When your child, partner, or good friend is in treatment for binge eating disorder, you want to do everything you can to support them. Here are 9 tips to help you become the best caregiver you can be.
Don’t Blame Yourself
You didn't cause the eating disorder. It could have happened to anyone -- in any family. Don't blame yourself. Also don't blame your loved one. She didn't ask to have an eating disorder. Just show that you understand what she's going through, and let her know you'll be there to help her get well.
Have an Open Mind
It can be hard to understand why your loved one binges. You might feel anger about the behavior, or frustration that you can't stop it. Know that the person already feels a lot of guilt or shame. Don't add to those negative feelings. Try to stay calm. Listen with an open mind. Ask what you can do to help. Be compassionate, and do your best to understand how he or she is feeling.
Be an Active Part of Treatment
If your child is in recovery, you'll likely go along to doctor's visits. You can also offer to go if the person is your partner or friend. In between appointments, stay in touch with doctors, dietitians, and other members of the team to make sure treatment is going as planned. Encourage the person to go to every therapy session, take all medicine as directed, and follow the doctor's advice. Go to family support group and therapy meetings. When you are involved in treatment, you increase the chance that the person will succeed.
Take Charge of Eating
Keep only healthy foods in the house. Serve regular meals at the same times each day. Watch out for places and situations where bingeing might happen, like parties or trips to the mall.
Set a Good Example
Be a good role model for your child or partner. Eat three nutritious, well-balanced meals a day. Try not to overeat or diet, both of which can send the wrong message to the person with binge eating disorder. Never make comments about their weight or body shape.
Make sure everyone in the house -- including parents and siblings -- is on board with the treatment and willing to help see it through. Try not to argue about the eating disorder -- especially in front of the person who has it.
Don't Give Up
Binge eating disorder isn't cured in a day. It can take time for people with this condition to realize they have a problem and agree to get treatment. Be patient, but firm. Offer your support again and again, even if it's rejected. Don't take no for an answer.
Care for Yourself
Caring for someone with binge eating disorder can be stressful and overwhelming. One study found that more than half of those who cared for a person with an eating disorder had anxiety. Nearly a third had depression. To avoid caregiver burnout, make time to do things you love. Take walks, get a massage, or go to the movies to give yourself a break. You'll return to your caregiving role with renewed energy and optimism.
Join a support group for the parents of children with eating disorders, where you can learn from other people who are going through the same experience. You can find caregiver workshops and support groups through these eating disorders organizations:
- Binge Eating Disorder Association: bedaonline.com/get-help/find-help/
- Families Empowered and Supporting Treatment of Eating Disorders: feast-ed.org/ForParentsandCaregivers.aspx
- National Eating Disorders Association: www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/find-help-support