Five Ways to Support Your Daughter With An Eating Disorder

Don’t comment on her appearance or body. Not at all. Not even you think it’s a positive comment. To someone with an eating disorder, “you look healthy” = “you look fat.” Yes, it’s distorted and illogical, but eating disorders aren’t logical. Don’t give the ED ammunition.

Reflect and validate emotions. When she shares a struggle, really listen, and reflect what you’re hearing. If you can identify an emotion, name it. That’s it! I promise, it’s SO much more effective than trying to “fix it” or rationalize.

Have normal conversations. Be careful not to let all conversations focus on the ED. This one is especially true when she’s in some kind of treatment program, and she’s spending a lot of time talking about emotions, coping skills, and recovery.

Hold her accountable. Be on the side of recovery, not the side of her ED. Ask her how you can support her, then follow through. Some ideas are eating meals with her, going for walks together, spending quality time one-on-one or with the family.

Be mindful of conversations about food, weight, and exercise. Model a healthy, balanced lifestyle.

*These tips are mostly true for supporting anyone with an ED. I get the majority of questions from parents about supporting their daughters, but this can be applied to sons, friends, or family members too! The one caveat: body dysmorphia (distortion in the perception of one’s body) tends to be less common in males.

Kristen CairnsComment