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How can I support someone with an eating disorder without making them feel embarrassed or patronized?

16 Answers
Last Updated: 01/26/2021 at 10:54pm
1 Tip to Feel Better
United States
Moderated by

Monique Bivins, MA, LPC

Licensed Professional Counselor

I have a real passion for helping my clients to overcome life's obstacles . My work with clients is nonjudgmental, supportive, and interactive.

Top Rated Answers
February 8th, 2015 2:15pm
I think the biggest thing you can do is just to continue to be supportive of them. Let them know you care about them and are willing to help them get better if they choose, but don't push or force the issue.
January 30th, 2015 9:03pm
Be careful to avoid critical or accusatory statements, as this will only make your friend or family member defensive. Instead, focus on the specific behaviors that worry you. Focus on feelings and relationships, not on weight and food. Share your memories of specific times when you felt concerned about the person’s eating behavior. Explain that you think these things may indicate that there could be a problem that needs professional help. Tell them you are concerned about their health, but respect their privacy. Do not comment on how they look. Avoid giving simple solutions. For example, "If you'd just stop, then everything would be fine!"
March 27th, 2015 2:22pm
Don't make it a huge deal. Don't act like you are constantly watching them and making sure they are ok. Just treat them normally and make sure they know you are there if they need you.
April 5th, 2015 5:00am
If they're diagnosed with an eating disorder, it's best that you support them and ensure they comply to their dietary needs. Of course, not incessantly questioning them about their food intake - but to casually remind them when they're a little more towards the relapse side. About how overwhelmed they would feel, it's best to act like how you used to. Make them think everything's normal and show support when they need it. Good luck!
April 8th, 2015 10:45pm
Eating disorders are a complex, complicated, multi-dimensional pattern of behaviors and thoughts, and no two people are the same. Supporting someone with an eating disorder can be just as tricky as understanding the motivation and driving force behind it. Letting them know you are available to talk with them, and let them know you may be able to relate to what they are feeling and thinking, are cliche by good methods of support. Being open, receptive, and non-judgmental when they talk with you are important as well. Often times eating disorders are embarrassing for the person struggling with it. Knowing how to help them and what you can do is an important part of their recovery, as you may be their only support at the moment. For more information on eating disorders you can check out the 7 Cups self-help guide, talk with a counsellor, or talk to a doctor.
January 25th, 2016 6:52am
Be there for them , empathize with them , listen to their feelings and don't make light of the situation or pretend you understand what they are going through. Let them let it all out, just be there for them . Lend a listening ear .
February 8th, 2016 12:17pm
It very much depends what eating disorder you are referring to but in general I would say that there is a lot of shame surrounding disordered behaviours, make them feel loved unconditionally and if you have the time to give let them know that they can talk to you, try not to act shocked or lecture, don't get angry excessively or talk too much about the impact it has on you, the chances are they already feel guilty, let them know that it is okay to reach for help and that their emotions are valid, it does not need to be a secret and they do not need to be ashamed, be pleased with their successes (if they are) and comfort them in their distress and above all provide hope because it does and can get better.
March 15th, 2016 2:59pm
You can send or read articles to them regarding the disorder or caregivers role in the disorder and they will know that what you are doing is very common in the disorder.
May 31st, 2016 3:56pm
The most important thing is to just be there for a person. Whether it with an eating disorder or any other mental illness, the things that people will appreciate is the person who was there for them. You don't have to say anything except for "I'm here for you" and then help them however they let you.
June 14th, 2016 3:06pm
You can just be by their side. Without making a big deal about it you could throw in a commnet like if your eating just normaly ask if they want some and just let them know you understand.
February 27th, 2017 5:55pm
Let them know that they can say as much or little as they'd like. Ensure them that they are perfect in every way and do not need to change a thing. Discuss and focus on the positive attributes about them and just let them know that they're not alone.
April 4th, 2017 11:02pm
By making them feel listened to, supported, and important. Often people with eating disorders also suffer from depression and low self-worth, their eating disorder may be a way to cope with these difficult feelings, or may be a way of punishing themselves as they believes they deserve to be punished or don`t deserve to be happy and healthy. Reminding them they deserve to be happy and healthy can really help them.
August 14th, 2017 10:38am
Be honest, tell them you don't understand but you want to, and that you want to be there for them. Maybe ask if there's anything they want you to read up on to help you understand more.
August 21st, 2017 7:02pm
Remember that what this friend is going through is more common than it may be talked about. You can let them do all the talking and just be there to listen, a shoulder to cry on, and be as supportive as you can. :) When somebody is going through an ED, sometimes the best thing you can do for them is listen. I hope your friend recovers soon! You're both in my heart!
February 27th, 2018 4:08pm
People with eating disorder tends to think a lot about what people say about them. The slightest hint will make them think that they are fat and ugly, so it is good to mind about how you say things to them... let them think for themselves, and try not to touch the sensitive issue if you don't have a clear idea about what you can do about it
January 26th, 2021 10:54pm
First thing one can do to show support for someone struggling with an eating disorder is by being empathetic towards their situation. Second, have a discussion with them about what situations in their life have brought on this struggle. Third, be a good listener. Offer and assist them in using resources, hotlines, support communities, and other methods of support. And, finally, remind them that they are not alone. You are there for them when they need your support and empathy. Knowing they have you there to offer them continual support and a listening ear will be comforting for them.