Boundaries at Work for Eating Disorders

For those of us with eating disorders we sway between extremes of perfectionism and carelessness.

When it comes to the workplace these extremes can create very loose boundaries that can be harmful to our selves and others. Today we will be exploring boundaries in the work place for those with eating disorders.

Balance is a hard thing for a lot of us. For those of us with eating disorders it’s the thorn in our sides that sticks us in the most inopportune times. At work we either give it our all or don’t give it a glance. We once had a client who got a recovery job working on the peninsula. Her boss asked her to clean an old pop corn machine. When he returned he found that rusty, gritty, grimy old popcorn machine was sparkling like it had just been taken out of the box. When her boss told her how impressed he was she responded, “Well, I’m an addict either it was going to look brand new or I wasn’t even going to touch it.”

This is funny, but so true for many of us with eating disorders; we either give it our all or give it nothing. A key element to this is finding out our motives behind what were doing. Lets explore:

Bosses –  The awesome thing about life is it gives us opportunities to share what we have learned; how to be honest and kind while communicating our needs to others. Often times it is with bosses. Some of us have bosses who load us with work and keep us late and don’t compensate us for our time. Businesses are big, time is limited so it happens, but just because
it’s common doesn’t mean it’s right. The trick here is to first assess the situation, asking ourselves “Is this moral? Is this right?” If it isn’t then we need to use our voice and ask our boss if we can sit down with them. Then we can say, “I love working for you and I love the challenging work, however I need to stick to the hours that I was hired under. I also need to be compensated for the hours I have worked and have not been paid for. I love this job, but I can not work for free. How do you feel about this?” This statement doesn’t attack anyone it simply states the facts and gives room for the employer to respond. It sounds a lot scarier than it is. This statement is also creating a boundary. It lets the employer know that you have self respect and it lets your employer respect you and your time also.

Co-workers – Some co-workers can become your best friends, some can smell like B.O. and spit when they talk. The world is like a spice rack…lots of flavor. It’s easy to get into
a  clique in a work environment. Some people grow closer than others which is natural, but gossiping about others is not. Gossiping taints an office environment for everyone. Even if you think you’re really sly at it, it does something to you. If you find yourself being
invited into gossip you can:

a.)  Say,“I hear you.” And change the subject.

b.)  Say, “I hear you, but I don’t agree I think Shelly just has a lot going on at home
right now. “

c.)   Say nothing. This gets the message across very well. When someone sees that you are unwilling to engage with them they won’t come to you to gossip about others and voila you’re off the hook.

When you say and do the above things you are setting a clear boundary with your co-workers that you are your own person. You won’t agree for the sake of being liked because you like yourself enough not to say/do something that would hurt yourself or others.

Lunches – It can get busy in a work environment. People tend to skip lunches and breaks to keep up with their work. However, this is dangerous territory for someone with an eating disorder. In recovery we often say that the most important thing in our lives is “our recovery.” Meaning that when making little or big decisions in our day we ask ourselves, “what is the best choice to protect my recovery?” Sometimes we don’t like the answer we get. It can make us uncomfortable, but most things worth fighting for are uncomfortable. Therefore, when everyone in the office ignores the lunch hour and just keeps working it’s important to tell
ourselves, “Going to lunch alone may be uncomfortable, but the discomfort of a returning eating disorder is much worse. Yes, people might judge me for going to lunch while they are staying in, but I know what I need to do to take care of myself. No one else will take care of me if I don’t.” Sometimes the healthiest thing to do for ourselves is to stay in check with the thoughts we create. If we don’t like the ones we are
creating, make new and healthy ones and of course…eat lunch!

These are just a few ideas on how to set boundaries in the workplace when you have an eating disorder.

Eating Disorders, Boundaries should be in place before Dating

Our series on boundaries continues as we explore what boundaries should be in place before a person in eating disorder recovery resumes dating.

There is something about dating the opposite sex (or the same sex, depending on your fancy) that makes all the hard work of eating disorder recovery slip right out of our hands. Dating make us revert back to pre-eating disorder recovery where we had no voice, no opinion, no boundaries, we were simply at the whim of others preferences. Who would want to go back to that?  And what is this mysterious power that potential companions have over us?

My theory is LOVE. Potential companions, suitors and dates have the one thing every person with an eating disorder is starving, binging and purging over, it’s love. Love encapsulates the same idea that if “I just get to the right weight…I will feel lovable” or “If I just make you like me….I will feel lovable.” However, more often than not being the right weight or finding the right guy only makes us feel lovable for a short period of time and then we’re back to square one. In fact it’s the process of working so hard to be the “right weight” that gets us into rehab. As well, it’s the behaviors that go along with “doing anything to make someone love me” that keeps us alone.

So what is the solution to these problems? They are boundaries. Kind of like a meal plan that keeps us physically healthy, boundaries in dating keep us emotionally healthy. Being a woman in recovery from an eating disorder, I have made my mistakes in dating…a lot of mistakes. Here are some of my personal favorite dating boundaries:

Reservations – Women with eating disorders like to get into relationships very fast. We divulge personal information, backgrounds, traumas and it’s not healthy. One reason it’s unhealthy is you don’t know this person yet; so take the time to get to know them. Tell them a little bit of information and see what they do with that. How they react. If they prove to be trustworthy give them more. Stay in check with yourself too, it’s an unhealthy sign when someone just spills their guts in front of a stranger. Think of it like making reservations at a restaurant; you call ahead and ask someone to save your seat, but you don’t have to go. You could always call and say, “I changed my mind.” Check this person out and if they aren’t what you want don’t be scared to cancel your reservations. It happens all the time.

Car Door – You know how guys open your car door for you? It’s a chivalrous thing to make sure that you get in safe. Girls with eating disorders have a hard time protecting themselves and making sure they’re safe. If you’re gonna be getting physical with someone make sure that you

1.)    Ask them if they’ve been tested (Note: If you’re too uncomfortable to have this conversation with the person, sex might be pretty uncomfortable too.)

2.)    Make sure you’re physically protected.

Dinner – For many of us food has held the our worth in its hands. If we don’t eat we’re lovable, if we do we’re not. This thought process easily transfers over to men. We think that if he says the right thing we’re lovable, if he doesn’t we’re not. This is dangerous territory for both people. The best boundary a girl with an eating disorder can put up in this scenario is an Emotional Boundary. A girl with an eating disorder needs to come to a place where she realizes that her worth is counted in much more than scales, calories, cute texts and dates. Her worth is in the fact that she was put on this earth for a beautiful purpose, that there is a God/ Higher Power that loves her beyond she could ever imagine and the love of that power is the only love that truly matters.

The Montecatini staff is great at what they do. Everyone there treated me with kindness and compassion, and I am so thankful for all they did for me.

– Former Client
A Dynamic and Vibrant Healing Community
Located in scenic Carlsbad, California, three miles from the Pacific Coast.