If you or anyone you know has ever struggled with an eating disorder, you know how challenging it can be to sustain nourishing relationships at the same time. You may want to change your friend’s habits, shake them out of it or even just wish to see them be happy again.
Eating disorders can be so complex making it challenging to navigate your relationship with the person and also be loving and supportive. I personally struggled to maintain positive relationships with many people I cared about during my disordered eating days. Many of my friends/family asked how to help me, but the complexity of the disorder made it difficult for me to share tactical ways they could support me. After reflecting on what I needed most at the time, I put together some ways you can support your loved ones struggling with disordered eating.
How to Help a Friend with an Eating Disorder
1. Be a role Model
The biggest way you can help push a friend towards recovery is by being a positive role model. Reflect on your relationship with food and your body. Are you constantly critiquing your body? Do you have a diet mentality? Do you eat intuitively? Speak about yourself lovingly and positively, not only about your body but about other things you do well too. Practice food freedom and intuitive eating. When your friend sees you maintaining a nourishing relationship with food and your body, she will be more inspired to do the same.
2. Shower them with Love
When I was struggling with disordered eating, I constantly felt like I was not good enough. My mind always jumped to the most negative thoughts about myself. I felt like no matter how hard I tried at everything, I would still never be sufficient for anyone. Empower your friend to think more positively about herself by diminishing her negative self-talk. Compliment their work, dedication, and greatest assets. Tell them they are beautiful even if they try to deny it. The consistent reinforcement of positive thoughts will, in turn, help them to start to developing self-love.
3. Don’t Try and Change Them – Remove your Judgement
You may think many things that your friend is doing are wrong and unhealthy. Avoid quickly changing their habits or manipulating them. Be understanding of their ways even if you know it isn’t healthy. They are incredibly self-conscious and are quick to sense judgment. If they want to eat an apple for dinner, let them, but offer to share some of the foods you are making and continue to nourish yourself well in front of them.
4. Invite them to do things that change their routine
Eating disorders often instill a perfectionist lifestyle, making people have strict routines and rituals in every aspect of their life. Continue to invite your friend to do things with you that would change their routines. They will likely resist the change and say no, but don’t give up asking. By being persistent, they will likely realize how much you care about them and say yes to doing something with you eventually. When they realize how freeing it is to break their routines, they will be propelled to recover more quickly.
5. Listen to them and be sympathetic
I was SO sensitive when I had an eating disorder. Every little mistake or issue in my life was another sign telling me that I wasn’t good enough. Even though I now see that I was more than enough and was incredibly blessed, it’s always good to have friends who understand that your life seems depressing at the time. Listen to their problems, be incredibly sympathetic even if their issues seem minuscule, and tell them something positive. Always find the good in their life and help remind them of the big picture.
6. Tag them in uplifting social media posts and send them empowering articles
Social media can be a dangerous place for people with eating disorders, but there is also a positive community sending encouraging messages on the platforms, specifically towards people with disordered eating. Seek out self-love and body-positive gurus on social media and follow them closely. Tell your friend about them and tag them in uplifting posts that you feel they can relate to. They may be inclined to follow those people and clean up their social media feeds from anything that is triggering them to maintain disordered habits.
7. Seek help for them
There are literally millions of resources to help people with eating disorders. When you are deep in the disordered stages, the thing you make the least amount of time for is taking care of yourself properly. Your friend likely isn’t going to take the time to find recovery resources for herself unless they are truly motivated. Send them positive articles, websites, books, and therapist recommendations with simple messages like, “Just saw this and thought of you – love you!” Don’t be aggressive with your support, as they will likely be overwhelmed with so many options and resources, but be thoughtful.
8. Avoid using the word eating disorder unless they do
Saying you have an eating disorder is scary. I remember just thinking of the words would make me tear up in fear. I definitely didn’t want to be labeled as a person with one. Unless your friend already has used the word in front of you, avoid using that label.
9. Ask them what they need and how you can be supportive
As I mentioned before, eating disorders are SO complex and everyone has different struggles they need to work through. If you really want to help a friend, ask them how you can be supportive. I’m sure they will appreciate you asking and offer a thing or two that you can help with.
Your friendship is extremely valuable to your friend even if you don’t feel like it right now. They have crazy thoughts spinning around their mind and can’t think clearly. Your consistent support will make an impact and when they start recovering, they will remember that you were there for them in the good and bad days.
Never give up.
Are you personally struggling with an eating disorder and seeking support? Share this article with a friend tell them what ways they can help you!
XO – Morgan, Mint+Mo
You may also like: