Supporting someone with disordered eating or an eating disorder

It can be hard to know how to support someone who is experiencing disordered eating or an eating disorder. Below are some ways you can support someone on their journey while taking care of yourself.

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Are you worried for a family member, friend or classmate who is showing signs of disordered eating or an eating disorder? Or perhaps, they have opened up to you about their struggles and are looking for support. This section will discuss how you can support someone experiencing disordered eating or an eating disorder.

Be patient and listen: When someone shares information that leaves us feeling concerned for their health and wellbeing, it is normal to raise our voices, show panic and want to help solve their problems. However, it’s important to remain calm and respect how they feel while they are sharing. If someone you love shares that they think they might be experiencing  disordered eating or an eating disorder, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Take a deep breath if you feel like you’re getting overwhelmed
  • Use active listening with the person
  • Acknowledge the courage it took for them to open up (“That must have been really hard for you to share, thank you for trusting me.”; “That was really brave of you to share.”)
  • Ask the person how you can support them

Educate yourself: One of the most supportive ways you can be there for someone struggling with disordered eating or an eating disorder is to learn more about the condition and the resources available. Some places to start:

Educating yourself takes the burden off the person having to explain themselves. You will also have some resources on hand in case they are looking for more support. Remember that everyone’s individual experience is unique. Everyone goes at their own pace through recovery, and no two journeys will look the same. Consider how the person feels about their eating disorder, their readiness for change, and how they feel it is impacting them.

Be mindful of how you treat and talk about your own body. How we feel about our own bodies can influence those around us, especially if they are already struggling. Consider how you treat your own body and the language you use. Not sure where to start? Check out more in the talking about our bodies section.

Set boundaries with your conversations. You don’t have to be available all the time or pick up the phone right away if someone who is struggling contacts you. Let your friend know that you may not get to their messages right away. If you’re able to, help your friend find a few different resources for when they need support. A good place to start is our Get Support section. 

Check in with how you are feeling and take time to recharge. This could include having a nap, taking some deep breaths, going for a walk or enjoying a hobby. These activities can take some weight off your shoulders and help you clear your head of worries. We are better able to support those around us when we make sure our own needs are met.

It is important to remember that recovery doesn’t happen overnight but there is treatment and support available. You do not have to support someone alone. Take the time to listen and educate yourself from reliable sources. And don’t forget to take care of yourself as you walk with others on their journey.

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