Supporting someone with an Eating Disorder

Recommended do's

  •  Educate yourself on eating disorders; learn the jargon

  • Learn the differences between facts and myths about  weight, nutrition, and exercise

  • Ask what you can do to help

  • Listen openly and reflectively

  • Be patient and nonjudgmental

  • Talk with the person in a kind way when you are calm  and not angry, frustrated, or upset

  • Have compassion when the person brings up painful issues about underlying problems

  • Let him/her know you only want the best for him/her

  • Remind the person that he/she has people who care  and support him/her Suggest professional help in a gentle way

  • Offer to go along

  • Be flexible and open with your support

  • Be honest  Compliment the person’s personality, successes,  and accomplishments

  • Encourage all activities suggested by the treating care team, such as keeping appointments and medication compliance

  • Encourage social activities that don’t involve food

  • Encourage the person to buy foods that he/she will want  to eat (as opposed to only “healthy” foods)

  • Help the person to be patient

  • Help with the person’s household chores  (e.g., laundry, cleaning) as needed

  • Remember: recovery takes time and food may always  be a difficult issue  Remember: recovery work is up to the affected person

  • Show care, concern, and understanding

  • Ask how he/she is feeling

  • Try to be a good role model  Understand that the person is not looking for  attention or pity


Recommended don’ts

  •  Accuse or cause feelings of guilt

  • Invade privacy and contact the patient’s doctors or others  to check up behind his/her back

  • Demand weight changes (even if clinically necessary  for health)

  • Insist the person eat every type of food at the table

  • Invite the person out for social occasions where the  main focus is food

  • Invite the person to go clothes shopping

  • Make eating, food, clothes, or appearance the focus of conversation

  • Make promises or rules you cannot or will not follow  (e.g., promising not to tell anyone)

  • Threaten (e.g., if you do this once more I’ll…)

  • Offer more help than you are qualified to give

  • Create guilt or place blame on the person

  • Put timetables on recovery

  • Take the person’s actions personally  Try to change the person’s attitudes about eating or nag  about food

  • Try to control the person’s life

  • Use scare tactics to get the person into treatment, but do call 000 if you believe the person’s condition is life-threatening