Tips to Help Someone With an Eating Disorder
It’s National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, February 26 through March 4, and there’s no better time than now to help a loved one with an eating disorder. Confronting a loved one about their eating or exercise habits or weight or body image isn’t easy. But remind yourself that you’re doing a brave and great service. In fact, according to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), many individuals now in recovery from an eating disorder say the support of family and friends was crucial to them getting well.
Here are some tips from NEDA on starting the conversation:
- Get educated about eating disorders. Read books, articles and brochures. Know the difference between facts and myths about weight, nutrition and exercise. Knowing these facts will help you reason with your loved one about any misconceptions or myths fueling his or her disordered eating patterns.
- Set a private time and place to talk. Find a time and place where you can slowly and calmly discuss your concerns without distractions or interruptions. You may even want to rehearse what you want to say or write down key points to reduce anxiety.
- Use “I” statements. So you don’t sound accusatory, focus on behaviors that you have personally observed. An example: Say, “I am worried about how frequently you are going to the gym” instead of “You’re exercising too much!”
- Remove potential stigma. Now is the time to do your best to remind your loved one that he/she is not alone — people of all ages, genders, sizes, races, ethnicities, and socioeconomic statuses struggle with eating disorders – and there’s certainly no shame in seeking help.
- Choose your words carefully. Saying something overly simplistic like “just stop” or “just eat” to someone with an eating disorder is far from helpful. Your goal is to encourage your loved one, not leave them feeling frustrated, defensive or misunderstood.
- Encourage them to seek professional help. Recovery is possible with the help of a trained healthcare professional. Offer to help your loved one set up an appointment (and go with him or her) to discuss treatment.
Seeking Support at Synergy
Synergy provides a continuum of care for clients with co-occurring chemical dependency and eating disorders. To learn more, call 805-202-3440.