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Eating Disorders - Helping a Friend Get Eating Disorder Residential Treatment

Posted Nov 01 2009 12:00am
Helping The Helper: Helping a Friend Get Eating Disorder Residential Treatment

Dos and Don'ts

• Talk with the person when there is plenty of privacy and time for them to talk.
• Express your concerns, but don't become confrontational.
• Be prepared to listen without being overly anxious to get your point across.
• Focus on the symptoms or signs you believe indicate an eating disorder.
• Focus the conversation on your concern for them. That you may believe that he has a problem with eating, body image, or weight management.
• Express your concer about his or her health and well being.
• Let them know that you feel that they may need professional evaluation by someone who understands eating
• Research and be prepared to explain some of the local eating disorder facility available on eating disorders.
• Approach a qualified professional eating disorder inpatient treatment (physician, nurse, counselor) if the person seems to escalate his eating problem to the point that you are scared for them, examples include:
Binging and purging during the day
Passing out or having chest pains
Complaints of severe stomach pains and/or vomiting blood
Voicing suicidal thoughts
• Don't judge or threaten the person.
• Don't be confrontational or label them as sick or crazy.
• Don't try to coach them on weight loss, exercising, or appearance.
• Don't try to diagnose or treat them.
• Don't allow the conversation to become a contest of wills. State the things you see as problems, express your concern and let them know that they may need to have an evaluation. If the conversation comes to a wall or becomes too emotional, end it until anther time.
• Don't promise to keep your observations about their eating problem a secret.
• Don't try to monitor their eating habits or try to get them to eat or not eat.
• Don't set limits on how much time you can give to the person.
• Don’t wast time pondering the existence of eating disorders, focus on treatment, lifestyle and health.

Helping Students With Eating Problems
Prepared by: Dr. William Kernan, EdD, MPA, CHES
Columbia University Medical Center

Advice for Friends/Helpers
• Remember that she (or he) has the food problem, and it is up to them to find inpatient eating disorder treatment
• Make a pact of complete honesty.
• Be patient, sympathetic, non-judgmental, and a good listener. Let her know that you
care and have her best interests at heart.
• Accept that recovery is a process and does not happen quickly. Help her to be
patient, as well.
• Do not be controlling of her life; you are limited in what you can do to help. You may
need to learn about letting go
• When her behavior affects you, express yourself without placing guilt or blame upon
her. Try not to take her actions personally. Use "I" messages, explaining your
feelings and concerns. You may need to disengage from her to take care of
• Have compassion. Your loved one may be overwhelmed as she gets in touch with
the painful issues underlying the behavior. She will need your love and support at
these times more than ever.
• Always remind yourself that your loved one uses their eating disorder as a
substitute for confronting painful feelings or experiences. Ask what, if anything, you
can do to help. Encourage her to find healthier ways to deal with her pain.
• Do not try to guess what she wants. Encourage her to express her needs. If you
have questions, ask.
• Encourage her to enter an eating disorder facility, keeping in mind that no single
approach to recovery works for everyone. Be available for joint counseling. Be
flexible and open in supporting her to do whatever approaches she chooses. For
example, you may know someone who goes into treatment centers for eating disorders, but your loved one might relate better to another.

•From Bulimia: A Guide to Recovery
by Lindsey Hall and Leigh Cohn
Helping Students With Eating Problems
Prepared by: Dr. William Kernan, EdD, MPA, CHES
Columbia University Medical Center

Approaching Someone You Care About

Here are some things you should think about when approaching someone about
you’re your concern that they may be suffering with an Eating Disorder.

•Be gentle and caring, and be prepared to listen without offering mounds of advice.
You are not the person's therapist, nor should you pretend to be.
•Being a good listener means your ears are open and your mouth is shut, you are
not intervening with "yeah, I know what you mean, that happened to me once
when...." - just listen.

