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Navigating Conversations About Eating Disorders with Loved Ones

Having a loved one with an eating disorder is difficult. You might find yourself racking your brain on what to say to them and what not to say. This unease can lead to feelings of anxiety and can take a toll on your own mental health. Being equipped with the proper knowledge on how to navigate the difficult conversations surrounding eating disorders is necessary in order to ensure beneficial and open exchanges. Below I have gone through multiple tips to create open and welcoming spaces for conversations about eating disorders. 


Try to Understand

Although you may never have experienced what your loved one is going through when dealing with an eating disorder it is important to try your best to understand. Everyone’s eating disorder journey looks different, and each individual is dealing with their own struggles. It is important to be open when talking with your loved one to ensure you have the best understanding of what they are going through and the type of support they may need. 


Educate Yourself 

Finding out your loved one has an eating disorder is not easy. You might try and blame yourself and turn towards the internet for answers. It is important to find reputable sources when educating yourself on what eating disorders are in order to better understand what your loved one is going through. There are so many sites on the internet today, or videos and posts on social media, that do not accurately describe eating disorders and how to help those with them. A great national site within Canada is:


Be Kind but Clear

If your loved one hasn’t come out and told you about their struggles and you suspect something might be going on, it is important to make clear statements bringing up your concerns without sounding accusing. Tell your loved one what you have noticed something going on with their eating and that you would like to talk to them about it (Nedic, n.d.). Be supportive and give them room to speak. 


Create a Safe Place 

The last thing someone wants when opening up about their eating disorder is to face scrutiny and feel unwelcome talking. In order to create a safe space, let your loved one know that you care for them and want to support them on their road to recovery. Be open minded to what they have to say and try your best not to provide harsh and negative feedback. Raising your voice at someone isn’t going to make them want to listen any more than they already do. Be thoughtful with your words and understand that these conversations are not easy for them either. 


Support and Encourage

Support can come in many different forms and often you will have to tailor how you support an individual based on their current needs. Every individual is at a different stage of recovery, so while you can encourage individuals to seek professional help don’t push them. One way you can show support can include offering your loved one a drive to doctors appointments or support groups if they are currently attending. It can also include being a listening ear when they are having a bad day and need to speak about the issues they are facing. 


Take Care of Yourself Too

At the end of the day, you also need to remember to take care of yourself too! Supporting a loved one who is struggling with an eating disorder can be an emotional journey. It is important that you understand your own boundaries and to seek support where you need it. Prioritizing your well-being can also ensure you are properly able to support your loved one. Being burnt out and trying to help someone else can lead to a lot more negative consequences. Always check in with yourself. 






Nedic (n.d.). Helping your child.


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