Guidelines / Tips for Family Members and Friends: 1. It is important to learn and educate yourself as much as possible about eating disorders. Eating disorders are caused and maintained by many complex underlying factors. Therefore it is very difficult to break the cycle of an eating disorder. Don’t be expecting your loved one to overcome her eating disorder overnight, recovery takes time. 2. Affirm your loved one on her strengths and abilities that are not related to her eating disorder. This can help your loved one help separate her self worth / esteem from weight, shape. 3. Engage in pastimes/ activities together that will not raise their anxieties/worries about food, weight etc. Again this can help your loved one to learn to base their self worth on strengths and abilities that are not related to food, weight and shape. 4. Communicate openly and express your worries and fears directly to your loved one. This can prevent you sending mixed messages and will help prevent confusion. 5. Don’t demand change or set ultimatums re: change. Respect that your loved one has a difficult road of recovery ahead and being patient can be supportive. 6. Don’t take control of their eating disorder and try to fix it yourself as this can cause your loved one to feel inadequate dependent and incompetent. Depending on the severity of the eating disorder, it can be appropriate to intervene. For example, if you ever felt your loved one’s life is at risk it is important seek medical professional help. Encourage her to attend a GP because of the health implications associated with an eating disorder it is important for your loved one to have her bloods, BMI, weight, bone density checked and if necessary monitored throughout her recovery. 7. Don’t brush the eating disorder under the carpet. Your loved one will benefit from your support and concerned interest. 8. Don’t blame your loved one or yourself for the eating disorder. This will only lead to anger, guilt and conflict. Gaining an understanding about the eating disorder can help both you and your loved one to cope with recovery. 9. Encourage your loved one to seek professional help if necessary. If your loved one chooses not to discuss her recovery with you and confides in a source/professional outside of the family, embrace this decision. 10. Be aware of your own beliefs/attitudes about weight and shape as your beliefs can be indifferent to the approach your loved one needs. 11. Avoid giving your loved one ‘special’ treatment because of the eating disorder. This approach can cause your loved one to feel labeled; and identified with the eating disorder while at the same time reinforcing her eating disorder symptoms. Treat your loved one like any other friend /family member. 12. Be aware of your own needs and your family’s needs too. As eating disorders can be very distressing and consuming for the family it is important to take care of yourself and find support that will help you cope. Know your own limitations.
13. Allow your loved one to take responsibility for her own recovery by you offering her support, providing a listening ear while at the same time letting her make decisions by herself. This can increase her positive self belief re: recovery. 14. Remember recovery can take some time and it is about ‘trial and error’ for your loved one. Slips can happen, it is a normal part of the recovery process but it doesn’t mean that your loved one has ‘failed ‘or is back to the start. Remember it is important to keep in mind that people do recover.