When do I call in a wellness check on my disordered friend?
A biased guide from a former “disordered friend,” perpetual self-harm observer, eternal fixer-not-listener
tw: abuse, self-harm, eating disorders
I hope this advice request finds you well! This question is less about fitness per se, and more about how to talk to people about a “fitness journey”.
A very sweet girl I know from university, who I wouldn’t necessarily consider my close friend, is nonetheless my “close friend” on Instagram. The other day she posted something about “taking control of her body”, doing a Chloe Ting ~summer shred~, and a desire to lose body fat.
I relish an opportunity to talk about MY fitness journey, so I jumped in her DMs to let her know about strength training, and to suggest she might also like to include Megsquats and Soheefit in her content diet.
I left it there because I wanted her to feel like she could come to me for questions. Today however, I wake up and check my Instagram story, and I’m almost positive she is trying to eat 855 Cals a day.
You don’t need me to tell you that number is ill-advised at best, downright dangerous at worst. My question is, how do I talk to her about it? Should I talk to her about it? A part of me wants to call in a wellness check, because I feel like such a low number is getting into danger territory. See something say something, you know? But maybe I have to let this sweet girl make her own mistakes - her body won’t let her sustain that number for very long regardless.
Yours in strength,
I hesitate a little to make this about me. But to the extent you are, no offense, making this about you, and we all tend to make these types of situations somewhat about ourselves, I’m going to do it anyway, because I think it will be instructive.1
I often wonder how my life would have been different if someone had actually really tried to talk me out of the way I was living in my most disordered days. Not someone who was just “worried about me” in an abstract way. But imagine someone who could make hypothetically perfect scientific arguments, the types of arguments I try to make now, to convince me that what I was doing was not only harmful, but self-undermining; someone who could really powerfully and flawlessly contend with my capacity to argue and justify and defend. Would they have gotten through to me? Would I have cared?
Many signs point to no. As I’ve written about before, part of my whole constructed disordered eating existence involved clinging to a kind of exceptionalism: “Maybe you think eating is more important than not being fat. But in my personal moral calculus, I’d say you just lack discipline, whereas I will (or want to think I will, or place a lot of value in believing I will) do WHATEVER it takes to be thin.” That kind of thinking, while detached from reality, would have taken the air out of a lot, a lot, a lot of practical arguments against the way I was going about things.
I also had no baseline for a meaningfully good relationship with my body and food. I literally didn’t know and had no reason to believe things could be better. But I did have lots and lots of celebrity trainers and trendy diet pushers telling me my life would be better if I did what they told me, and only the occasional person or two saying that, actually, you should eat and not care so much about your weight. I didn’t know how I should feel, but I did know how to count and figure out who was the majority.
My incredibly annoying mindset was that my situation was uniquely special and complex. Therefore, I believed there were no simple, sweeping answers; only an intricate web of tweaks and adjustments that I had to pile on my own back.