For Family & Friends

It is possible to recover from an eating disorder; however, professional help is almost always required. The longer symptoms are ignored or denied, the more difficult the recovery for those who struggle with eating disorders.

Recovery is much more than reaching and maintaining a healthy weight. Don’t lose sight of the baby steps that move someone forward in their physical, emotional and spiritual recovery.

One of the hardest things to accept is that, ultimately, family and friends don’t have control over their loved one’s recovery. What we can do, however, is provide our loved ones with opportunities and support to find their own path to recovery.

How to help a friend or family member with eating and body image issues

This list may not tell you everything you need to know about what to do in your specific situation, but it will give you some helpful ideas about what to do to help someone struggling with an eating disorder.

Learn as much as you can about eating disorders. Read books, articles and brochure. Hopewell has much to offer in this regard through the resources listed on this page and elsewhere on our website.

Know the difference between facts and myths about weight, nutrition and exercise. Knowing the facts will help you reason against any inaccurate ideas that your friend may be using as excuses to maintain their disordered eating habits.

Be honest. Talk openly and honestly about your concerns with the person who is struggling with eating or body image problems. Avoiding it or ignoring it won’t help!

Be caring, but be firm. Caring about your friend does not mean being manipulated by them. Your friend must be responsible for their actions and the consequences of those actions. Avoid making rules, promises or expectations that you cannot or will not uphold. For example, don’t say “I promise not to tell anyone” or, “If you do this one more time I’ll never talk to you again.”

Compliment your friend’s wonderful personality, successes or accomplishments. Remind your friend that “true beauty” is not simply skin deep.

Be a good role model with regard to sensible eating, exercise and self-acceptance.

Tell someone. It may seem difficult to know when, if at all, to tell someone else about your concerns. Addressing body image or eating problems in their beginning stages offers your friend the best chance for working through these issues and becoming healthy again. Don’t wait until the situation is so severe that your friend’s life is in danger. Your friend needs as much support and understanding as possible.

Source: National Eating Disorders Association

Educational resources for parents and caregivers of a youth with an eating disorder: – Understanding Eating Disorders in Adolescence : Created by Dr. Wendy Spettigue and Dr. Mark Norris as an online educational tool for parents/caregivers of a youth with an eating disorder

CHEO: “What You Need to Know About…Helping Children and Youth with Eating Disorders – Information for Parents and Caregivers”


For more resources, click here to go to the Useful Links page.


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"This self-help group has been a really important step in my recovery.”

“This binge eating group helps me save a small piece of me every week and it’s offering me the opportunity to feel safe and loved.”

“I had wanted support in a group setting for many years, and finally got it. I hope this support community continues to grow and touch others lives like it did mine.”