More things to keep in mind…

•If they then finish talking and ask what your thoughts or opinions are about eating disorder treatment facilities, be honest and caring.
•Don't make the person feel threatened.
•It is not your job to dictate what they should and shouldn't do. If this person has
finally decided to talk to you and trust you, cherish it and uphold your role in
holding their confidence.
•Be encouraging. The recovery road can be a long and uphill battle, with pitfalls and
setbacks. Don't be disappointed or disapproving when a victims displays signs of
falling back, just encourage them to continue pushing forward and get into eating disorders clinics.
•Recovery is not only hard work, but can be very confusing and painful, be sure to
remind them that you understand this, and that "you cannot always continue to
stride forward without a stumble from time to time. It's okay."
•Read as much as you can on the topic of Eating Disorders and eating disorder treatment programs. The more you know, the more equipped you will be to offer a helping hand. Photocopy or print out articles of interest and if time presents itself share the info with your loved one, but do not overstep your boundaries.
•If the person has asked you not to do certain things, or talk about things, then
respect their wishes.
•Do not talk about food and weight! Don't continuously ask what the person has
or hasn't eaten, how much weight they have lost, or how great or bad they look after
gaining or losing. This is rude and threatening and you cannot win either way.
•Saying they look "healthy since you've put on some weight" is heard as "you are
fat," and expressing disappointment or concern in weight loss comes across as
"you're a failure" or "you're a burden." By the same token, don't be afraid to talk in
front of the person about your own day to day living (such as, "yeah, Fred and I
went out for dinner last night and the steak was so good.") Your stumbling to avoid
topics will be as noticed as your persistence in discussing them.
•Don't watch the person "like a hawk" when they are eating, or give looks when they
excuse themselves from a meal or from the table. Recovery is not easy and does
not happen overnight! Be respectful and courteous and do not try to be The Food
•If your loved one is looking for recovery resources eating disorder clinics in your area try not to let him get discouraged. Unfortunately, there are doctors and therapists out there that do not know what they are doing, or who do not recognize Eating Disorders as the serious issue they are.

Helping Students With Eating Problems
Prepared by: Dr. William Kernan, EdD, MPA, CHES
Columbia University Medical Center

Even more things to keep in mind…

•Be supportive. If you feel it's within your boundaries, offer to help - find names of
local support groups and therapists, and offer to go with them their first time if they'd
like the company. If they are getting discouraged be patient, supportive and don't
•Recovery is a very personal choice each victim will need to make for him or
•Encourage them to find support in others who share the same experiences,
through support groups, on-line bulletin boards or chat rooms, or through larger
meetings like those of Overeaters Anonymous.
•Don't pretend to understand, if you have never had an Eating Disorder yourself.... it
will sound condescending and ingenuine.
•You can be supportive without living with Anorexia, Bulimia or Compulsive
Overeating yourself, and your loved-one will appreciate that more than you putting
on a facade of empathy.
Some final things to keep in mind…
•The victims of Eating Disorders can do better in their own recovery with a good
support network behind them... consider it this way -- don't we all do better in life
when we know we have people we can count on?
•Learn to be a good listener and what "being there" for someone truly means.

Helping Students With Eating Problems
Prepared by: Dr. William Kernan, EdD, MPA, CHES
Columbia University Medical Center

Do I Contribute to Another's Eating Disorder?

The culture of disordered eating is pervasive in our society. The following are ways we might encourage eating disorders without even knowing.

•Praising or glorifying another’s appearance based on body size or attractiveness.
•Complementing someone when they lose weight or diet.
•Encouraging someone to lose weight.
•Talking negatively about our bodies.
•Discussing measurements, weights or clothing sizes.
•Thinking of foods as “good” or “bad.”
•Making fun of another person’s eating habits or food choices.
•Criticizing our own eating.
•Considering a person’s weight important.
•Saying someone is “healthy” or “well” because they are thin.
•Expecting perfection.
•Pushing more exercise than necessary.
•Assuming that an overweight person wants or needs to lose weight.
•Allowing the media to dictate what body type is “in.”
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