19 answers

My Brother Has an Eating Disorder

This question is actually about my almost 16 yr old brother. We both come from a very good family life. Parents still married after 27 some yrs. He is the baby I am the oldest and we have a middle sister. I am normal size I guess for my age. I am a single mother of an 8 yr old daughter and 4 yr old son. And I don't look like I've ever had any kids. No stretch marks nothing!! My sister has a 3 yr old and was in very good shape before she had her.And since she had her, she still looks pregnant and huge!! She is bigger now than she was when she was pregnant. Then there is my brother. He is 15 and it all started with a flu-bug and he realized that he had lost alot of weight and liked that idea. Well it has been about 6 months since his flu went away and I know he still makes himself puke. I know this is a real problem and society wants people to look like models, but I don't know what to do. I am solely the only one who knows about this, cause I am the only one he trusts. I don't under any circumstance wanna loose his trust on the flip side I don't wanna loose him to this disorder either. PLEASE HELP

What can I do next?

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That kind of disorder can lead to so many secondary issues-and the end results could be something you are not prepared to deal with. I think you should try to find out why he is doing it and talk to him about how bad it is for his body. If that doesn't work, he may need professional help. People die from these kind of disorders-he needs help from someone!

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In my opinion it is important that this be brought to your parents attention ASAP.

Does your family place alot of value or importance on looks and weight? I am not being critical, it is just that your post seemed to place alot of emphasis on your sister being overweight. Do you or other members of your family make comments about how 'huge' your sister is? It is possible that if your brother is hearing these things it may fuel his desire to be skinnier.

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I have had eating disorders off and on since age 15. Please re-read your "question" and see that you and your family put a lot of emphasis, and judgement, on size and looks. Your younger brother is already caught up in the same obsession. Not surprising. If you want to help him, open yourself to the possiblity that you are involved in his difficulties and accompany him to counseling. Eating disorders, like most issues in young people, are family issues, not one person's alone. Please help your brother, help yourself, and possibly avoid going through this again with your children when they are 15...

2 moms found this helpful

Get some literature in his hands on what happens to people that do this long term. Give him an ultimatum, "either you tell Mom and Dad or I will." If he is just trying to loose weight it should be pointed out that exercise will also give him the muscle tone that just being skinny won't give. Most people that fall into eating disorders have other issues though.

Love your brother enough to risk his anger in order to save his future. I know it is hard to do because I have confronted people in my family on things that were not right and paid a very big price, but it is still the right thing to do.

1 mom found this helpful

I think the sooner you get him help the better because right now he's young enough to be under the medical control of your parents. Don't wait until he's old enough to move away or refuse medical help, because he will.
I do think that attitude makes a big difference in people. If he's surrounded by people who make a big deal about being overweight then he'll have a hard time accepting himself if he's not thin. If he hears people commenting on your sister then he'll try hard not to get like that.
Good luck,

1 mom found this helpful

I have to strongly agree with some of the other posts and point out to you that you seem to be very focused on what you and your family look like. You did not mention if your sister was happy or if she was a good mom or if she was married, or if she is at a healthy weight (is she 140 pounds and you call that huge because she's always been 110 or is she 300 pounds?). I read your post feeling like you have no respect for your sister just because she weighs more then you feel is appropriate.

You have a lot of concern about your brother not eating and wanting to help him is great but before you can do that perhaps you need to look at yourself and your family to see how you react to each other. Why did you feel the need to tell us in your post that you have no stretch marks? you should be proud of your body but you can't expect everyone to go through a pregancy or two as easily as you. Have you ever expressed concern for your sister and her weight issues? Maybe you could offer to take walks together or make family dinners together to help her with her food choices?

I'm not trying to be hard on you but I was a normal sized child (looking back at pictures I'd even say skinny) but after I "developed" I was much curvier then my sisters were and my sister's often teased me and called me fat or cow or whatever. I know now that they were just trying to push my buttons and they didn't mean it but it did affect me and my eating habits. I am VERY careful about calling me daughter skinny or fat or anything like that. We talk about building muscles and being strong but never about her size (she's very normal). She's only 4 years old but I'm extremely aware of how those kinds of comments can stay with a young person. You should look inside yourself and think about how your comments can affect your own children and your family.

As for your brother, tell him to let you know when he wants help but be very clear that what he is doing will damage him for life. He needs to want help or it won't work.

1 mom found this helpful

I applaud your efforts in helping your brother, sounds like he needs it if he is making himself throw up. However, if he hears you comment how your sister is HUGE after her daughter he could be trying to ensure that you don't make the same comment about him. Everyone doesn't shed the weight as easily after they have children.
Congratulations to you for looking like you never had children.

