How To Support Someone With An Eating Disorder

If you find your loved ones battling an eating disorder, then your support will play a key role in their recovery. Outside their treatment and therapy, your care and understanding of how they might be feeling are vital.

Eating disorders affect every individual differently. You can encourage them to seek treatment, which might be a difficult thing for them to do.

Finding out how to support someone with an eating disorder is crucial to them getting well.

Learn

Learning about eating disorders will help you understand more and remove the stigma. You’ll be in a better position to help your loved ones and deal with the challenges.

How can I help?

Ask your loved ones how you can help them. Be it helping them with regular eating or give them some space to talk about how they are feeling.

They might ask you to leave them alone or say that there is nothing you can do to help them. In this case, you can assure them that you are there to help them in this

time of distress and need.

Listen without judgment

Show them that you are listening to their feelings and concerns. Do not judge them for something you do not truly understand or comprehend. Do not advise or criticize them.

Avoid triggers

Be mindful of eating disorder triggers like discussions on food, weight, eating, body shape, or exercises that might cause stress and anxiety. Make sure you eat correctly in front of them. There is no need to pretend or feel awkward. It is an example of a healthy relationship with food.

Do not use “YOU”. Always use “I”.

Saying “you are not eating properly” or “you are exercising too much” can make you sound accusatory.

Instead, use “I noticed you are not eating with me” or, “I noticed you are working out frequently”. Do not make them feel defensive. Tell them what you have observed.

Support them at mealtimes

Mealtimes can be difficult for both of you. Plan what you both would like to eat, portion sizes, and who else will be eating with you. If they have any special nutritional needs, then make a list and do the shopping together.

If someone is on treatment and has to follow a strict regiment such as having foods they have been avoiding, then help them keep this process under control.

Avoid talking about therapy, diet, body weight, or exercises while having food.

Socializing

People with eating disorders are socially reserved. You can help them by inviting them to join in family activities, take them shopping, encourage them to take on new hobbies, or play board games. Make an effort to talk about things not related to illness and treatment.

Be prepared for rejection

While some people are glad that someone has noticed their struggle and has offered to help, others get angry and hostile.

Some may even say that there is nothing wrong with them, but you are the one with a problem. Situations like this should be dealt with sensitively. Do not try to overstep your boundaries. Give them space.

Since all of these responses are normal, let them know that you are concerned and that you care about them.

Language

Your loved ones might misinterpret what you say. It might make you upset and walk on eggshells around them when it comes to conversations. Avoid saying:

  • Just eat normally
  • I wish I could control as you do
  • Just eat something
  • You have to stop eating so much

Externalize

Viewing the eating disorder, and your loved one as two separate "entities" will help them distance themselves from the condition and recognize and challenge the behaviors associated with it.

  • What did the eating disorder say to make you purge?
  • How does it make you feel about yourself?
  • What did it say to make you feel unable to eat your food?

This way, both of you will acknowledge it to be an eating disorder. It will allow them to be in control and feel less criticized.

However, externalizing the eating disorder does not work all the time, especially when it is a part of their identity. It works when suggested in the treatment and therapy plan.

Make your loved ones feel comfortable and understood. As a caregiver, remember that your health is important too, and you are not alone.

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