This is such a common question from parents or loved ones who are trying to support someone with an eating disorder.
No one ever said providing support comes naturally.
What prevents someone from offering good support?
You may feel fear that if you say the wrong thing or trigger them, they will self-harm, hate you, run away, whatever it may be. Yes, those things could happen, but do you know what else can happen? The eating disorder can win. The eating disorder can cause them to withdraw from their loved ones, starve themselves, force them to act upon thoughts that their authentic self does not want to do. Do not let fear stand in the way of supporting your child or loved one.
There is no one to blame for the development of an eating disorder. Eating disorders can develop due to many things, one strongly being genetics. An easy analogy for this is- the genetics loads the gun, the environment pulls the trigger. Environment is something that is very difficult to control. This is not your fault, it is not anyones fault.
It is definitely painful watching someone you love treat their body in a harmful way. Eating disorders effect the individual mentally and physically. It takes a team of multi-disciplinary professionals to treat it, and one of the multi-disciplinary professionals is you. Family and friends play one of the largest roles in their loved one’s eating disorder treatment.
As mentioned before, no one asks for this illness to fall upon them. If you’re struggling supporting a loved one with an eating disorder because you simply do not understand, educate yourself. There are great resources at nationaleatingdisorders.org
After you conquer the barriers preventing you from providing good support… what do you do?
Be present with them at meals and snacks, help distract them by talking about light topics that are unrelated to food.
Make sure they have accessibility to food and beverages.
Text or write them uplifting notes.
Make sure they make it to their appointments with their treatment team.
Be their rock- consistent and strong
Do not talk about your own issues with food. Keep topics of diets, calories, weight, your eating struggles taboo.
Ask them how they are doing around meal times, or in general.
Empower them to tell their treatment team about behaviors they are acting upon.
Those are just a few ways you can support someone with an eating disorder. The other most important thing to do is to support other supporters. Do not knock each other down because you are all a part of a team and will succeed through positive affirmations from one another.
I would love to hear your stories in how you support your loved one! Post in the comments below, or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org