1 mom found this helpful

First of all, I would like to applaud you for trying to help your brother. Second, I think you should re-read your post and ask yourself "Why am I putting such an emphasis on how my family and I look?" I suspect you and your family are contributing to your brothers problem without realizing it. For example, how you and your sister look have nothing to do with your brother's problem. Why did you feel the need to put it in your post? Especially the part about no stretch marks? You said that you are at a normal weight for your age. You should be basing a healthy weight on how tall you are. Your brother needs professional help. Maybe you could convince him to make an appointment with his doctor. Ask if he would like you to go with. It would be a good idea to contact his doctor in advance and let him know what is going on. Hearing the truth about eating disorders from a doctor is likely to have a bigger impact on him. Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful

In most cases, people that tell their secrets actually secretly want help. I think that you should discuss it with your other sister first before going to your parents. Start the awareness of the illness and then, move to recognising it, not onlly for yourself, but for others close to him. Then, contact a few hospitals and start researching the multiple eating disorders and how you can seek help for him, such as support groups even for yourself and your family. I'd start slow and share the information because keeping your brother and saving his life is more important than his trust...which is fake at the moment because he may be in danger and you're hiding the problem with him. You know what they say, "If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem." Help him...and talk to him about your concerns and wanting to get him help.

Hi J.,

Wow! You're in a tough spot, but I gotta say, I'd rather have my brother not trust me right now than lose him completely. You've got to tell your parents and get your brother some help. He could die from what he's doing. Purging is very stressful on the body and can completely deteriorate it. Your brother may get angry with you at first, but once he's better, he'll understand that you were only looking out for him and that you love him so much. Good Luck, pls keep us updated on what happens and hopefully his progress!

Much love!

It is hard to know what to do in situations like this, torn between being trustworthy and doing the best thing. What I always told my kids (who didn't always listen though) is there are secrets you keep and secrets you DON'T keep. The ones you don't keep are the ones that are putting others in danger... if a friend is being molested, if you know someone is getting involved in drugs, someone who is talking suicide... are a few that you don't keep. Your brother's secret is one of those you DON'T keep. What you can do so he will still know you don't tell on the secrets is sit him down and tell him that while you want his trust and it means a lot to you that he comes to you, it is not a secret that should be kept silent because you love him so much and would hate to lose him. Have print offs on anerixia (however you spell it) to show him how dangerous it is and give him a time frame that he goes to your parents before you do. Give him the chance to let it out so you aren't "tattling". I would give him just 1 maybe 2 days to tell then sit and talk with your parents, with him sitting with you. It might also help if you research help for it so when you talk with your parents and brother, they have everything from support groups and available help ready to put into action. This will help a lot while they are in that first stage of "what do we do now".

Remember if this was your child, you would want to know. So please don't put it off.

I am a survivor of anorexia and after years of counseling and learning healthy eating habits, I finally have my eating disorder under control.
An eating disorder is more than just food, it is trying to control something when everything else in life is out of control. It's a sense of power, over your body to make you 'perfect'. The only way to get through power struggle is counseling and support groups.
A person also has to learn that food is your friend and can be eaten without making you 'ugly' or won't hurt your body. I had to do this with a dietitian and nutrition classes.

The most important thing for you to remember is you cannot save your brother he needs professional help, and hiding is secret with him is only hurting him. Bluimia rots the teeth, destroys the throat, and damages the body from the inside out. Get him some help he's asking you to, just beware he'll be mad when you do, but thank you in the long run.

You don't say much about what type of disorder, or specifics about what is going on and whether there is proof of his alledgedly making himself puke. Eating disorders generally can be fatal when carried too long, and to extremes of behavior. If the behavior is entrenched, it is much harder to resolve. After a certain number of years, probability of resolution in his favor is generally much decreased. The PLEASE HELP should definitely be addressed to a treatment center. You can't help. He, if he is practicing, is not looking for help, or won't, or can't. This is not play practice: It is serious life-threatening behavior. Ask any hospital or mental health facility for assistance - that's what they are there for. They will help. M. (former addiction counselor). and Yes, this is addiction...he is getting a payoff in some way for his behavior. I think you are a very dear and loyal sister for admitting you don't know what to do, but wanting his situation to change. Men who are too skinny are not attractive, just like women. There are also self-help groups for him, and your sister, if she wantshelp. The KEY is thyat THEY HAVE TO WANT TO CHANGE. And, any 'anon' Al-Anon, etc., can help you cope. Thanks. M

By hiding an eating disorder it's like hiding a drug addiction - you could be enabling him. Get help - this is a "mind" thing and very hard to correct. A friend of mine recently almost lost her 16 year old daughter to this - she just stopped eating. She feels fat although she's not - it's in her head. She has been in and out of treatment and it's a very serious illness! Unfortunately too much emphasis is put on looks in our society - we can't change that, but this young man needs help. Methodist Hospital in St. Louis Park has a very good eating disorder clinic - try to get some information from them or start researching on the internet. If you can't get him to stop, consider it a very serious addition and get him help.

