How to Talk to a Family Member Who Has an Eating Disorder: Quick Tips
It can be difficult to know how to talk to a family member who has an eating disorder.
You may feel like you are walking on eggshells around them, or like you can’t say anything that will make them better. This is not true!
The most important thing you can do is to be supportive, understanding and patient.
In this article, we will discuss some tips for talking to a family member who has an eating disorder.
Don’t try to “fix” them
The first and most important thing to remember is that you should not try to fix the person’s eating disorder.
This is not your responsibility, and it is not something that you can control.
What you can do is be there for the person, and offer support and understanding.
If you take responsibility for “fixing” them you’ll be setting yourself up for trouble.
First, eating disorders are notoriously difficult. While it’s normal to care and be upset about their eating struggles, please try to step back and let them find their own way.
Try to understand them, not “fix” them
First, you should try to understand what they are going through.
Eating disorders are complex and often have many underlying causes.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution, and each person will need to find their own way to recovery.
This can be a long and difficult process, so it’s important to be patient and understanding.
You should also avoid making assumptions about the person’s eating disorder.
Eating disorders are not just about food or weight loss. They can be about a lot of different things, including control, anxiety, stress, depression, trauma, and more.
If you assume that you know what the person is going through, you may end up saying something that is hurtful or insensitive.
It’s important to remember that each person experiences their eating disorder differently, and you should avoid making any assumptions about what they are going through.
Be supportive, not judgmental
When talking to a family member with an eating disorder, it’s important to be supportive, not judgmental.
This means listening to them without judgment, and offering advice or help only when they ask for it.
It can be tempting to try to give advice or tell the person what they should do, but this is often not helpful.
Instead, focus on being supportive and understanding. This will be more helpful in the long run.
Refrain from using “should” statements, and try to avoid giving unsolicited advice.
For example, instead of saying “You should eat more vegetables,” say “I know you’re struggling with eating right now, and I’m here for you.”
This will show that you are supportive and interested in helping, without being judgmental or pushy.
Try to avoid making comments about their appearance, weight, or food intake too.
These comments can be hurtful and make the person feel worse about themselves.
Instead, focus on how they are feeling mentally and emotionally. Ask them how they are doing, and listen to what they have to say.
It is also important to avoid making assumptions about why the person has an eating disorder.
There is no one cause of eating disorders, and each person’s experience is unique.
Asking the person about their experiences with their eating disorder can help you to understand them better.
Finally, do not hesitate to reach out for help if you are struggling to support your family member.
There are many resources available, and there is no shame in asking for help.
Sometimes family members actually want to learn more about their eating disorders and if that’s the case then giving them high quality resources can be very useful.
Patience and Expectations
Expect to be patient.
Eating disorders take years to treat sometimes.
It will be a long road to recovery, and there will be ups and downs.
Try to be patient and understanding, and offer support when it is needed.
Do not expect the person to “snap out of it” or recover overnight.
Recovery from an eating disorder is a slow and difficult process, so try to be patient and understanding.
Just think about it – this person you love has struggled with food for probably decades by now (and if not decades, years).
It will take a lot of time, energy, effort, and probably money to help them.
You need to be prepared for that if you want to support them through their eating disorder.
Don’t give up hope
Recovery is possible, and many people with eating disorders go on to live happy and healthy lives.
With patience, understanding, and support, your family member can recover from their eating disorder too.
Do not give up hope, and continue to offer your support.
If you need help, there are many resources available. Reach out for help if you are struggling, and do not hesitate to ask for more information or support.
Read this FamilyAgain article for more information about having difficult conversations about taboo topics.
For more information, please check out the following resources:
- NEDA (National Eating Disorder Association)
- Eating Disorder Hope
- ANAD (Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders)
These organizations can provide you with more information about eating disorders, as well as support and resources. Talking to a professional may also be helpful.
If you are struggling to support your family member, do not hesitate to reach out for help. There are many people who understand and can offer guidance and support. You are not alone.
Talking to a family member who has an eating disorder can be difficult.
But it’s important to remember that the most important thing you can do is to be supportive and understanding.
If you take the time to listen and understand what they are going through, you will be able to offer the best support possible.
Hopefully these tips will be helpful to you as you support a loved one with an eating disorder.
Remember that every situation is different, so adapt these tips as needed to fit your family member’s needs.
Thanks for reading!
Jared Levenson is the coach and writer behind Eating Enlightenment, a 4 year old blog focusing on intuitive eating and nutrition. Jared lived for 13 months in a Zen Buddhist monastery and is a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor.