When a loved one is struggling with an eating disorder, it’s important that their friends and family are there to support them so they can have the best chance of healing and recovery. Eating disorders are mental health illnesses which are not chosen by the individuals struggling with them. They require treatment which involves a number of changes that are not necessarily easy to make or adapt to. So, as a loved one of someone recovering from an eating disorder, it’s important to know what to say and what not to say during your loved one’s recovery. If you’re wondering what to say to someone with an eating disorder so you can offer the best support you can, keep reading.
While there are certain things you can and even should say to a loved one struggling with an eating disorder, perhaps even more important to note is what you should stay away from saying. Some things to steer clear of mentioning can include:
“You are looking healthier”: Using the term “healthy” with someone in eating disorder recovery may trigger anxiety. This is due to the association of the word “healthy” with gaining weight. For people with eating disorders, gaining weight may be the most challenging aspect of their recovery. Rather than speaking on how a person in recovery from an eating disorder looks physically, try mentioning their energy. For example, “you look so joyous!”.
“You have such great self-control!”: Since eating disorders are mental health issues, it’s important to know that this means they’re nothing to do with self-control. In fact, if anything, it means there is a lack of self-control, as these issues aren’t a choice, they’re a disease. So, when you tell someone with an eating disorder that you’re jealous of their self-control, you are actually praising their mental health condition. And, may enable them to continue with self-harming behaviors rather than get the help they need.
“Just eat more/less”: It’s a common misconception that eating disorders could just be solved by just eating more or eating less. However, eating disorders aren’t really about food. They’re about mental health. So, without addressing the way this mental health disorder affects an individual, no matter how much or little a person struggling with an eating disorder eats doesn’t really matter.
Now that you know what NOT to say to someone recovering from an eating disorder, you can learn more about what you can say. Some examples of what to say to someone with an eating disorder include:
“I understand that recovery is challenging. But, I’m so proud of you!”: One of the most supportive thing you can do for a loved one recovering from an eating disorder is to attempt to understand the challenge of recovery. When you underestimate the challenge, your loved one may think that you aren’t there to support them through the various obstacles they’ll eventually face.
“Even if I don’t understand, I’m still here if you need anything”: If you don’t really know what it’s like to live with an eating disorder or even anything about these conditions at all, it’s ok to say so. But, remember to still be open to learning more, and offering any type of support your loved one may need. So, express that while you may not understand, you are still there to support and love your loved one in recovery.
“You are worth so much more than an eating disorder”: Part of living with an eating disorder is a distorted self-image and worrying about weight/size. When you tell your loved one that they are more than their eating disorder, you remind them that you don’t look at their worth according to their weight/size. You measure their worth according to their heart, which is really who they are! This type of support goes a long way and offers a healthy way to tell someone that they are more than what they may think they may be.
Does someone you love struggle with an eating disorder? If so, Willow Place for Women is a treatment center that helps women struggling with various types of eating disorders to gain healing. And, establish a life of recovery. We offer a number of therapeutic approaches which allow individuals enrolled in our programs to identify the underlying causes of their eating disorders. This way, they can confront these issues in a controlled environment. And, develop the skills they need to gain successful recovery.
To learn more about how we can help your loved one gain healing from an eating disorder, contact us today.