Eating Disorder Recovery: How to Support Your Loved One

Eating Disorder Recovery: How to Support Your Loved One
photo: daniellehelm, Creative Commons
photo: daniellehelm, Creative Commons

Eating disorder recovery doesn’t only affect the person with the eating disorder. If you have a friend or family member with an eating disorder, you know how hard it can be to help them through it. If your loved one is in therapy and/or working with a nutritionist and trying to make changes in their eating habits, it can be difficult not to jump in with advice or guidance. This is especially difficult when it is so easy for you to see the proper solutions for them.

Remember that they must discover these solutions for themselves.

This will happen in their own way, in their own time, with the assistance of their therapist and nutritionist. The process of therapy is just that— a “process”— and it takes time.  You may not see the results you want to see as quickly as you want to see them.

Some Tips for Supporting Your Loved One’s Eating Disorder Recovery

  • Do speak with their therapist and/or nutritionist and learn what your role is in the therapeutic process. Follow their requests and instructions.
  • Don’t give unsolicited advice or remind your loved one of what the therapist or nutritionist said. This often has the exact opposite affect of what you intended.
  • Do be aware and sensitive in social situations which involve food (and most do). Your loved one may not feel strong enough to participate or may need to leave an event early.
  • Don’t attempt to “take over” and plan their meals/snacks for them or direct them to eat or not eat certain foods.
  • Do speak to the therapist and/or nutritionist about realistic expectations. Find out what you can reasonably expect to see in the way of progress or changes in your loved one. And then be patient!
  • Don’t talk about food a lot or make comments on their appearance, especially their body or weight, even if it’s a positive comment.
  • Do learn what triggers your loved one’s eating disorder behaviors and avoid doing these things.

Eating disorder recovery is a fragile process. As a friend or family member, you have the power to influence your loved one’s recovery in a positive way. Learn how to do this and be patient with them as they go through the process.


Stacey Wald, LAPC, RD


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