Eating Recovery Caregiver Do's and Don'ts

man in therapy
DO realize there is not a quick and easy solution. DON’T ever give up; this is a long-term illness and people recover daily. Know to let go and let your loved one be responsible. The person has to want recovery for himself or herself or it will not work. Going into treatment to “please” or “pacify” family members does not work.
DO talk to your loved one about your concerns, ask questions and listen. DON’T ignore the problem and hope it will go away; talk about it. Set boundaries about when to intervene.
DO express your feelings honestly with your loved one; he or she sense how you are feeling anyway. DON’T skip meals or talk about being on a diet.
DO genuinely let your loved one know qualities/characteristics (other than physical) you appreciate about him or her. DON’T discuss financial cost; this could make your loved one feel like a burden.
DO plan social activities that do not involve food. DON’T panic; seek the appropriate support you need.
DO empower the individual to make their own decisions and be accountable for their decisions. DON’T assume there isn’t a problem if your loved one doesn’t show physical symptoms.
DO allow your loved one to be in charge of his or her routines of daily life, realizing that by giving up your control you’re setting the stage for your loved one to develop healthy self-control. DON’T force the person to eat or tell him or her to “just eat”, but be there to support him or her emotionally.
DO encourage your loved one to get a professional assessment from a practitioner experienced in eating disorders. DON’T make your love a condition of your loved one’s appearance, health, weight, achievements or any other attribute.
DO realize your loved one is ambivalent about getting well. DON’T comment positively or negatively on appearance or weight.
DO realize your loved one takes comfort and feels safe in the control and rituals of the disorder without commenting on it. DON'T feel you must walk on eggshells so the person with the eating disorder won’t be upset.
DO express concern and interest in seeing the person get well. DON’T let the eating disorder disrupt family routines.
DO inform yourself about the disorder and its treatment, attend support groups and read current literature. DON’T be manipulative. Be direct with feelings and expectations.
DO realize eating disorders are hardly ever just about food. DON’T try to control the person’s behavior, as it can intensify the problem.
DO realize that lying is a result of shame and a part of the eating disorder; your loved one may deeply regret not being honest. DON’T talk about what he or she is eating without their permission
DO express gratitude for each other. DON’T impose rules except those that are necessary for the individual’s or family’s safety and well-being. Avoid power struggles.
DO model normal eating behavior. DON’T blame yourself, feel guilty or dwell on causes.
DO realize that during and after mealtimes can be especially stressful; it can help to discuss what went well and what was challening. DON’T tell someone with anorexia who has gained weight he or she looks better.
DO take care of yourself. You need rest and rejuvination. DON’T expect yourself to be a perfect parent, partner, family member or friend.
DO separate your loved one's eating disorder from your loved one. DON’T treat your loved one differently when eating meals and around food.

Eating Recovery Center is accredited through the Joint Commission. This organization seeks to enhance the lives of the persons served in healthcare settings through a consultative accreditation process emphasizing quality, value and optimal outcomes of services.

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