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 her. You are an important person, too. When you are talking about her day, for instance, share information about your day, Holland says.
- Try to keep the attention off of food. Whether you are at a family reunion or the dinner table, "focusing on food creates disaster," Clark-Sly says. Talk about the day's events, go for a walk, or play board games.
- Legalize all foods. "It is not healthy to cater to the belief that foods are good or bad," Holland says. Costin, who has recovered from anorexia, also suggests offering 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, she can help you develop 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 her engaging in behaviors like binging, purging, or not eating at all, show that you care. Ask if anything is going on or if she wants to talk. Even if you are feeling angry and frustrated, remember that your loved one needs your to be kind and respectful.
- Approach your loved one's therapist with your concerns. While a therapist cannot reveal confidential information, she can listen to your concerns.
- Remember that there is no right or wrong reaction. "If you are always worried about how to relate, then you will be fake and rigid," Clark-Sly says. "Be yourself and follow your heart."
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.ontario.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. Accessed May 5, 2011.
Help for family and friends. National Eating Disorder Information Centre. Available at: http://www.nedic.ca/giveandgethelp/helpforfriendsfamily.shtml. Accessed May 5, 2011.
What should I say? National Eating Disorders Association. Available at: http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/nedaDir/files/documents/handouts/WhatISay.pdf. Published 2005. Accessed May 5, 2011.
- Reviewer: Brian Randall, MD
- Review Date: 05/2011 -
- Update Date: 05/05/2011 -