A Father’s Perspective
We just want to say a Happy Father’s Day to all the Dads out there! Thank you for all you do and all the love you give. We know at tastelife that being a Dad in the midst of eating disorders can be an incredibly tough place to stand. So we have asked one of our tastelife leaders who has seen his daughter through an eating disorder and out the other side, to share his perspective. Hopefully this may shed some light on the topic and encourage any Dads who need it.
‘Although there are an increasing number of men with eating disorders, many men encounter the problem through the lens of the suffering of their female partner, child, colleague or friend and here is the thing I observe. Rather like my reaction to collecting my daughter from a hospital in the States we wonder ‘what tool will fix this – tell me what to do and leave it with me, I’m on it.’I now realise that although there are some very effective tools for recovery, the people who have to wield them are the sufferers themselves, not the men in their lives. Our job is to love them and create an environment where all the shame and secrecy can rise to the surface and be skimmed away.
Keep the compliments flowing, but beware the trap of playing into their self-obsession with their weight and shape. Never say ‘Great you are filling out a bit, and looking good!’ Offer compliments on other things. I love the way you have done your hair, that’s nice eye make-up, it really brings out the sparkle . . . I really enjoy having times when I can talk with you, share joke with you, enjoy a TV programme together’ etc. These emphasise the quality of life rather than the shape or image.
Make sure that there are things that you can still enjoy doing together – bearing in mind that meals out are no longer neutral spaces. My daughter and I used to play squash together a lot, we continued to play although there were times when I had to make some deals with her for my own peace of mind: ‘I’d love to play this week, can we wait and see what your potassium levels are like before we book a court.’ Above all else, find ways to continue to express that you love them and they mean the world to you.
They won’t be able to handle all the issues that their illness causes you so you will need someone else that you can download on. Take responsibility for that. Get yourself some good mates around you, a counsellor or pastor that you can talk to and share the load. Look after yourself, it will help you care better. Remember that it’s okay to be confused, to be angry and upset, eating disorders are robbers of joy and affect more than just the sufferer. Your well-being as a dad is an important part of the recovery process.’
– Graham Archer