10 Ways to Help a Loved One with Anorexia

Today’s media and society place pressure on women, telling them that in order to be attractive they have to be unnaturally skinny.  Because of this more and more women feel inadequate and try to change their appearance.  Unfortunately, most do not react in a healthy way, with diet and exercise.  Most develop eating disorders, mistakenly thinking that they can become more attractive through anorexia or bulimia.  If you or someone you know suffers from anorexia nervosa, don’t despair.  There are ways to overcome this disorder and once again lead a healthy, normal life.

It is important to understand that anorexia nervosa is not something a person can just “get over.”  Though it is often rooted in a psychological problem, it is not something someone can just “snap out of.”  Be patient with yourself or your loved one. Recovery may take time, but it will happen.

Here are some suggestions of how to help speed up the process of recovery:

  1. Make eating a fun event.  Don’t leave your loved one alone during mealtime.  Though eating in public can be difficult for someone suffering from anorexia, eating with friends is an important step. This adds a social dimension to food, making it easier to eat a normal amount of food.  It also helps you make sure your loved one is eating healthily and getting the nutrient needed.
  2. Pamper your loved one.  When was the last time she was treated to a day at the spa? Or got a new hairstyle? An important part of getting over anorexia is building a positive self-image.  Take her out for the day and spoil her with foot massages and manicures.  Make her feel like a queen and remind her of how beautiful she really is.
  3. Take time to talk to your loved one.  Most people struggling with anorexia are putting on a show every time they interact with people.  When someone asks how she is doing she always smiles and says “fine!” Take time to sit down and really talk to her.  How is she, really? How is work? School?  Is there something she is going through right now but has not been able to talk about?  By taking the time to sit down and talk you may discover something she is struggling with and needs support in order to get over.
  4. Talk about the risks.  Most people know the dangers of eating disorders: malnutrition, decayed teeth, hair loss, and unhealthy skin.  But few people actually understand them.  If your loved one has been suffering from anorexia for any period of time she is undoubtedly already showing signs.  Sit down with her and talk about the negative affects of anorexia versus the imagined benefits.  Remind her of how beautiful she is and ask her to consider the health affects one more time.
  5. Spend time with her in public.  Get dressed up and go out.  Do not go to a movie to watch unnaturally thin people on the screen.  Go to the beach or out dancing.  Surround her with real people. Remind her of what the world is really like.  It is likely she spends her time looking at pictures online or in movies of unnaturally thin actress and models that make her feel worse about herself.  Take her out and make her feel good.
  6. Make the gym fun.  Go with her to the gym or out jogging.  Exercise is an important part of getting over anorexia since it reminds your loved one she can be healthy and skinny at the same time. It is important to start slow, though.  Starting to quickly can lead to an unhealthy addiction or over exercise.  Take her out running and then go out for lunch afterward. Remind her she can be beautiful and healthy.
  7. Go shopping! Women often dress in ways that draw attention to their most unflattering attributes.  Take her out and help her choose a new wardrobe that compliments her instead of making her uncomfortable.  If you are not up to date on the newest fashions find another friend to come.  Bring only positive people along to help boost your loved one’s self image as she tries on clothes.
  8. Surround her with positive people, not only when shopping.  Women with anorexia need constant positive encouragement in order to fight the negative thoughts that are always going through their head.  That can be hard for just one person to manage, so bring friends! Surround her with love and acceptance at all times.
  9. Limit what movies or shows she watches.  Watching reality shows about super models can make anyone feel like they need to lose weight.  For someone struggling with anorexia this is the ultimate struggle: trying to attain an unhealthy goal.  Stop her from watching things that remind her of this.
  10. Seek psychological help.  Sometimes the only way to get over anorexia, especially if it has been years, is to seek professional health.  Anorexia can be caused by deep-seated issues as well as biological factors.  Encourage your loved on to seek help.  Offer to go with her if she is scared. Seeing a psychologist can be daunting, especially if someone doesn’t want to admit there is a problem.  It can be the difference between succeeding in defeating anorexia and submitting again.

The most important thing you need to keep in mind while helping a loved one battle anorexia is that it is largely a psychological battle.  Years of being told by the media and loved ones that you are inadequate causes lasting damage in a person. Be patient as she struggles to regain a healthy frame of thinking.  Be supportive.  Let her cry when she needs to and help her laugh when she needs that even more.  If she is going to get better she is going to need help.  Do not give up on her and she will not give up on herself.