Watching a friend or family member suffer from an eating disorder can be heartbreaking and difficult to watch. Frustration is rampant as we try to help them live healthy, and our advice seems to go nowhere.
Ultimately it is in the individual’s hands to seek help, but there are a few things we can do to both help them and ease our own minds.
Begin by trying to understand the illness. There are many different kinds of eating disorders, and they often go hand in hand with mood disorders like anxiety and depression. There is still a lot of confusion, especially in the media, about eating disorders so the more you can educate yourself, the more you will know what you are dealing with.
Bringing An Eating Disorder to Light
Once you have done your research, you may choose to speak with the individual, and this can be a very touchy situation. They may feel threatened, embarrassed, or indignant as soon as they get the drift of what you are trying to talk about, and the last thing you want them to do is shut down and shut you out completely. For this reason, make sure to plan what you are going to say, and pick the most appropriate time and setting that you can.
Be patient and forgiving with the person when you speak with them. As mentioned above, they will probably shy away from discussing the disorder or maybe even be defensive. Don’t press the issue harder – let them have their space – and if they act out, don’t react harshly, remember to practice forgiveness. This being said if they are willing to talk to you, especially about seeking treatment, let them talk as much as possible.
Be a Positive Influence
Always be mindful of what you say to someone with an eating disorder. Their view on themselves is warped and they can take any little comment about weight or something not fitting right as an attack on their body and it will trigger their disorder. So, instead of focusing on it, try to do positive things with the person to get their mind off of their eating habits and into the present instead.
As difficult as things may get – do not turn your back on the person. Continue to talk to them and be a support. Isolation is one of the biggest problems in an eating disorder, so the last thing you want to happen is for them to feel further isolated. Reassure them that you will be there for them and are willing to help them whenever you can.
Take Care of You
As caretakers and worried bystanders to an eating disorder, it’s easy to forget about our own well being and give our all to the other person. Well, you can’t help another person if you are suffering yourself, so make sure to keep pushing yourself to the forefront. The closer the person is to you, the harder it will be to do this. However, make time for you, to do the things you enjoy, and give yourself some praise for being the great person that you are.
Don’t neglect yourself – if you feel that another person’s eating disorder is affecting your health and wellness, reach out to a professional yourself to get the help you need.