How Can I Support Someone With an Eating Disorder?

As a former guidance counselor for minority middle school children at Prep for Prep and current eating disorder meal support coach and Intake Coordinator at Eating Disorder Recovery Specialists, Mujidat Shotonwa MHC-LP, has acquired an astute understanding of how best to support someone struggling with an eating disorder.

Whether you are a family member, partner, close friend, or professional treatment provider, consider these insights when offering care to someone in eating disorder recovery:

Realize we are all the same, inside.

“What you see is just the top layer. When you peel it back, all the issues on the inside is the same as everyone else’s. What we’re seeing is presentation. People need patience, empathy, and for you to really be there and see where they are.”

Offer presence, the greatest gift.

“Active listening, watching what is difficult for them, and being with them in the moment—those are always really important.”

Find a point of reference.

“Anxiety may present as irritability, anger, or defiance, which we may not have much patience to deal with. But when you peel back that layer, you realize, ‘Oh my goodness, this person is really anxious.’ Remember a moment when you were really anxious. What did that feel like for you? What did you need in that moment? What did it feel like at a really low point for me, when I’ve been really upset, depressed, or anxious? What did I need from the person who was there supporting me?”

See the bigger picture.

“Take it a step back. Recognize that (the distress) is bigger than what is seen. (My clients) need me to be patient with them because they have lost patience with themselves. They might need you to give them what they’ve lost along the way for themselves.”

Aim to integrate.

“Eating disorders are bigger than what we’re seeing, and bigger than the client. Recovery involves everybody: the treatment team, family, environment, roommates, school, whatever is an integral part of the client’s life. Recovery is about incorporating each piece: family, friends, school and work. It’s more than just this meal.”

If you or a loved one is struggling with an eating disorder, Eating Disorder Recovery Specialists can help. Call 1-866-525-2766 or fill out our contact form and someone will be in touch with you soon.