How to Help Your Friend or Sister Who Has an Eating Disorder
- Category: Friends and Family
This heartbreaking question comes in often: "How can I help someone I love, my sister, my friend, recover from an eating disorder?
One of the best ways you can help is to live a healthy life yourself. Let her see you have a healthy attitude toward food. Let her see you honor your values and pursue your heart's desire. Let her see you say "no" to what is not good for you and "yes" to what is not. Invite her to healthy and normal social and cultural events with no special consideration for her eating issues. Let her discover the healthy forces within her that will help her develop and rise to the occasion if she can.
Always support the health in her and do not support the eating disorder behavior or thinking.
Do not accept and carry secrets for her.
Let her know you love her, even if she doesn't believe it when you don't cater to her eating disorder thinking. She may not believe your words at such times, but she will believe you when you keep showing up for her with no recriminations.
I'm a psychotherapist in Los Angeles and have been specializing in working with adults with eating disorders (bulimia, anorexia, binge eating, compulsive eating) for almost thirty years. In our private work patients are surprised that the therapy is not what they expected or feared. It's about their developing within them what has been neglected for a long time, maybe many years. When they learn to recognize their true yearnings and desires and make steps toward honoring their authentic self, their authentic self emerges with more health and durability. The energy that went into the eating disorder pulls out of destructive behaviors and flows into their lives in creative and beautiful ways.
Eventually their lives are dedicated to living well. The eating disorder fades to nothing. Yes, body issues, self doubts, anxieties and worries will occur as they do to all of us. But with new strength and a more matured psyche, the person now recovered addresses them in a healthy way and knows that the feelings will pass.
If you love someone with an eating disorder, what are your challenges and how do you meet them?
If you have an eating disorder, what do you find helpful from others?