Tips for supporting someone with an eating disorder

Family members and friends always wonder how to help their loved one who is suffering with an eating disorder.  Here are a tips.

Tip 1: Express love unconditionally.
 
The impulses of a loved one is typically to express love and concern in the same breath. It’s natural and understandable. It’s also risky. Concern often comes across as controlling and directive. Instead, try just saying “I love you” without anything else. Don’t say “I love you and I’m worried.” or I only say this because I love you.” A simple “I love you” will suffice. 
 
 
Tip 2:Reflectively listen.
People with eating disorders sew routinely invalidated and misunderstood. Don’t continue the cycle. When that someone speaks, don’t respond with an suggestion or advice. “Reflect back.” Say what you think they meant or identify the emotion they are feeling. 
 
For example, if your person says “I hate food,” respond with “Eating makes you feel pretty anxious, huh?”
 
By reflectively listening, you communicate that her experience is real and that you understand. Feeling understood is invaluable!
 
Tip 3: Don’t ask questions about weight or meal plan.
 
This seems pretty obvious but please, leave weight and meal plan questions to the professionals! Even if you are an ED professional, do not counsel your loved one. Leave it to her team. Let her interactions with you be a place of calm normalcy. Grilling her about what she ate today is counterproductive and often, just plain rude.
 
 
 
 
Have you ever had a loved one with an eating disorder or are you struggling? What’s the best way to support recovery?

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