Eating disorders are complex and complicated mental health issues which can become life threatening without treatment. Supporting a loved one who has an issue with one of life’s necessities, food, can be challenging.
Help Them Stop Talking About Weight
Since weight and body image has been such a hyper-focus for so long, it might feel like a natural area of conversation to bring up when your loved one is in treatment and recovery for an eating disorder. Learning not to focus on weight and body image is something they are working very hard at. Even if they had reached dangerously low weights through anorexia nervosa and you want to comment they are looking healthier as they gain some weight- try to avoid these comments in the beginning. On the other hand, if someone had gained a dangerously high weight through an eating disorder like binge eating disorder, try not to comment on how thin they are looking. Underneath the surface of obsession regarding weight and body image are serious psychological issues they are working hard to sort out. For now, encourage them to keep working so hard in treatment.
Leave The Guidance To The Therapists
Getting a call from a loved one in treatment is a special yet also a frightening moment. You want to support them and help them in every way you can. Making sure those ways you chose are healthy is important. Remember, that though you are a parent, a spouse, or a dear friend, you are not a licensed professional certified in treating eating disorders. What you can do is:
- Hold space for your loved one by listening to them- to a certain degree. If you hear them escalating, falling into a negative headspace, or heading into a particularly bad mindset, lovingly encourage them to take a moment and think about what’s really going on.
- Don’t give them advice, enable their behaviors, or encourage them to leave treatment during a crisis
- Always point them back toward their treatment with gentle statements like “That sounds really great” or “That sounds really difficult”… “I think it’s really important for you to talk to your therapist about that” “I encourage you to bring that up in group tomorrow”
Remember, They Have An Opinion, Too!
As the loved ones of someone in treatment for an eating disorder it can be easy to fall into a codependent role in which you think that, because they are sick, they can’t know what’s good for them. Healing through treatment is going to help your loved one discover exactly what they need for themselves. You can ask them what they need from you- they’re going to have an answer over time.
Avalon By The Sea provides a tranquil and healing environment for recovering from eating disorders. Our family therapy programs help everyone grow during treatment. For a confidential assessment, call us today at 1 888-958-7511.