If you are worried about the eating behaviors or attitudes of a loved one, it is important to express your concerns in a supportive way. It is also necessary to discuss your worries early on, rather than waiting until they have endured many of the damaging physical and emotional effects of eating disorders. In a private and relaxed setting, talk to them in a calm and caring way about the specific things you have seen or felt that have caused you to worry.
What to Say—Step by Step...
- Set a time to talk. Set aside a time for a private, respectful meeting to discuss your concerns openly and honestly in a caring, supportive way. Make sure you will be some place away from distractions.
- Communicate your concerns. Share your memories of specific times when you felt concerned about their eating or exercise behaviors. Explain that you think these things may indicate that there could be a problem that needs professional attention.
- Ask them to explore these concerns with a counselor, doctor, nutritionist, or other health professional who is knowledgeable about eating disorders. If you feel comfortable doing so, offer to help make an appointment or accompany them on their first visit.
- Avoid conflicts or a battle of will. If they refuse to acknowledge that there is a problem, or any reason for you to be concerned, restate your feelings and the reasons for them and leave yourself open and available as a supportive listener.
- Avoid placing shame, blame, or guilt regarding their actions or attitudes; rather, recognized that these actions and attitudes may feel beyond their control. Do not use accusatory “you” statements such as, “You just need to eat.” Or, “You are acting irresponsibly.” Instead, use “I” statements. For example: “I’m concerned about you because you refuse to eat breakfast or lunch.” Or, “It makes me afraid to hear you vomiting.”
- Avoid giving simple solutions. For example, “If you’d just stop, then everything would be fine!”
- Express your continued support. Remind them that you care and want them to be healthy and happy.