I have a close friend who is EXACTLY like this. She recently got into a huge fight with her new personal trainer (who she absolutely cannot afford to go to) because working out is causing her to gain muscle which makes her feel “fat”. She called me sobbing, which unfortunately happens a lot for varying reasons.
Friendship with people with eating disorders can be very challenging because IMO people with this kind of anxiety aren’t very nice (myself included- I’ve fallen in and out of eating disorders throughout my past). They are very judgy, they constantly seek validation, and when they feel like they are unable to control something diet or weight related, they can be extremely nasty. When these things happen I try to remember
* They judge other people because these are the unreasonable standards they hold themselves to
* Every single thing you say about their appearance or anybody else’s will be recorded. It’s honestly healthier and safer just to learn not to do it around them and not to give in to their questions because they won’t stop. For example:
Orthorexic: “Does this shirt make me look fat?”
Orthorexic: “Really? So why did you say two weeks ago that pink was a really unflattering color on you? You and I have the same body type”
[this is a real example]
Orthorexic: *sends 2 photos* “Do I look like I lost weight in the second photo?”
Me: I don’t know, please stop I hate these questions.
Orthorexic: “No it’s fine it’s a good thing. I think I lost weight. Do I look thinner?”
Me: I guess umm, yes you look thinner.
Orthorexic: “I lied, the second photo was actually from last month. The first photo is from today. I KNEW I GOT FATTER!”
^^^It really helps to not make ANY judgements about physical appearance, which is surprisingly hard to do. Even positive remarks are twisted and turned into personal judgements (I’ve heard “my boyfriend thinks Taylor Swift is really attractive… that means he only likes super tall skinny girls. I need to lose weight.).
Even if your friend isn’t saying these things out loud, I’d bet a lot of money these are the kinds of things she is thinking.
* If/When your friend becomes irritable and not nice over trivial things, try to remember that no matter how trivial the trigger seems, to her, it means her whole sense of self worth and her value to other people is crumbling. The level of anxiety she is feeling is SUPER high.
The thought process is sort of like:
Healthy Person: “I sprained my ankle can’t work out”–> “I’ll take it easy for a few weeks”
Orthorexic: “I sprained my ankle and can’t work out”–> “I’m going to gain at least 5-10lbs–> “My clothes won’t fit right and I’ll look hideous, I’ll feel hideous for the 2-3 weeks it’ll take me to lose the weight after I recover”–> “I had a party planned for next weekend, now it’s ruined because I’ll be miserable”–> “I won’t perform well at work because I’ll be miserable, plus I’ll look fat so people will realize how much I suck”–> “By the time I bounce back it’ll probably be 4 months from now”–> “There goes my summer & my opportunity for a promotion”–> “This is actually the worst thing to ever happen to me”–> “Nobody else understands why this is so awful”
It’s kind of a constant cycle of looking 10 steps ahead with really cynical perspective & feeling invalidated because of course nobody else predicts the unreasonable outcomes that they see.
Not eating food that your friend has prepared herself is a HUGE deal to her because she’s already calculated all the crazy impacts it will have on her life for a very long time.
“No I don’t want to eat that ‘Ruin Your Weekend’ sandwich, how could you even ask me that?”
^^^ This totally doesn’t excuse the attitude- we still need to be held accountable for what we say/do. But I think you can be most helpful to her if you understand where she is coming from.
* I hope that helps somewhat. I know I kind of rambled. It’s just between myself and my own close friend, I’ve gotten really familiar with eating disorders.