How to Help Someone with an Eating Disorder


Have you noticed someone you care about becoming more and more withdrawn from life?

Are they avoiding spending time with friends? Do they seem hyper focused on food? Have you watched them with concern as they continue to lose weight, appearing to be a shell of their former, vibrant self?

You may even feel paralyzed with confusion - who can you talk to? What do I even ask? 

With so much stigma surrounding eating disorders, you may be worried about bringing up concerns about your loved one for fear that you could make it worse or draw attention to a private issue. 

As you listen to recommendations by medical providers about your loved one you are confused by what all of these extra visits with providers are going to look like. How are you going to make time for them when your schedule is already so saturated with appointments? You can’t understand WHY your child is refusing foods that they once enjoyed. Why can’t they just eat? 

you might be thinking, why didn't I see this sooner? is there something I could have done differently? 

you're not alone.


Eating disorders can be difficult to catch initially as they are easily disguised as eating healthy or exercising without cause for concern. It’s often not until the symptoms have progressed significantly that an intervention is made. While individuals struggling with eating disorders may experience symptoms a bit differently, some common, early signs of eating disorders are:  

SIGNS OF an eating disorder

Over concern about their body weight, shape and size and an intense fear of becoming fat.

Increased anxiety or even anger if others are in control of cooking, plating and portioning their food.

They may avoid eating in front of others or even make excuses as to why they can't eat such as, "I ate before I came over" or "I'm not hungry right now."

Excusing themselves to the bathroom immediately after eating.

Cutting their food up into small pieces, pushing their food around on the plate or needing to eat foods in a certain order or even being obsessive with the timing of meals and snacks

Support from nourishrx will empower you to confidently help your loved one with an eating disorder

Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by an obsessive desire to lose weight by restricting food (energy). Anorexia can impact all ages, genders, and ethnicities. 

Individuals with anorexia may have an intense fear of weight gain and feel that their body is fat even when their weight is dangerously low. They may find it difficult to take in adequate food intake or interrupt excessive exercise even as medical complications such as cardiac abnormalities, fatigue and bone loss start to appear. Anorexia is an extremely serious condition that has significantly higher mortality rates compared to other mental health disorders due to complications resulting from malnutrition and starvation if left untreated. 



WHAT IS Bulimia?

Individuals with bulimia nervosa may also have an intense fear of weight gain, or a preoccupation with body shape and size. Bulimia nervosa is characterized by episodes of binge eating followed by compensatory behaviors in an effort to control weight. Compensatory behaviors can range from self-induced vomiting, laxative abuse, diuretic use, enemas, excessive exercise or prolonged periods of restriction.

Bulimia nervosa is extremely damaging to the body and can have life-threatening complications. These range from electrolyte abnormalities and cardiac arrest, severe tooth decay, digestive disorders and suicidal thoughts.


WHAT IS binge eating disorder?

Binge eating disorder is characterized by periodic episodes of uncontrolled eating that are not followed by compensatory behaviors as in bulimia nervosa. Individuals with binge eating disorder may similarly be preoccupied with weight or shape and attempt to limit their intake of food to reduce the impact of binge eating on their weight. 

While occasional overeating is common for all people to experience from one time or another, binge eating disorder is diagnosed when the following occur: 
  • Eating unusually large amounts of food over a specific period of time, past the point of physical fullness
  • Feeling that eating is out of control
  • Frequently eating alone or in secret
  • Feeling guilty or ashamed about eating behavior

The severity of binge eating disorder is determined by how frequently binge eating episodes occur throughout a week.

WHAT IS avoidant restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID)?

Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID), captures a broad spectrum of restrictive eating behaviors that are not motivated by concerns about body weight or shape. ARFID behaviors commonly present in children but may be present throughout the lifespan. The fear or anxiety that individuals with ARFID have about food differs from more “traditional” restrictive eating disorders like anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder. This fear and avoidance of food can lead to inadequate growth or weight loss, malnutrition, gastrointestinal complications, or developmental delays. 

There are three subgroups of ARFID:
  • Lack of interest in eating
  • Sensory avoidance: Restriction of intake based on the sensory characteristics of food (taste, texture, temperature, smell)
  • Fear of aversive consequences: Fear of illness, choking, vomiting, allergic reaction or contamination



Other Specified Feeding and Eating Disorders (OSFED) represents a category of eating disorders that do not meet specific clinical criteria for anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder or ARFID. Individuals with OSFED may use a variety of disordered eating behaviors along with a preoccupation with body weight or shape. Even though individuals with OSFED do not meet diagnostic criteria for a more specific eating disorder, this does not mean that OSFED is any less dangerous or severe. OSFED can be a debilitating disorder, and affects up to six percent of the population. 


the nourishrx approach to eating disorder recovery

Our team of Registered Dietitians is here to provide you with the guidance to help you navigate eating disorder recovery with confidence and clarity. 

We're not new to this. Our eating disorder treatment paths have been designed in response to our decades of experience as Certified Eating Disorders Registered Dietitians. We’re also moms, sisters, aunts, and friends who’ve been in your shoes and can support you in helping someone you love who is struggling with an eating disorder. 

We understand how important it is for you to get life back to normal for you and your family, knowing that your loved one is safe and thriving and that you have the tools in place to make that happen. 

We have carefully put together services to help you feel confident in knowing who to talk to, what questions to ask and feel comfortable communicating your needs with the people around you. 

Together, we’ll help you see the bright light at the end of this journey and know that you and your loved one are going to come out of this with renewed strength and resilience. 

Nutrition Coaching for Eating Disorder can help you AND your family

The Jumpstart Course for Parents & Caregivers

This is the getting started course that every Parents & Caregiver who is new to eating disorder treatment needs to have. This course contains 5 modules which include videos, downloads, links to resources and more that will help you understand and get started with the treatment process. All of the content is yours to download and keep forever, and can help support the individualized work that you do in nutrition counseling with a dietitian. 

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You don’t have to live with the constant, nagging fear that you won’t be able to figure out how to help support someone you know with an eating disorder. Nutrition coaching with NourishRX can help you sleep soundly at night knowing that you have the tools in place to provide your loved one with the care and support they need as you all work through the recovery process together. 

Begin helping someone you know with an eating disorder

Discuss our services and resources with our Client Care Coordinator and learn more about what working with one of our compassionate registered dietitians is like.

Get the clarity you need to start supporting someone you know with an eating disorder today.