness Wankery alive and going. If I hear nice things from you, good feedback, then it definitely does give me an endorsement to know that I should keep going.

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