Support Someone With an Eating Disorder

October 21, 2021

It can be difficult to watch someone you love struggle with their mental health. If you are concerned that a loved one of yours is struggling with an eating disorder, there are many ways that you can lend your support. Friends and family can play an important role in identifying worrying symptoms and encouraging loved ones with eating or body image issues to seek help. 

1) Learn More About Eating Disorders 

Try to learn as much as you can about eating disorders, especially the warning signs and symptoms. Knowing the facts can help us to reason with our loved one about any inaccurate ideas about nutrition, exercise or weight that may be fueling their disordered eating patterns. One important thing to understand is that the heart of an eating disorder isn’t food, but rather a distorted, self-critical view of body image or control that arises from uncomfortable or painful emotions. It’s these negative thoughts that ultimately lead to damaging behaviors.  

2) Approach the Subject With Kindness 

If you’re concerned that your loved one is struggling with disordered eating, there is a way to approach the subject with kindness and empathy. When talking with your loved one remember to listen, express your concern from a loving place, offer your support, and let them know that you care.  

3) Have Patience Throughout Their Journey 

Recovery takes time, so it’s important to show your loved one patience. Avoid placing pressure on them with unrealistic goals or demands to see progress. Additionally, avoid shaming, arguing, manipulating, or bargaining them into new eating habits. Instead, simply express continual encouragement and support.  

4) Be Mindful of Triggers and Remove Potential Stigma 

Be cautious about potential triggers for your loved one’s eating disorder. Avoid unhelpful discussions about food, eating or weight. Be aware of your own perspective or negative statements you may make about your own body. Set an example of a healthy relationship with food by eating normally in front of your loved one. Also, remove any potential stigma by reminding your loved one that there’s no shame in admitting their struggle with disordered eating or any other mental health issue.  

5) Encourage Them to Seek Professional Help 

Lastly, encourage your loved one to seek professional help. Offer to help them find a physician or therapist who can give them more guidance along their journey. Getting timely, effective treatment can dramatically increase a person’s chance of recovery.  

Don’t forget to also take care of yourself during this time. Pay attention to your own needs, make time for relaxation and get your own support from a friend or therapist.  

Helpful Resources 

  • Access the Helpline through the Chat feature 
  • Or call or text (800)-931-2237 

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