Just like any medical or psychiatric condition, the importance of family involvement in recovery from an eating disorder cannot be understated. The best way to support someone with an eating disorder is by remaining loving, hopeful and curious.

It is easy to become frustrated with what can often be a lengthy treatment process, multiple lapses, and broken promises.

A way to meet unmet needs

Please know that your loved one, as we all do, was simply searching for a way to feel better – to have their unmet needs met. Eating disorders, like all addictions, promise to be all those things and more. And they might work for a while until they don’t.

We have to assume that our loved ones are doing the best they can, and even though they may not have created all of the challenges that life brings them, they are responsible for resolving them.

Family-Based Treatment for eating disorders works

Eating disorders affect the whole family system and certainly require the support of the family with firm limits in order to ensure a full recovery. Family-Based Treatment (FBT) is the most successful evidenced-based treatment for adolescents with eating disorders and has also begun to be used and researched in treating young adults as well. FBT empowers the family to take back control over their household, especially meals.

How to show your support

There are many ways to show support for a loved one who is struggling with an eating disorder, including:

  • Join them in therapy sessions
  • Ask questions
  • Tell them you love them and you can see they are trying
  • Be honest (respectfully) about the ways you have seen their eating disorder affect them and your relationship
  • Be willing to learn about weight stigma and your own relationship with your body
  • Improve your own awareness about comments you may make about your own or others’ bodies, comments/judgments about food, labeling food as “healthy” or “unhealthy,” diet talk, and comparisons

A small shift can go a long way. For instance, instead of greeting loved ones, coworkers, friends and acquaintances by saying, “You look so great!” Instead try, “It’s so great to see you!”

For more ideas on how to show your support as well as things to say and not say, we asked some of our amazing clients for their input. You can read that post here.

Walden is here to help

We know finding care can be tough. Walden is here for you. If you are concerned that you, or a loved one, may have an eating disorder, please reach out by completing the form on this page or email us at intake_coordinators@waldenbehavioralcare.com.

Read our Loved One’s Guide to Healing Together

Rebekah Bardwell

Rebekah Bardwell Dowekyo, LPC, CEDS-S, is Assistant Vice President of Clinical Operations for Connecticut and Western Massachusetts Regions at Walden Behavioral Care. Bekah (she/her/hers) has over 20 years of eating disorder experience. Prior to joining Walden, Bekah was an Intensive Care Manager at the Connecticut Behavioral Health Partnership. She also founded and directed the Intuitive Eating Program (IOP) at Hollywood Pavilion Hospital in Florida and held various clinical positions at The Renfrew Center. Bekah earned her master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling from Florida Atlantic University, is a Licensed Professional Counselor in the State of Connecticut and is a Certified Eating Disorder Specialist.

*This blog post does not necessarily represent the views of Walden Behavioral Care and its management. The Walden Blog is meant to represent a broad variety of opinions relating to eating disorders and their treatment.