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  • Gabrielle Morreale

When your friend or family has an ED

Updated: Jun 4

When your friend or family has an eating disorder

By: Abby Emmert & Gabrielle Morreale


We get asked often from family and friends who have a loved one struggling with an eating disorder how to support them, how to talk to them, and what are the right/ wrong things to say. First, we want to acknowledge that if you are in this position, watching a loved one or friend go through this, we understand how hard this must be for you. Watching someone you love go through an eating disorder can be difficult and create feelings of helplessness. This can be challenging but take a step back and imagine how they must feel having the disorder. We are sending compassion and healing vibes to both you and your loved one. Hopefully this blog will bring you some answers and information that will help, but we also have a parent coach and family therapist at Recovered and Restored Eating Disorder Therapy Center who is here to help. Her name is Becc and she is the perfect support for those that are looking for assistance in supporting their own loved one through this process. Feel free to reach out if you want to meet her! However, we know family therapy is not feasible for everyone so here are some tips below for some common questions we seem to hear frequently.

Here are some questions we get about supporting a loved one….

  1. How do I talk to them about their ED?

  2. I always encourage my clients to have open communication about their feelings and confide in those that have proved to be great supporters! Chances are, if you know about someones eating disorder, they consider you a safe person. Please treat this as an honor. With that in mind, your loved one who is suffering is probably just learning how to talk about it, which can be VERY hard to do. Eating disorders often try to silence those who are struggling and keep them trapped. Someone talking about their eating disorder especially in a non-therapeutic setting can be healing and freeing. Communication is key in recovery. So be patient, because they may be figuring it out. But I would say to the question of how to talk to them...ask them! Ask them how they would like you to ask questions, or if you're concerned, how to communicate that concern. This will allow them to think about this for themselves and to give you an answer that is personalized to their recovery! This will help empower them and show them they are not alone in their eating disorder.

  3. How do I encourage them on harder days?

  4. Make sure to be using neutral language! Recovery is an evolving process. There are many directions to it, which often result in good and bad days. Those bad days have to be nurtured and accepted because they are part of the work! In nurturing those days, it's imperative to use neutral language. For example, you may want to support them by saying something like, “you’ve been so good lately!” or “you were doing so well yesterday?” These can be triggering because it makes the person feel as though their harder days are not valid and can leave room for the ED voice to creep in. Instead, saying something like, “Im sorry today feels hard for you. What do you need from me?” or ‘I can see your struggling today its ok to struggle. I’m here whatever you need.” This language validates their feelings and opens the communication for you to find out what they need in order to have your support!

  5. How do you share your concerns without making the person feel attacked?

  6. You definitely want to do this kindly. Make sure to share your feelings using “I” statements, rather than putting the blame or criticism on the other person. For example, “I get worried when I see you're eating less.” Rather than coming at the person saying, “You're eating less, what's going on?” I would also recommend doing it in an open and loving manner rather than intervention style. If you have concerns, share with the person what you have been seeing and ask them if they need anything from you. This will open the door to helping the person in whatever way they need verses putting them on the defense.

  7. How do you learn about ED’s if you have never had one?

  8. Were so glad you asked! This is where parent and family coaching can be AMAZING! There are also so many helpful resources that offer a lot of information, both from professionals and those that have recovered, for you to expand your awareness of the problem! Check out some below:


https://www.montenido.com/supporting-vs-enabling-dos-and-donts-for-families-and-supporters-of-people-in-eating-disorder-recovery/

https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/learn/help/caregivers

https://www.allianceforeatingdisorders.com/for-loved-ones/


We hope these conversation tips and resources, are helpful to you and your loved one. We want you to know you are not alone and your willingness to have these difficult conversations is amazing! Having support in recovery is essential. To all the caregivers we see you and thank you for all you do!!