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How to be Supportive
What to do if you think someone has an eating disorder:
Tell your friend/family member that you are concerned and that you care about his/her well-being.
Encourage him/her to talk to a counselor or therapist. Remember, you are his/her friend/family member, not a psychologist. You cannot solve the problem for him/her.
Try to get him/her to discuss how he/she is feeling. This will prevent the feelings from being "bottled up." When feelings are left inside, it is easier to skip meals because he/she is "filled" with feelings. Sometimes food is used to "stuff" the feelings down.
Get support and educate yourself. It is important to have a support network as well as education in the area of eating disorders. You will feel empowered to help if you are educated.
Be positive! People do recover from eating disorders.
What not to do:
Do not focus on weight, food, or exercise when talking to your friend/family member. This may be his/her focus, but it does not have to be yours. Remember - these are only symptoms of the problem,not the problem. This is how your friend/family member has chosen to express his/her problems.
Do not lay guilt trips. For example, " Why are you doing this to your family, me, etc.?" He/she feels bad enough already. Also, he/she is not responsible for your emotions, only you are responsible for those.
Do not treat the individual as though he/she has a handicap. It will help if you treat him/her as normally as possible. Remember, he/she is more than someone who is eating disordered, he/she is a sibling, friend, spouse, etc. The more you help him/her find a different identity, the easier it will be to let go of the "eating disorder" identity.
Do not be afraid to discuss conflicts or problems. These areas need to be brought out into the open, not hidden.
Do not blame yourself. Friends, family members, and spouses do not cause an eating disorder. However, they can help in the recovery process.
Do not focus on weight gained or lost. Focus more on the mental state than the physical state of the individual. If you say, " you look thin," you are focusing and "feeding" into his/her eating disordered behavior. Do not ever say, " You look healthy." He/she may automatically associate that with being fat.
Do not focus on achievements - grades, sporting events, and promotions. Instead, talk about the inner qualities and strengths. Also talk about your own failures and mistakes. If you present a less than perfect image, he/she will not feel so strongly about his/her imperfections. Again, model, model, model. Be good to yourself and he/she will see that it is possible.