It is a great joy to finally learn that your loved one is receiving treatment for bulimia, and now you want to know what else you can do to help. The first thing you have to understand is that relapses are possible and as a family member you can only do so much by being optimistic about your relative’s actions. By being patient and encouraging you can be a great support to a bulimic who is making tentative steps toward recovery.
Be a sympathetic listener
A recovering bulimic may experience negative feelings from time to time such as guilt, fear and shame which could be an indication of an impending relapse. This is why you should encourage your loved one to open up to you as a way of sorting out these thoughts. It is important, then, that you have gained your relative’s trust prior to the recovery stage, as privacy is a huge issue for bulimics. They have difficulty expressing themselves for fear of being misjudged or criticized. They need to know that they will not be judged when they open up to you.
Families can help a recovering bulimic by listening intently as a way to express genuine support. Sometimes, all your family member needs is a patient listener to help him or her sort out confusing thoughts or feelings. If they seek your opinion or advice, carefully choose your words and avoid making derogatory statements that could damage their attempts to create a better self-image. However, do not smother your loved one with sugary comments that may even sound fake. Just be sincere and considerate when expressing your opinion and do your best to always lift their morale.
Work hand in hand with the counselor and nutritionist
These professionals are your partners in helping your bulimic relative to recover from this eating disorder. You may ask a counselor for the right intervention that your loved one needs to recover, and consult a nutritionist for advice on the appropriate diet for a recovering bulimic. Update them on the improvements or struggles that your relative is going through, and discuss with them what have you been doing so far to help their recovery.
Set a good example
Be mindful of your own eating habits and opinions on weight. As much as you discretely observe and monitor his or her diet, a recovering bulimic is also eyeing what and how much you eat. Set a good example by developing a healthy lifestyle that will motivate a bulimic follow suit. Express warmly how the right diet and exercise are the healthier options to staying trim and fit; and remember to walk your talk by being an ideal example. You can encourage a recovering bulimic to engage in sports; this can be great therapy as sporty pursuits are not only good for health, but they can also improve a person’s mood and confidence.
Hall, Lindsey & Cohn, Leslie, “Bulimia: A Guide to Recovery” (Gurze Books; 5th edition, August 9, 1999)
Maine, Margo, Ph.D, “Father Hunger: Fathers, Daughters and Food” (Gurze Books; 1st edition, November 1991)