Advocating for and supporting a loved one with an eating disorder...and why it's so important

When your loved one is diagnosed with an eating disorder it can feel surreal. You’re confused by all the medical lingo and eating disorder abbreviations. You wonder if it’s your fault (it’s not). You feel guilty that you didn’t notice the signs. These are all valid feelings that are a completely normal part of the process.

From those of us who’ve been there in the past, the challenge is to move from these feelings of fear and uncertainty to one of advocacy. We know from our experience that this is actually one of the most powerful things you can do while supporting a loved one with an eating disorder.

Making the shift from overwhelm to advocacy isn’t an easy one. But we want you to feel empowered as part of your loved one’s treatment team to act on their behalf as their greatest advocate. Here’s some tips for how to do it.

Educate yourself

If you’ve never dealt with eating disorders before, it’s a whole new world of terminology and treatment options that you need to get your head around. Start by educating yourself about your loved one’s diagnosis.

You may never understand why your loved one developed an eating disorder. What you can do is learn as much as you can about the treatment options and the path that lies ahead. Helping someone with an eating disorder isn’t an easy job. 

You’re here and that’s a great place to start. 

Have the hard conversations

When you’re supporting a loved one with an eating disorder, there are difficult conversations that you’ll need to have. Eating disorder myths still form the perception many people have about eating disorders and how to treat them. There are barriers to overcome and mindsets to broaden. This is all part of eating disorder advocacy. 

Some days it will feel like you are banging your head against a brick wall. But know that every conversation you’re having – particularly those really difficult ones – are helping your loved one in their recovery.

Whether it be with your child’s school or with other family members, how do you have those conversations? It’s important to go into any conversation with a plan. Be clear on the outcome you want to achieve and have resources and information to back you up. If you don’t get the right outcome, keep trying. Make another appointment with the school or have another conversation with your family member.

At the end of the day, if you don’t have these conversations on behalf of your loved one, who will? Supporting someone with an eating disorder is about more than holding their hand. In many ways, you become their voice.

Trust in how well you know your loved one

There is probably no one who knows your loved one as well as you do. Whether it’s your child, sibling or a close friend, you know them better than any of the health professionals on their eating disorder treatment team.

But you are also part of their treatment team. And as part of that team, you need to be empowered to act on your loved one’s behalf. If something doesn’t feel right – or your loved one is telling you that something isn’t right – trust in yourself to speak up. 

The health professionals are the expert in eating disorders and treatment plans. You’re the expert in your loved one. 

Support for you while you’re supporting a loved one with an eating disorder

EDFA was founded to support the carers and family members of people suffering from eating disorders. We’re here for you through the sleepless nights and difficult conversations that define the eating disorder recovery journey.

Learn more about EDFA or discover the resources designed to support you while you support your loved one.