Hi Jess, my advice is to have a family intervention with a doctor if possible. Losing your brother to bulumeia will be far harder on you down the road than losing his trust. As he matures, even years from now, he will understand what a strong person you had to be to overrride your trusting bond in order to save his life. Like a lot of bulumeics, he might be in denial "You guys worry too much, you are picking on me" He may minimize "it's not THAT bad." The physical help needs to come first, then you and the family and your brother need to heal his emotions, feelings and any self-hatred or low self-esteem or sadness that it causing him to do this. I know that you don't want to break his trust, but it is unhealthy for you to keep it inside as well. Face it, you are terrified and you and your brother both need support. The whole town doesn't need to know about it, but the family needs to understand the diease and surround him with love. Admit him to a hospital if needed. No bulumeic is the same, it is a very complex disorder. Don't keep the secret Jess - this is your brother, he needs help. He will forgive you oneday. Good luck.

Eating disorders aren't actually about food and weight control it is about them being unhappy in life and feeling out of control. They feel food is one thing they can control and that becomes the focus. Is he doing other things that are typical for disordered eaters (excessive exercise, or bingeing).

I'm thinking he wants your help because he told you about it. Don't betray that trust by telling others unless you think they can really help him. If he feels everyone is judgeing him it could make things worse. Having someone impartial help (couselor or doctor) maybe better. Try to figure out what else maybe happening in his life to trigger this dehavior.

The only way to treat this is with an "intervention". This is what a counselor would recommend. Perhaps, find a counselor that would be willing to work with you and your family, and they would be able to best help guide you how to approach your brother. But don't wait. His life and health are at risk.

This disease is not about weight or size it is about numbing the pain of feeling. I am a compulsive overeater and sugar addict.
I have been in Overeaters Anonymous since 2005. I have friends is OA of all sizes. I have been a practicing bulimic, anorexic and even had gastric bypass surgery- non of that addressed the head stuff that only wants to be silenced with food. As we say it is not what he is eating or not eating it is what is eating him.
You can love your brother but you can not make him seek help. Shaming him or calling it out will not help either( what a great reason to practice his behavior- I'll show them). The best thing those who loved me did was stand by me until I said I wanted help- standing meant saying, I love you and when you are ready to love yourself I will still be here and then they grabbed my hand and walked through the recovery process with me. I wish you both peace, recovery is journey, not a destination. One day at time!

That kind of disorder can lead to so many secondary issues-and the end results could be something you are not prepared to deal with. I think you should try to find out why he is doing it and talk to him about how bad it is for his body. If that doesn't work, he may need professional help. People die from these kind of disorders-he needs help from someone!

Look up info ont the inter net and print it off. Give him the info and make him read it. After he has read it talk it out with him. It sound like he is blumic. Those with this disorder usually overeat and then purge, make themselves throw-up or use laxatives. This is a dangerous behavior. Karen Carpenter, lead singer of The Carpenters popular in the 1970's, DIED from complications from an eating disorder. Makeing yourself throw-up weakens the muscles in the digestive system and weakens the enamal on the teeth.
Princess Diana had an eating disorder also.
People with an eating disorder usually feel out of control in their life. Other people, parents, teachers, etc are making decisions in his life and not listening to him and what he needs or wants. In the case of Karen Carpenter she was an award-winning -- gold record -- singer---- however her brother Richard and the record comppany execs were making all the decisions. They would not listen to her, she wanted to sing a song, they said "no", she wanted to stay behind the drums and not stand in front and sing because she was shy, they forced her to get up front and hired another drummer. It came down to the only thing in her life she could control was how much she ate, so she stopped eating. She died at age 32 of a heart attack because her heart was so weak do to the extreem lows her weight gotten to. I don't remember the full extent of her story, she died in 1982 or 83. But I am sure you can look it up.
What this comes down to is you need to get him into counseling. Find out what is causing this. I understand you want to keep his trust but his life is important.

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