If you suspect you, your child, or loved one has an eating disorder, the most important thing to do is seek professional help.  

While the love and support of friends and family members will be important in recovery, a team of professionals is important to help guide the journey. Eating disorder treatment teams consist of a psychological therapist, a nutrition therapist and a medical professional, and sometimes other professionals.  Individuals with eating disorders can enter the treatment system through any one of these disciplines.  What is critical is that your “team” is quickly assembled to help you address all the aspects of this illness.   In southwest Michigan, we do not have any full service eating disorder centers where all team members can be accessed.  Our professionals practice in local agencies, hospitals, academic centers and private practices.  It will be important for your team of professionals to establish how and when they will communicate regarding your care.   In many cases, therapy can and should be conducted in your local community where you can continue to be supported by family and friends.  For therapy to be effective all approaches require consistent balanced nutrition, and weight restoration for those who are underweight.  A starved or malnourished brain does not function well and is not capable of doing the work necessary for recovery.  For persons whose disease is medically severe, hospital admission for stabilization may be required.  If community based outpatient treatment is not sufficient, there are intensive outpatient and residential options available in the midwest.  
 
Recent studies support the treatment of children and adolescents using a Family Based Therapy model.  (Adults, too, can benefit from this model if they have a committed support person involved in their care.)  Individual therapy approaches are also proven to help persons successfully recover from their eating disorder.  These modalities include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, to name a few.  Each of these therapeutic approaches are discussed in more detail on the website.

Suspect a friend has an eating disorder?

You Can Help

  • Discuss your concerns with a professional. 
  • Learn about eating disorders and available local resources.
  • Talk to your friend. Keep your conversation informal and confidential. Express your concerns in a caring, non-confrontational  and supportive manner. Focus on your concerns about your friend’s health (not their appearance or weight). Explain how the problem is affecting your relationship.
  • Eating disorders can be treated successfully. If your friend is able to acknowledge the problem, suggest some resources.
  • Realize that you may be rejected. People with eating disorders often deny their problem. It is difficult to admit to being out of control. Don’t take the rejection personally. And keep the door open for further discussion.

Suggestions for binge eating

  • Buy limited amounts of food. Don’t shop when you’re hungry and don’t overstock.
  • Avoid impulse buying. Make a shopping list and stick to it.
  • Stabilize your eating habits—eat at regular times and choose healthy foods.
  • Put your meal on your plate before you sit down and don’t bring extra food to the table.
  • Eat slowly.
  • Stop as soon as you feel full.
  • Keep healthy snacks handy.