When Someone You Love Has an Eating Disorder

Recovery from an eating disorder requires professional help, and chances of recovery are improved the sooner a person begins treatment. With some education, friends and family can play a key role in identifying symptoms, encouraging someone to seek help, and providing support throughout the recovery process. Having a strong support network can make all the difference in successful recovery from an eating disorder.

For Parents

It’s hard to watch our children struggle, and when a daughter is diagnosed with an eating disorder, it can be a painful and confusing time. Why did this happen? What do you need to communicate to schools, coaches, and other family members? How do you handle questions from friends or colleagues? Where can you turn for support? Our program recognizes that eating disorders don’t just happen to individuals, they happen to families. We can help provide you with education, information, and support, so you don’t feel so alone.

Family Therapy

Eating disorders are complex and devastating conditions that can have serious consequences. Anorexia is the largest cause of death among teenage girls. –NEDA

For Partners, Spouses, Siblings, and Friends

When someone we love is hurting, we want to help, but it can hard to know the right course of action. If you do speak up, someone struggling with an eating disorder may not be ready to admit they have a problem. So where do you start? Begin by checking out the resources on this page, which will help you identify eating disorder warning signs and learn how to offer support. It’s also important to remember to take care of yourself. You can’t help your loved one if you let your mental or physical health suffer because of their condition.

You can also visit our blog for helpful articles on a wide range of topics related to eating disorders and find support through our Family Program.

How to Help Someone With an Eating Disorder

Untreated eating disorders can have serious consequences. While people can (and do!) recover, professional help is almost always required. If you or someone you know is suffering from a possible eating disorder, it’s important to seek help immediately. Consult with a primary care provider or therapist to help you determine the best course of action. While the idea of inpatient or residential treatment may be daunting, getting the right level of care at the right time is key. And we can guarantee that she will receive the best possible treatment in an environment of compassion, love, and support at The Meadows Ranch.

Eating Disorder Warning Signs

Are you worried someone you love may be in danger of developing an eating disorder?


Offering Support

Eating disorders don’t just happen to individuals. They impact family and friends as well. And while loved ones want to help, it can be hard to know how to best support someone battling an eating disorder. Why not start here?

Educate Yourself – Eating disorders are not merely about not food or weight. It’s important to understand that an eating disorder is a coping strategy that the individual uses to deal with problems that may be too painful to deal with directly. Learning to separate facts from myths is a good first step.

Be Patient – When you approach the individual for the first time, do not be surprised if they reject your expression of concern. They may even react with anger and denial. There is often shame tied to an eating disorder, and admitting the need for help may take time.

Be Compassionate – Eating disorders are complex and progress takes time. Recognize that your loved in is doing the best they can at the moment.

Be Encouraging – Encourage the person to see themselves as more than their eating disorder. Do this by talking about other aspects of your lives, and of life more generally. Affirm their strengths and interests that are unrelated to food or physical appearance.

Be Non-Judgmental – It’s important to express your own needs in the relationship, without blaming or shaming the other person. Support them by validating the healthy changes they make, however small they may be.

Set Realistic Expectations – Treatment is an intense and challenging process. While you should see progress, patients don’t return home “cured.” Full recovery takes time.

For more advice on how to help support a loved one with an eating disorder, read our blog post “Seven Things NOT to do When a Loved One has an Eating Disorder.”

family week

The Role of Family in Recovery

Family involvement in the recovery process is crucial, and treatment at The Meadows Ranch includes family work in the way of lectures, workshops, and meetings. Family dynamics often play a role in eating disorders, so it’s essential to provide a space for the family to communicate efficiently to heal.

Although it may be the daughter with the actual disorder, she is probably not the only family member who may need to make changes. Therefore, all family members need to be fully committed to working on the aspects of their lives that could benefit from careful attention and growth. Parents should strongly consider participating in family or marital therapy to reinforce their commitment to their daughter’s recovery, to obtain objective feedback about her behaviors, and to grow in their relationship with their daughter.

Whoever is going to be that support system after treatment, family therapy and participation in family work at The Meadows Ranch will give you tools to use as you move forward.


Family Work at The Meadows Ranch

At The Meadows Ranch, we teach patients and their families the importance of a good support system and how to create it. We offer opportunities for loved ones of adult patients and those in our adolescent program to visit campus to take part in family work over the course of several days.

During family work at The Meadows Ranch, loved ones receive extensive education on communication, eating disorders, and relationships. They also have the opportunity to do an experiential learning session with The Meadows Equine Therapy team, and experience a full-day intensive “truth and love” session, where they and their loved one in recovery can share thoughts and feelings in a way they may not have been able to before.

Everything we do during this time has a purpose. It is all in the interest of building safety and working on opportunities for the family to practice what they will need when their loved one leaves treatment. Snacks and lunch are eaten together every day as family – this one of the scariest things for those in treatment, and we want to help them navigate it.

The treatment team can work with you to determine who would benefit most from this experience and what would be most helpful for the patient’s ongoing recovery. We recognize that family members may arrive with their own shame and guilt, but one goal of this process is to help you release this so you can be a part of the healing process and move forward together.

Hope and Healing

The Meadows Ranch offers an intensive, experiential-based treatment program for women and girls who are struggling with anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder, have a dual diagnosis, or who have failed past treatments. In a safe and nurturing community composed of their peers, our patients are guided on a journey of recovery by examining the underlying causes of their eating disorders and any co-occurring issues. The goal is for them to gain the courage to face difficult issues, including grief and loss, heal from emotional trauma, and become accountable for their own feelings, behaviors, and recovery. Call us today to find out more.

Call 866-332-5209