A Family's Guide to Tackling Eating Disorders
The Long Road to Recovery
Ways to Educate Yourself
- Ask how you can be supportive. Talking about how you can help is the healthiest way of dealing with things.
- Do not let your relationship focus solely on the person with the eating disorder. You are an important person, too. When you are talking about your loved one's day, for instance, share information about your day too.
- Try to keep the attention off of food. Whether you are at a family reunion or the dinner table, take the focus off of food by talking about the day's events. You could also go for a walk, or play board games.
- Legalize all foods. Do not cater to the belief that foods are good or bad. Offer to serve something your loved one will eat if you are hosting the event.
- Try to keep the family's regular eating patterns. Your loved one's eating disorder should not control how other members of the family eat and live. If they feel that specific family changes would support their recovery, bring this topic up during a family therapy session.
- Be a good role model. Think about your own eating habits and attitude towards weight loss. If you admire people who are extremely slender, exercise excessively, or are constantly dieting, your loved one may get confused about what is a healthy lifestyle.
- Have a strategy for responding to comments. If you are also working with a therapist, you can work on developing effective strategies for responding to your loved one. For example, if the person says, "I feel fat," you may want to respond by asking about what kinds of fears surround the idea of being fat, such as fear of being rejected by peers.
- Do not ignore destructive behaviors. When you see your loved one engaging in behaviors like binging, purging, or not eating at all, show that you care. Ask if anything is going on or offer to talk. Even if you are feeling angry and frustrated, remember that your loved one needs you to be kind and respectful.
- Approach your loved one's therapist with your concerns. While a therapist cannot reveal confidential information, you can still offer up your concerns.
- Remember that there is no right or wrong reaction. Don't worry about how your loved one will interpret your response to the situation. Be yourself and follow your instincts.
National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders http://www.anad.org
National Eating Disorders Association http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org
Canadian Mental Health Association http://www.cmha.ca
Canadian Psychiatric Association http://www.cpa-apc.org
Eating disorders. National Institute of Mental Health website. Available at: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/eating-disorders/complete-index.shtml. Updated 2011. Accessed September 12, 2013.
Help for family and friends. National Eating Disorder Information Centre. Available at: http://www.nedic.ca/giveandgethelp/helpforfriendsfamily.shtml. Accessed September 12, 2013.
What should I say? National Eating Disorders Association. Available at: http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/what-should-i-say. Accessed September 12, 2013.
- Reviewer: Michael Woods, MD
- Review Date: 09/2013 -
- Update Date: 09/12/2013 -
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
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