Men and caring

Finding ways to care for a child, spouse or friend – when you are a man

My dad was a rock through it all. I knew it was hard for him but he kept loving me just the same.

I have discovered that many men who are partners or dads of women with eating disorders find it hard to know where to start in their care. Often the first reaction is bewilderment about the condition and confusion over what to do. Many men are natural fixers – ‘tell me the problem and I’ll google for solutions!’, but of course there is no quick fix, so here are four tips that seem to work well.

  • Continue to love as you always have.
  • Admitting that you have an eating disorder is admitting to shame. Show that your love hasn’t changed.
  • Continue to compliment those things that are not about size and shape. ‘I love the shape of your eyes, the way your hair looks, the way you smile.’ If you comment on size and weight you are on to a loser.
  • Keep asking what you can do to help and if you say something or do something that seems to have the opposite effect, ask why it had that effect.
  • Separate in your mind the person and the eating disorder. Sometimes the eating disorder will say hurtful things – that will all disappear when recovery takes hold. It might feel personal, but it is just a defence.
  • Lean on some good and trusted friends or relatives.
A brother’s view:

It was hard because I had always been good friends with my sisters, but all of a sudden I was being lied to daily. The deception put a barrier between us. Also, I knew that they weren’t coping with peoples’ perceptions of them, so I was uncertain about what I could and couldn’t say – it put me on edge around them.

My tips would be:

  • Don’t let the eating disorder have more of an impact than it needs to. Keep laughing with them and enjoying them.
  • Make sure you show absolutely no judgement over the eating disorder if you can – this makes it a free and open topic which I think can take some of its power away.

Keep in touch with tastelife

Sign up for our occasional newsletter: