Article written by: Denver Therapist, Jessica Wright
Supporting a loved one struggling with an eating disorder can be complex and challenging.
Knowing the right thing to say and how to support can be a delicate situation to navigate.
Individuals who struggle with eating disorders typically struggle with their self-esteem.
Recovery can be a long process and having support is crucial on this journey.
Being available and present is crucial to providing support in an open nonjudgmental way. Understanding their experience can be empowering in providing support.
Here are 5 ways you can support a loved one with their eating disorder recovery:
Remove all judgment.
Create a safe space to ask questions and express your concerns in a nonjudgmental way with your loved one through listening to their experiences, thoughts, and feelings.
Sometimes we assume what would be helpful for our loved ones which can oftentimes lead them to shutting down and increasing defenses. Get curious and be a good listener.
Ask your loved one how they need to be supported throughout their recovery journey. Ask them what support looks like to them and specific ways in which they need you to be present with them.
Be mindful of your own beliefs.
We all have our own thoughts and feelings related to body image, and all have our own personal relationship with food.
Read More: “How Unsolicited Advice Can Be Harmful To Your Relationships”
Having awareness around your own beliefs, thoughts, and feelings can increase your own awareness of how you are showing up for your loved one.
This can also support you with being aware of potential triggers for your loved one.
Practicing this mindfulness can set you up to provide the best support you can.
Be aware of your feelings about food, eating habits, weight, your own body image, recovery, treatment, seeking professional help, and be mindful of how they may impact your loved one.
Many people struggle with body image, challenges with eating and dieting and when not mindful of our own struggles, we may unintentionally cause more harm.
Educate yourself on Eating Disorders.
Eating disorders can be complex. Having an understanding of what your loved one is struggling with is crucial in providing support.
There are many misconceptions surrounding eating disorders which may impact the way you are providing support.
Ways you can educate yourself include asking your loved one how they need to be supported, speaking with experts in the field, and reading information about eating disorders from reputable sources.
Engaging in family therapy is another way to gain support as it provides a therapeutic place to talk through the impacts the eating disorder has had on the family members as well.
The National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) has great online resources for gaining a better understanding of eating disorders.
Taking the first step to understanding your loved one’s experience can be empowering to providing support.
Encourage them to seek professional help.
Through educating yourself about the complexity of eating disorders you can feel empowered to support your loved one with encouraging them to seek professional help for themselves.
This can be a challenging first step in the recovery process filled with uncomfortable emotions for your loved one.
Read More: “How Therapy Can Support You in Eating Disorder Recovery”
Having the knowledge about eating disorder treatment options can be supportive in encouraging your loved one to seek treatment.
Sharing information about different types of treatment including therapy, nutritional counseling and medical treatment.
Often, those struggling with eating disorders are also struggling with mental illness, trauma, or other mental health concerns.
A therapist who specializes in eating disorder treatment can be of great help in identifying other mental health concerns, managing symptoms, and providing helpful, therapeutic interventions.
A Registered Dietitian who specializes in eating disorder treatment can be an important part of the treatment team.
Both a Registered Dietitian and an Eating Disorder Therapist can also provide you some insights on healthier approaches to supporting someone in recovery.
Practice self-care and don’t take it personally.
The recovery process from an eating disorder can be a long tedious journey that leads your loved one to face very challenging parts of themselves.
Read More: “The Secret To Self-Care”
This can sometimes lead your loved one to act in ways or say things from a heightened emotional place which can hurt those around them.
Keep in mind that your loved one is struggling and try not to take it personally.
When supporting a loved one who is struggling it can oftentimes lead you to neglect yourself and your needs.
Be sure to continue to tune into what your needs are and practice self-care along the way.
Supporting a family member or loved one throughout their eating disorder recovery can be challenging at times.
Through setting up a safe space and taking a nonjudgmental approach, you can help them throughout their journey.
Support is an imperative part of their process and through showing up in this manner you can make a great impact on helping them to life a fulfilling life.
Family involvement (or other loved-one involvement) in a person’s recovery from an eating disorder can be helpful.
Family therapy is one component of support that can both inform the family of their loved one’s eating disorder treatment and recovery, and provide opportunity to define appropriate, healthy support for a person in recovery from disordered eating.