How to Support Someone With an Eating Disorder
Seeing someone struggle with the distress of an eating disorder is incredibly difficult. You want to show support but might not know-how. It is important to encourage your loved one to seek treatment for their illness, but you can also find ways to support their journey towards recovery. This disorder can be frustrating for all involved. It is important to also remember you and the person it has a hold of are not to blame.
I remember my biggest support during the earliest days of my recovery. It was my best friend, who to this day I believe saved my life. He would give me space to open up about the darkest parts of my feelings surrounding food, go to fast-food parking lots in the middle of the night with me while I cried, and encourage me to seek out help. If I didn't have that support I am not sure I would have made it through the early years of my disorder.
Educate yourself about eating disorders and treatment
Allow your loved one space to talk freely, with no judgment about their feelings, do not make assumptions and listen
Avoid all topics of weight, shape, food, and diets around them
Ask what you can do to help; planning meals, setting boundaries, helping them stick to a mealtime, etc. (If they are distressful or argue remind them you are there for support and understand that this is a difficult time)
Keep conversations neutral during stressful times; at mealtimes or in social situations that might involve food
Help them look up menus before going out to restaurants, create a plan B if they do not have what they want to order and even bring a backup meal from home to reduce anxiety
Ask them what might be most helpful during mealtimes; a distraction from the television or coloring, etc, include them in making these decisions
Allowing yourself to be a solid support system takes courage. There are more detailed tips and resources for caregivers from Beat that I encourage you to check out. Remember to take care of yourself, that this eating disorder is not your loved one but a horrible illness that they are working to overcome.