Eating disorders (ED) have strongly increased these past few years. You may know someone in your friends or family relatives who is subject to these troubles. Or you may have noticed odd behaviours regarding food, body weight, sport. There is a number of ways in which you can help a friend suffering from Eating Disorders!

It exists a vast list of ED: anorexia, bulimia, binge eating, sleep eating, overexercising, clean eating, body shaming, …
As a witness of these troubles, we can be overwhelmed by the destructive impact they have on the person. I know my parents suffered a lot from these years of eating disorders, they did not know what to do and how to help me.

The problem is, as the sufferer we are going through a very rough sea of unexpected issues. We need help but we do not know how! We do not know what could help!

This why trying to help someone sometimes end up in conflict because the rescuer is trying to provide what he considers to be ‘assistance’. That assistance may not be of help to the sufferer. Nobody is to blame is this case.

To assist someone going through eating disorders or other life problems, you need to be conscious that what you perceive as “help” may not be what actually helps someone. So you should be ready to try, adjust, change the ways you can support the person.

Here is a list of precious attitudes to help a friend suffering from eating disorders:

1. Listening

Taking some time to purely listen is the best help you can give. You do not need to give advice or share your opinion on the situation: just listen to what the person needs to let go.

That may not be an easy thing sometimes. However, just taking a moment to simply listen, ask questions and enable your friend to confide his thoughts. No rush, do not pressure the person, it needs to come from her in her own pace.

2. Not judging the actions and thoughts

Secondly, do not judge the thoughts or actions according to your own life. That person may be going through difficult struggles you have never experienced, accept what she says and what she does as best as you can.

Often, we hold back profound wounds because we are afraid of what the others will say. Nevertheless, this behaviour is not a good solution because when hiding things inside, we tend to make them worse and bigger. Keep your personal judgements for yourself and be conscious that telling them to your friend may not be what actually helps him.

3. Acknowledging the difficulties

When going through tough times of life, whatever they are, we are generally in need of external acknowledgement of the difficulty. It is not right or wrong, it is a common human pattern.

As a friend or a family member, demonstrate that you understand and you recognize the challenge. In your own way, show that you are conscious that it may be much harder than you imagine, or that the person is courageous to face these disorders.

4. Acknowledging the efforts

On another side, take also a moment to acknowledge the efforts she is putting. Often, when fighting against eating disorders we do not know where to start and what works. Even if the problems are still there, maybe the person put deep efforts in trying to find solutions!

Praise your friend for what he is doing, for the changes he is trying to implement (successful or not). We all need some recognition to maintain motivation and efforts.

5. Proposing help, not forcing help

As well, when proposing your help to someone, kindly offer it. Do not force it. We all go through different stages regarding eating disorders. The stage your friend is in may not be the one where he gets ready for some help.

On another hand, what you perceive as support may not be what that person needs right now. Kindly propose some support, let know the person that you are available for her but let her come when she is ready for it.

6. Discreet help and attentions

With eating disorders, there are small actions that can strongly help your relative. Additionally to listening and understanding the problems, have some discreet attentions to help.

For instance, if the person has strong urges for junk food, avoid proposing to go out with friends in a takeaway! Prefer to have a dinner home with healthy options. If the person is putting strong efforts in her diet, do not propose to have an icecream, propose a salad! If your friend seems seeking attention and support, send motivating texts in the morning.

 

I hope these 6 ways to help a friend suffering from eating disorders will give you ideas to bring her/him support.

The most important is to not rush it. Take some time to assess how the person feels regarding the problem and adapt your support and communication accordingly.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me at alice@aliceavril.com so we can discuss that.

Thank you,

Alice Avril, Self-Mastery Coach
Become the Master of your Life now: aliceavril.com
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