Helpful actions by friends or family members

“What was the most helpful thing a family member, peer or other person did to encourage your recovery?”

In our survey, participants responded in an open-ended, qualitative format. The information below reflects the percent of individuals who gave an example within a general category. Each individual response could appear in several categories, as many participants listed more than one helpful activity.
Some of the most frequent comments in this area focused on what friends and family did NOT do, such as:

  • NOT being judgmental. Showing acceptance and tolerance (27%)
  • NOT playing “food police”, NOT being “recovery police” (11%)
  • NOT treating the person like a “sick person” (7%)
  • NOT commenting on food or weight (3%)

The other comments described a mixture of role-modeling, interpersonal support, helping to soothe emotions, and assisting in recovery-oriented activities:

  • Being available when support was needed, spending time together and actively encouraging socialization (18%)
  • Demonstrating unconditional support, consistent love and patience (15%)
  • Supportive mealtime- sharing meals together (15%)
  • Challenging the ED, being firm and direct, giving honest feedback- “telling it like it is” (11%)
  • Providing reassurance, being a calming presence when the person was experiencing anxiety, active encouragement (10%)
  • Arranged or paid for therapy, or encouraged person to seek therapy (10%)
  • Being a positive role model—modeling healthy self-esteem, healthy eating habits, or recovery skills (10%)
  • Being a good listener, spending time listening to the person (9%)
  • Allowed the person to have some control, encouraged them to take control of their own recovery, empowered the person to make their own decisions (6%)
  • Demonstrating empathy, showing understanding (4%)
  • Educated themselves, participated in therapy, learned about eating disorders (4%)
  • Religious and/or spiritual support, focus on values and greater meaning/purpose (4%)
  • Encouraged specific healthy behaviors (3%)

Eight percent of survey respondents reported that they could not recall any helpful actions or comments made by peers or family members.

Selected actual survey responses

“Came to family therapy. Let me know that they are available for support. Made plans with me to keep me from isolating, get me out of the house, and possibly eat a supported meal 🙂 ”

“talk to me about normal things other than my eating disorder, treat me as a normal human and not someone who is sick. Ask if how my day is going. Call or stop over to check in. Don’t make comments about my body, what I’m wearing (unless it’s my shoes), or what I’m eating. Eat with me. Let me have my fat days.”

“My mom used to have personal days with me to spend time with me and talk about healthier lifestyle options. She didn’t understand my eating disorder, but she knew something was very wrong. It was difficult for her to admit to herself that I needed inpatient treatment, but she used to take me out for coffee and buy me a drink and talk with me. It would have been easy for her to take me to a restaurant and try to “force” me to eat, but she had been t[he]re done that… she decided to simply take me to an unthreatening location and talk with me and try to see what I was feeling and going through. It was through my moms patience and understanding that I was fully able to get help for my eating disorder.”

“remind me of who i was before i became anorexic, were patient with me, did not treat me like an anorexic”

“Made me realize it clashed with my feminine/hippie beliefs. I say everyone is beautiful and I promote all body types, but not my own? A little contradicting.”

“The most helpful part of recovery came when my loved ones and peers started treating me as if nothing was wrong. They started acting as if the disease did not exist and no longer excluded me from different activities because they “assumed” I wasn’t interested. This helped me realize that I got more joy out of living a normal life than I ever got from the ED”

“My parents didnt give up on me. They would do whatever it took to get me the treatment I needed and make me happy. they stopped giving into my behaviors and stopped “walking on egg shells” .. the biggest help was when they stopped enabling me. As much as I hated it then, I love them so much for it now.”

“Offered to help in any way they could, but they didn’t push which was the biggest part.”

See more results from our survey:

Leave a Reply