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I Know Someone Struggling With An Eating Disorder And I’m Unsure Of How To Help

It can be so hard to know what is helpful or unhelpful to someone who struggles with an
eating disorder.
Maybe you feel like you want to help or fix the situation, but you feel helpless. Maybe nothing you do seems to help, or maybe when you’re trying to help you feel like you end up making it worse. First of all, if this is you, you’re not alone. These aren’t straight forward situations with clear cut answers.

Unfortunately, every single person who struggles with an eating disorder is different. Every battle with eating disorders is different. No two people are exactly the same, have the same background, or have the same struggles.

A lot of times eating disorders present themselves in similar ways, but the causes behind the eating disorders are never 100% identical.

So, this is the bad news. There is not a one-size-fits-all answer for being helpful to someone struggling with an eating disorder. However, the good news is that you CAN be helpful. How? The number one thing you can do is ASK. If you know someone who is struggling, or even someone that you suspect is struggling, ASK them what would be helpful for them. This will probably be an uncomfortable conversation and maybe they won’t have an answer right away. That’s okay – be open to the discomfort and create space and a safe environment for them. Let them know that you don’t need an answer right away, but that you would love for them to come to you when they do have an answer. Make it clear that you’re not shaming them and that you’re not disappointed in them, but that you want to be supportive of what they need.

Secondly, try different things. If you can’t have that conversation or don’t get an answer, start trying different things that might be helpful. Sitting with them longer at the dinner table; having healthy snacks on hand; having a picnic; creating space for their feelings; etc. Pay attention to their responses as you try different techniques. If something seems to be helpful or if they seem to enjoy something, keep doing it! On the other hand, if something seems to make them uncomfortable or doesn’t seem helpful, don’t do it again. It doesn’t have to be complicated, it just has to be intentional.

Another thing that is super helpful for someone who is struggling is to be a safe place for them to share their feelings, emotions, wins, and failures.

A lot of people who struggle with a lack of self-confidence, a lack of self-love, or a lack of healthy coping skills really struggle with emotions.

These people tend to push everything down inside instead of sharing openly or feeling safe to say how they’re truly feeling. Creating a safe space for someone to share how they’re feeling includes being open and honest yourself. Being real, sharing your feelings, and creating an environment where feelings are talked about makes it a lot more comfortable and inviting for someone to share (while feeling safe) how they’re feeling.

Lastly, always be open to helping someone find resources, doctors, dietitians, therapists, coaches, etc. who would be helpful for them. If YOU can’t help, don’t take that as a failure or like you’re “not good enough,” just know that sometimes people need qualified, trained, and professional support. Remember that you are not alone. Supporting someone with an

Eating disorder can be really hard, but you are capable of doing hard things! Keep it simple, keep it safe, and keep it loving. You are never alone!

*Disclaimer: The views expressed by the writer are in their personal capacity only and aren’t to be replaced with medical advise.

Abby Horst

A podcaster, wife, health/wellness coach, beach lover, and musician. She specialises in nutrition education, meal planning, and developing sustainable habits. She passionately works with her patients to help them build healthier and happier relationships with food, exercise, and themselves.

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