How to Advocate for a Loved One with an Eating Disorder

Monday, Mar 16  •  


When a loved one is suffering from an eating disorder, they need someone who will advocate for them. Eating disorders are, by nature, ego-syntonic. This means that it is difficult for the person suffering to ‘want’ treatment. This is where you come in. When you can be an advocate for someone who needs it, you can literally save their life. We’re here to help guide you through this process and give you support since this can be a very difficult time in the lives of everyone affected by this. Here are some guidelines to follow as you advocate for your loved one.

  1. Begin by educating yourself from credible sources. The more you know about eating disorders, the more equipped you will be to recognize the warning signs and know what to do next. Learn the difference between facts and myths when it comes to weight, nutrition, and exercise. Becoming knowledgeable about these things will help you to reason with someone who may be suffering from an eating disorder that likely has an inaccurate perception of their weight, exercise, and nutrition.
  2. If you’ve noticed some warning signs of a potential eating disorder in a loved one, set aside a private place and time to lovingly reach out to this person with your concerns. It’s important to position yourself during this conversation by using “I” statements so that your loved one doesn’t feel like they’re being confronted and become defensive. Statements such as, “I have noticed this behavior, I’m concerned for you and wanted to let you know I’m here if you need anything” are helpful. Statements such as, “You’ve lost a lot of weight and it looks like you may have an eating disorder.” are not helpful. 
  3. Be caring, but firm. Those who suffer from eating disorders often feel like they have to hide their suffering and behaviors. It’s common for those with eating disorders to experience a lot of shame, which leads them to want to hide or make excuses for behavior that’s observed and alarming. It’s important to stand your ground and encourage them to seek professional help.
  4. Be prepared for negative reactions. No matter how you approach this situation, it is normal for those who are suffering from eating disorders to become angry or hostile in their effort to minimize the issue. Reiterate your concerns, let them know you care, and leave the conversation open.
  5. Tell someone. Oftentimes, your loved one won’t advocate for themselves due to the nature of eating disorders. If you get your loved one proper help in the early stages of an eating disorder, this offers them the best chance at rehabilitation and recovery. 

Still Have Questions?

Being an advocate for someone with an eating disorder can be emotionally exhausting and overwhelming. We’re here to support you through this. If you have any questions or think your loved one may benefit from a residential rehabilitation center, our admissions team is here for you. Give us a call at 800-330-0490.