Guide for families

How should you approach someone you care about who is struggling with eating disorder symptoms? You may worry that you won’t “do it right.” However, you are very important to them and their recovery!

The following tips may help you keep perspective
and provide needed support to your loved one:

  • 1. Remember, eating disorders are illnesses. You didn’t cause the eating disorder.
  • 2. Accept your limitations; e.g., you can’t make them want to get better.
  • 3. Accept the person for who they are. Remember that they are an individual; they are not their eating disorder.
  • 4. Be sensitive and be firm.
  • 5. Compliment strengths that have nothing to do with appearance, eating, or food.
  • 6. Seek support for yourself.
  • 7. Respect how and where your loved one wants their eating disorder discussed. You absolutely need and deserve support, and you can get it while also honoring their need for confidentiality.
  • 8. Ask your loved one how you can support their meal plan.
  • 9. Plan non-food related activities for the times right after meals, to help redirect attention and energy. Focus on the other things in life, not just discussions of weight, eating, exercise, and food.
  • 10. Be a good role model when discussing food, body, and weight—your own and others’.
  • 11. Set an example: participate in family therapy (if recommended), talk openly about your feelings, and actively identify and resolve problems.
  • 12. Know your health insurance, because you may need to advocate for coverage.
  • 13. Listen to your loved one; they need to speak for themselves.
  • 14. Convey that you believe in them. Your support is invaluable to your loved one.
  • 15. Recognize that recovery is a process. It takes time; it’s seldom logical or linear.

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