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For the Family of Someone with an Eating Disorder

Help for the family members

Here are some tips for the family members of someone with an eating disorder...

Focus on feelings and interpersonal relationships - not on food and weight.  Family members are often the forgotten members, especially other children.  It is important that they talk about their feelings.

Do not let the eating disordered family member disrupt the entire household. The family should go on with their lives as normally as possible.

Do not allow the eating disorder family member to shop, cook or feed the family. Do not let the eating disordered family member dominate the rest of the families eating patterns. In nurturing others, eating disorder sufferers are denying their own need for food.  Families should go on with normal eating patterns. These details will need to be worked out with the therapist.

Set limits in a caring, reasonable, but firm manner.

Help the family show affection and appreciation for each other. Underneath disordered eating is a lack of self-worth; thus unconditional love goes a long way.

Work on how to avoid power struggles and find alternative ways of dealing with problems as they arrive.  Let the therapist and/or physician deal with "highly-charged" issues such as weight.

Realize that there are no quick solutions.  Demanding change, and/or berating the eating disordered family member will not bring about change or a positive result. Be patient.

Avoid having the eating disordered family member make too many decisions about food and other issues.  Control is a big issue that must be addressed in therapy.  One can not attempt to over control the eating disordered family member.  The therapist can help balance out these issues.

Parents will need to examine alternatives to their current behaviors (i.e. yelling, pleading, etc. Family members should write in journals, write letters to each other, call the therapist, and write down situations that they need assistance with and provide to therapist and family sessions.

The family needs to talk about all kinds of issues - not just focus on the problems or the eating disorder.

In Partnership with the American Eating Disorder Association- -SINCE 1999