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What to say to sister with eating disorder/issues. Help.(15 Posts)
DSis has always been desperate to be looked after by others. Very competitive about illness and injury as a way of vying for parental esteem, from about age 10 on. Also brought up by mother to see a lot of her self worth as being tied to her beauty and compliments from others about the beauty.
Now in her 40s she is obsessive about weight, does 4 outings a week rowing & many hours at home on the erg, weighs far too little, is controlling and obsessive about food and appearance. Most of her conversation is about her health ("my doctor pleads with me to put on 10kg" "Mum said she was really worried about me"), dedication ("other people in my rowing crew are so fat and lazy"), appearance ("my hair is just too thick and wavy, it's such a pain having to go to the hairdresser so often" "it's such a trial being able to find clothes that fit, children's clothes are just too short, I had to get this dress made for me" "do you think vanity sizing is getting worse? Size 6is for fat people these days").
Every time we visit at Christmss she spends the whole time making unsubtle digs about my (normal) weight, (normal) hair, (normal) clothes. Mother joins in, delighted that she has trained Dsis so well in the art of subtle virtue signalling
aka passive aggressive bullshit. It is tiresome in the extreme, and really sadly they have trained my niece to join in too. She is bring brought up in a thoroughly toxic environment. If I say anything other than agreeing with them all that they are beautiful and the world is full of fat lazy ugly plonkers, they all get upset and accuse me of being fat, lazy, ugly and jealous. But if I agree then they "subtly"point out why I obviously have no insight, willpower or self-worth because I am fat, lazy and ugly. Basically I can't win in these conversations.
Dsis' husband and our father are both enablers who like their women beautiful
and too busy with trivia to ever contradict them. So they are no use when I attempt to say DNiece's upbringing is going astray and Dsis really needs help.
This sounds like i am jealous of DSis. I'm not, I think her status as mother's golden child has turned her into a massively insecure adult with a lot of issues.
Anyone got any insight or advice?
Staying away isn't an option, much as I'd like to...
I recognise this have you posted before?
I don't think there's much you can do but draw back, TBH.
Not for a few years! Situation is worse than ever though. Sister extremely underweight, though still managing to row so not quite immediate candidate for ED ward yet. Mother & Dsis praising 9yo niece for not eating breakfast so she wont be fat like her friends, etc....
Awful for your poor DN, but unless you're comfortable reporting it as emotional abuse, which probably won't get far, I don't see what you can realistically do.
Does anyone who has had an ED have anything to suggest?
I feel useless in this situation. Can't get anyone to take my viewpoint seriously (other than the vehemence with which Dsis, mother & DN fight back if they feel threatened). Don't know who Dsis' GP is, and she may still be "doctor shopping" ie getting the initial hit of GP's concern over her weight but then not going through with any plans to fix anything.
Has your sister ever been diagnosed/treated for an eating disorder? If you have never had an honest conversation with her where she admitted that she has a problem I don’t think you are going to be able to get through to her now.
Just do your best to demonstrate a healthy attitude to your niece. Don’t get drawn into their games. You survived your upbringing without buying into it all, maybe she can too.
OwdFerNowt, I don't know if she has ever been diagnosed. She has been displaying utterly dysfunctional behaviours round food and appearance consistently for about 10 years now, but on and off since teenage years.
I don’t know where’s best to start with your DN - hopefully someone else will - but with personal experience, unfortunately an ED sufferer has to not only acknowledge their situation but actually actively want help for it before anything stands a chance of getting through.
Could you flag it with DN's school? It might help them to have some context and it is the sort of topic which might be covered in PSHE.
She might have a school logo on photos if you are not sure which school she attends.
The suggestion to flag with niece's school is excellent. I would also consider a letter to niece's GP. These should be safeguarding concerns but with current provision/thresholds are unlikely to be picked up. It would be awful to ignore and watch this inflicted on the next generation. Your family sounds really toxic. Is stepping back an option?
I have anorexia, it can make me go off on the deep end of people try and approach it, I was first diagnosed at 8 when my parents took me to the drs.
Anyway, www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk (don’t know if the link will work) are amazing - they’re really good with sufferers and their family and there’s a phone line for your sister to if she agrees she needs help.
Let the school know your concerns if you can, but talk positively to your niece about food too. Talk about the energy breakfast gives you to get through the day and how good for you veggies are, and how meat/protein makes you strong, and bread and pasta keep you full up, etc.
The other thing is to try to stop them doing a number on you - easier said than done - but basically make it boring for them to criticise you. Ignore it every time, and don't ever engage in conversations about weight or food with them. Just tell your niece your opinion, let get see you enjoying food, and don't engage further.
Ultimately your sister and mother have got to this age and they know there's a problem - that's why their bolstering themselves with snide comments and all the crap about the doctor. You can be there when they are ready but EDs are viscous and breaking through one is impossible without action from the person. I suspect if you try all you'll get is "oh my sister is always so worried about how slim I am!".
Thanks for the suggestions.
Dipping - I'll talk to BEAT. Do you have any words of wisdom on what, if anything, I could say that might get through sufficiently to help my sister, mother or niece (or BIL or father)?
Flagging it with the school is both potentially very fraught and probably quite a good idea.
Unfortunately I’m not much help on what you could actually say to her, I wouldn’t directly mention her weight if you want to say something though as it can make her more competitive in regards to losing more weight. I’d probably talk to BIL see what he thinks if he’s noticed any other particular behaviour that’s worrying, beat are excellent they give advice on approaching the subject for different ages and types of eating disorders.
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