If someone in your family is a recovering bulimic, they need all the support they can get from loved ones. You might not know what to do or say to your family member. Here are some tips to help you know how you provide the best help during recovering from bulimia.
1. Support appointments with professional counselors.
Sometimes, those with bulimia can feel ashamed and reluctant to seek professional counseling and medical help for their illness. However, if they choose to take this step, you should show your undivided support. You could offer to:
- drive your family member to appointments.
- provide emotional support during appointments if your loved one is too timid to attend alone.
- help your family member incorporate advice from sessions into their daily life.
Follow the advice of your medical doctor as well as your dentist. Bulimia affects both mental and physical health, and recovering individuals need guidance back to proper nutrition and sound psychological judgement.
2. Set an example of healthful eating habits.
One of the best ways to help a family member with bulimia is to be an example of eating well. Don't mention your weight or your need to go on a diet around someone with bulimia. Instead, try the following:
- Eat balanced meals on schedule. Try to avoid unhealthful activities that encourage bingeing. Since eating is a social activity, you can show solidarity be choosing good portions or nutritious foods.
- Make mealtimes a time for bonding, instead of a time of struggle. Have as many people there as possible, and keep conversation going. Go out to eat occasionally, and enjoy a wide variety of nutritious food. Don't worry if the recovering individual does not enjoy eating at mealtimes. Persist in family meals and make food a friendly, not fearful, experience.
- Don't force eating. You might be worried that your family member is not getting enough food. But creating power struggles over food only furthers the negative attachment to the food itself. Instead, speak with your loved one's nutritionist and counselor about your concerns.
Invite your family member to prepare new foods with you. Make positive memories about food together.
3. Do what you can to improve self-esteem.
Body-image issues are more than skin deep, and you can help your family member recognize their own inherent worth. Do everything you can to boost their self-esteem by:
- commenting on how much you like having them around.
- praising good grades, intellectual achievements, and awards.
- encouraging the development of talents like playing instruments, participating in sports, or creating art.
- supporting the pursuit of new interests that don't have anything to do with eating and food.
For more information on helping a family member with bulimia, contact a family counseling service such as Counseling Services of Beaverton.