An eating disorder is a very complex condition with a nutritional aspect and a psychological aspect of great importance. 

Typically, they are characterized by behavioral changes related to food, lasting for some time, and resulting in severe damage to the physical and mental health of the person, as well as changing how the person interacts with other people and in common social environments.

If you have a friend, family member, girlfriend, or boyfriend who has an eating disorder, such as anorexia or bulimia, chances are that they may not realize they have a problem or may have a hard time admitting it because of the mixed feelings about the whole situation. 

It can be very difficult for a person living with an eating disorder to go to see a nutritionist or psychologist, so being there for them and encouraging them to seek help or offering company during this difficult time is one of the first things you can do to help your loved one.

So when it comes to helping, comforting, or supporting a loved one with an eating disorder, the network of family and friends plays a fundamental role in treatment, but keep in mind that forcing someone to go to a doctor is not the best option, because the treatment may not be effective as it is imposed on them and not a personal need.

Below are some other resources on how to help and support:

  • Learn all you can about eating disorders: the basic differences between the types, the facts, and the myths regarding weight, nutrition, and exercise. This will give you more tools when talking to your loved ones about the situation they’re in.
  • Take time and listen to them: they need to know that you are there for them and that they feel comfortable talking about their feelings, without being judged.
  • Talk to them: choose a time when you can talk privately, without distractions or constraints, and keep your emotions in check. It’s important not to make them feel mistreated or unappreciated due to the situation they are experiencing.
  • Be clear about your concerns: talk about the specific behaviors that trigger concern regarding their health and your desire to help, rather than giving solutions. Sometimes it is useful to rehearse what you are going to say to make sure you are using the right words, avoiding lecturing or criticizing, as this will only make them defensive. 
  • Expect denial and resistance: They will likely deny they have a problem and even become angry and lash out at the comment. Remember to stay calm, focused, and respectful, and don’t take it personally. 
  • Avoid comments about appearance or weight: both positive and negative can contribute to the increase of the disorder.

Asked by: Olivia S.

Registered dietitian-nutritionist and Writer

With a degree in Nutrition and Dietetics, Eva is a dietitian-nutritionist who is passionate about everything related to food and nutrition.
She is always in constant search of knowledge and loves to write about topics related to food, nutrition, healthy eating habits, and tips for a healthy lifestyle, making knowledge about food and nutrition education available to everyone, helping them to have better health.

She is also a chef and has experience in recipe creation and workshops on healthy cooking.