Thanks so much for your thoughts and the info, ladies, this is really helpful, especially the perspectives from those of you who have had eating disorders yourselves. I do think that she has an ED. Not only because of what I described above, but also because of times when I have seen her eat unfathomable amounts of food (going back to a buffet for 3 servings) and the fact that I have seen her weight go up and down between extremes 2 times in the 4 years that i’ve known her.
I do think that talking to her about it will probably be a real challenge for me because she and I haven’t always had the best relationship. It was really difficult for her to “let go” of her brother (my DH) when he got engaged and married. They used to do a lot together, and over time that became less and less as he and I started dating, got serious, etc. She really resented me in the beginning as someone who posed a threat to her bond with her brother and the tension was often palpable. We’ve made some big strides towards progress in recent months, but due to the fact that she’s had such a difficult time accepting me into her familiy, I kinda feel like I shouldn’t be the one to talk to her . . . .
Her dad (my FIL) has expressed concern about her lack of eating and says she locks herself into her room alone on the weekends. (She’s in her early 30s, lives at home with her parents, and doesn’t really have friends outside of family). Her dad keeps emailing articles on anorexia to the entire family, so I think he’s indirectly trying to address it, but she has a horrible relationship with him and doesn’t trust him, so she basically brushes off any expressions of concern he makes.
My MIL has also become very figure conscious even though she is in her 60s. She is skipping lunch with SIL and makes negative comments about “fat people” and the need to watch her figure all the time. When I told them skipping lunch won’t work for me, they told me “that’s ok, everyone has a different eating pattern” which is an excuse to try to normalize skipping lunch, from my perspective.
DH says they always ate lunch when he was growing up and this is a new thing… The food culture in DH’s family is just really uncomfortable to be around. They make it so awkward to simply eat lunch!
At the end of the day, I think that DH would probably be the best one to talk to her, as he knows of FILs concerns and some of the concerns that I pointed out (I said I was concerned about her eating only small portions of fruit for breakfast and often nothing for lunch). But i don’t think he actually wants to talk to her about it because (as he tells me) their relationship tends to be more like “buddies” and they don’t often go into emotional heart-to-heart stuff. I think he is horrifed about bringing up this type of topic with her.
I know there’s really nothing I can do to *make* her want recovery. After living with several housemates who had EDs during my undergrad, I know that it can cause long-term damage and even heart problems, and I hate to just stand by and say nothing while SIL gets worse. (It seems like that is what her family is doing;.)
For those of you who recovered, what finally got through to you? What worked?