How to Approach Someone with an Eating Disorder

How to approach someone with an eating disorderIt is difficult to watch someone you love struggle with an eating disorder. Many families and friends describe feeling frightened and worried about their loved one, and many express a feeling of helplessness when it comes to helping the eating disordered person.

When you decide to approach someone about anorexia, food addiction, bulimia or binge eating, you want to be careful not to say the wrong thing. You may be struggling with a lot of emotions of your own, and saying the wrong thing may push your loved one away or fail to help the situation.

Maintain a Calm Demeanor before Addressing Eating Problems

You may be filled with strong emotions of love and concern for the person you are addressing. You may be angry that the person you care about is behaving in this manner. There are a number of emotions you may be experiencing right now. The first step to communicate with someone who has an eating disorder is to understand and work through your own emotions first. Sometimes, it helps to have a few sessions with a licensed therapist before you approach this conversation.

If the person is a colleague or a peer, you want to identify your reasons for wanting to help as well. Ensure that you feel emotionally calm and confident when you speak to this person. Your ultimate goal is to express caring and concern in a non-threatening manner.

Make a Plan before You Begin

If you are planning an intervention for the person you care about, you want to be prepared ahead of time. There are some steps you must take before you begin:

  • Learn more about eating disorders
  • Plan treatment ahead of time
  • Learn what not to say
  • Enlist the help of a counselor or interventionist, if necessary

If your goal is to seek help for your loved one, you need to have a plan in place. You do not want to give this person any time to change his or her mind about treatment after this discussion. It is best to begin rehab treatment within 24 hours after your discussion. This may sound overwhelming, but this type of intervention is often successful. We can help you plan an intervention from start to finish and even help you arrange eating disorder treatment and travel to and from treatment.

More Tips for a Successful Eating Disorder Conversation

  • It is important to know that body weight and food consumption are just symptoms of a larger problem. Avoid talking about body weight or food amounts as these topics may cause conflict.
  • Listen openly and express caring and concern. Help this person understand that you want to help and support as much as possible.
  • Avoid enabling the eating disorder. While you cannot force a person to eat, you may be able to set expectations that your loved one seek treatment.
  • Do not become this person’s therapist. As much as you care, it takes in-depth treatment to heal an eating disorder.

Find Help for Eating Disorders Today

No matter what type of eating disorder your family or your friend is struggling with, we can help. We offer a 24 hour, toll-free helpline that is staffed by experienced counselors to help put you in touch with reputable, proven treatment solutions.

Take a moment to find out how we can help you. Speak with one of our supportive counselors today. All calls are free to you and completely confidential.