Your daughter is diagnosed with an eating disorder after you’ve watched her struggle with food and exercise for months. An old friend finds herself in residential treatment. Your college roommate tells you about the disease that he’s had for years. A family member grows sick and turns to you for support.
No matter the situation, you’re left asking how you can help this person. As someone who has an eating disorder and knows what helps and doesn’t, I want to provide you with some ideas to help a loved one in their battle.
Listen. It’s simple but so effective. There’s a ton to say about your eating disorder. Sometimes all we need is to be heard and not necessarily be told much back.
Don’t make comments on their bodies. You may mean well, but the discomfort with our bodies so greatly play into the ED. What seems fine in your mind is twisted by the eating disorder.
Make them feel loved and supported. So often we don’t believe we are good enough. Even a simple “I love you and you deserve this” can be so helpful and remind us we aren’t the person we think we are.
Don’t prod them too much. It’s only from good intentions but this could push people away. They’ll talk to you if they need it for the most part. There are of course situations when inserting yourself into their life and creating change is necessary.
Know that you cannot fix them. You aren’t a mental health professional. You’re there for support but ultimately it’s up to the person struggling. Recovery is such a process learning to be kind to yourself.
Educate yourself. To help someone it only make sense that you try your hardest to relate to their struggles. It will make them feel much more comfort around you. Reading stories of those who have struggled can help put yourself in their shoes.
Ask them what they need. Each person with an eating disorder is different. Some need accountability while others would rather just have someone support them in other ways. The only way to know the best way to approach your loved one is by finding out their needs. Sometimes, they won’t be able to answer it fully, but that’s okay too.
*Please note that these suggestions are not all-encompassing and that you will have to stretch yourself to accommodate your loved one. Support is the best thing you can give them. Its not easy to do but all you can do is try*