Do's and Don'ts for Friends and Caregivers

When someone close to you has an eating disorder, it may seem as though nothing you say or do is right. The well intentioned words of encouragement somehow get twisted into cruelty and judgement.  Here is a list of helpful as well as unhelpful things to say.  Every individual with an eating disorder is different and the best way to find out what is more helpful than not is to simply ask! Have a conversation with your loved one to learn the less threatening ways of communicating with them.  Keep in mind, they may not know, which may lead to a season of trial and error. Keep the lines of communication open, or at least, create a safe place for conversation to occur for when your loved one is ready to talk.  Although you might not understand the eating disorder or approve of it, they still need your love and support. 

Helpful Things to Say/Do

  • Say to me, "I'm here to talk if you want to"
  • Ask me if I want a hug instead of assuming I want or don't want one
  • Ask me If I want you to sit with me during meal times 
  • Listen, even if I don't make sense
  • Validate my feelings, even if they don't seem rational to you
  • Ask me what I need from you
  • Talk to me about non-eating disorder things
  • Spend time with me
  • Still ask me to do things with you, even though I usually say 'no'
  • Learn more about my illness 
  • Acknowledge my boundaries
  • Tell me that you're here for me in anyway you can be to support my recovery
  • Tell me that you love me, even with the eating disorder

Unhelpful Things to Say/Do

  • Don't say, "You look so healthy"
  • Don't say, "You've gained weight"
  • Don't ask me, "What did you eat today?"
  • Don't question what I should or shouldn't be eating 
  • Don't assume you know how I feel
  • Don't forget I'm still a person instead of an eating disorder
  • Don't try to 'fix' me
  • Don't tell me not to cry
  • Don't comment on my body, weight, shape
  • Don't talk negatively about your body in front me of
  • Don't comment on other people's bodies/appearance/weight