Having been through the recovery journey and having some time to think about what kind of support I really needed from my family and friends, I want to share my top tips that I’ve learned over the years that were the most helpful for me.
Let’s be real here, having a family member or friend with an eating disorder can be really frightening, but I am here to provide you with some useful tips and strategies to help you navigate through this tough season of life.
First Things First
Eating disorders, and any spectrum of disordered eating is an emotional regulation tool. What I mean by this is that food has become their go-to way of dealing with, feeling, coping with, suppressing, forgetting, or expressing emotions tied to their experiences. So, the path to healing will involve addressing things like their unmet needs, emotional ups and downs, and finding helpful ways to cope.
In a nutshell, if there’s one thing you remember from this blog, it’s this simple idea: Food is NOT the issue (believe it or not!).
Get Curious About the Disorder
From your perspective, your loved one’s actions and thought processes might seem baffling. But from their point of view, these things do make sense and are often being used as a direct coping strategy to their challenges. Eating disorders are intricate mental health issues that go beyond just food. Learning about eating disorders and trying to understand what your loved one is experiencing can be beneficial for both you and your loved one. It’s a powerful way to show your support and let them know you care.
It’s Not Your Job to “Fix” the Eating Disorder
Hey, to all the “fixers” out there in the support system, it’s important to remember that it’s not your responsibility to “fix” anything in this situation. I understand it can be tough, especially if you show your care by trying to solve problems for others. But here’s the thing: they likely don’t want you to fix things. Instead, they’re seeking your support by just being there, and listening without passing judgment.
If you start experiencing difficult emotions while listening to them, don’t panic! It’s actually quite normal, and it’s perfectly fine to have some heavy feelings of your own. Your emotions are real and valid. So, give yourself the time and space that you need to process and handle these emotions.
Ask How They Want to Be Supported
It’s really common to think that the way you prefer to receive support is how everyone else does (I’m guilty of this too!). But the truth is, everyone has unique emotional needs, and the way they need support can vary. In this post, I share some examples of how to support a loved one. These are just some suggestions to help you begin figuring out what kind of support they might need.
If your loved one is unsure about what kind of support they need, it’s totally fine. Just let them know that you’re there for them whenever they figure it out or when they’re ready to chat. Sometimes, the simple knowledge that someone is ready to listen and support can make a big impact.
Must Read Books To Learn More
Just so you know, I do review everything I recommend. When you buy through links on this page, we may earn a commission.
Intuitive Eating by Elise Resch and Evelyn Tribole
When it was first published, Intuitive Eating was revolutionary in its anti-dieting approach. The authors, both prominent health professionals in the field of nutrition and eating disorders, urge readers to embrace the goal of developing body positivity and reconnecting with one’s internal wisdom about eating―to unlearn everything they were taught about calorie-counting and other aspects of diet culture and to learn about the harm of weight stigma.
Health At Every Size by Lindo Bacon
Fat isn’t the problem. Dieting is the problem. A society that rejects anyone whose body shape or size doesn’t match an impossible ideal is the problem. A medical establishment that equates “thin” with “healthy” is the problem. The solution? Health at Every Size. Tune in to your body’s expert guidance. Find the joy in movement. Eat what you want, when you want, choosing pleasurable foods that help you to feel good. You too can feel great in your body right now—and Health at Every Size will show you how.
Anti-Diet by Christy Harrison
In Anti-Diet, Christy Harrison takes on diet culture and the multi-billion-dollar industries that profit from it, exposing all the ways it robs people of their time, money, health, and happiness. It will turn what you think you know about health and wellness upside down, as Harrison explores the history of diet culture, how it’s infiltrated the health and wellness world, how to recognize it in all its sneaky forms, and how letting go of efforts to lose weight or eat “perfectly” actually helps to improve people’s health—no matter their size. Drawing on scientific research, personal experience, and stories from patients and colleagues, Anti-Diet provides a radical alternative to diet culture, and helps readers reclaim their bodies, minds, and lives so they can focus on the things that truly matter.
Just Eat It by Laura Thomas
With a perfect blend of scientific expertise and relatable anecdotes, the author dismantles societal myths around food and body image. Through practical advice, self-reflection exercises, and a touch of humor, Thomas equips readers with the tools to break free from the cycle of diet culture, promoting self-love and nourishment. This book is an essential companion for anyone seeking to redefine their approach to food, fostering a positive and sustainable lifestyle.