Part One: Do’s and Don’ts of Supporting a Loved One in Eating Disorder Recovery

Monte Nido Rivertowns Clinical Director Gillian Tanz, MSW, LCSW has almost ten years of experience treating severe mood and anxiety disorders in multiple settings. In part one of her series, Gillian shares some of the do’s and don’ts she has learned through the years from families and loved ones supporting those in eating disorder recovery. Read on to learn more about how you can support your loved one on their recovery journey.

Supporting a person with an eating disorder can be a very tricky thing to do. How do you know whether what you are doing is supporting your loved one in their recovery process, or enabling their eating disorder to retain its grip? This is a theme that comes up again and again at Monte Nido Rivertowns. Below are some helpful guidelines, as told to me by families, clients and staff engaged in the process of recovery.

Do: Educate yourself about eating disorders. The more you know about what your friend or loved one is going through, the better you can support them. Don’t be afraid to ask them questions also, as every person is unique. Eating disorders are serious illnesses, with the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. If you know or suspect you have a loved one suffering from an eating disorder, it is important to support them to get effective treatment.

The following web sites are a good place to start educating yourself:

http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/resource-links

http://www.aedweb.org

http://www.something-fishy.org

http://www.anad.org/get-help/

http://bedaonline.com

http://www.montenido.com/about-us/eating-disorder-education-resources/

Don’t: Talk about or evaluate your body or other people’s bodies, or talk about dieting or weight in front of the person in recovery. Even if you are not commenting on their body or their diet, you send an important message about what you value or judge in a person by how you discuss yourself or others. Of course, many people are unhappy with their weight or appearance and the prevalence of the diet industry in our culture cannot be understated. Just because you may be on a special diet does not mean you yourself are engaging in disordered eating habits. However, a person in eating disorder recovery is especially vulnerable to these messages. What is a casual comment to you, can for them be a verbal sledgehammer. This goes for compliments as well as criticisms! For example, noting that a celebrity looks great because he/she has lost weight can send a message that what you value about that person is their appearance. These messages are subtle but insidious, and it takes practice to become aware of them.

 

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