Self Care & Support

If the way you eat and think about food interferes with and keeps you from enjoying life and moving forward, then you may have an eating disorder. Take this illness seriously. Talk to someone who can help.

The first step in any recovery process is realizing the unhealthy way you’re relating to food and weight is hurting, rather than helping. There are a variety of ways you can find help. There are many different ways to deal with eating disorders and many different organizations who are dedicated to this issue. Family members and friends may also benefit from information and help.

According to the folks at, here are some common ways to take care of yourself and ways to help others:

Coping Alternatives

Here are some more positive methods of dealing with your emotions and stress, rather than turning to such Eating Disordered behaviors like starving, binging and purging, or overeating.

Stop, Swap and Console

STOP what you’re doing. Calm your thoughts. Try to identify what you’re feeling. Ground yourself in the now and say STOP in your mind. Visualize a stop sign.

SWAP things in your mind. Think about someone you care about… “would my loved-one deserve to feel guilty in this situation?”; “Would I want a loved-one to act on this impulse?”; “Would I exercise compassion if my loved-one was feeling this way?” Now swap again. Remind yourself that YOU deserve as much patience and compassion that you believe a loved-one deserves. You ARE a loved-one to yourself… so you should treat yourself accordingly!

CONSOLE yourself. Take care of YOU. Give yourself comfort. Journal if you have to. Call your therapist or someone you trust and ask for help. Address your feelings. Communicate what you’re feeling… really feeling. Validate yourself. Help yourself to cope in more healthy and productive ways.

Three steps to take during a rough time. Even just the thinking of Stop, swap and console is a step in the right direction! Learning to start to take care of ourselves is a process, and we won’t nail it the first time out, but starting out with three simple words will help you learn to identify when you truly need to take care of YOU… to learn to identify what is going on inside… and to take steps towards better self-care in the future.

Use the ideas below, and your own ideas, to make a COPING BANK!

  • Write in your Journal
  • Listen to your favorite music
  • Watch a sunset
  • Play your favorite instrument
  • Tell one person how you feel
  • Have a water balloon fight
  • Paint a picture
  • Take a long hot bath
  • Hug someone
  • Go to a concert
  • Take a leisurely walk
  • Rent your favorite movie
  • Call an old friend
  • Spend time with your pet
  • Read a book
  • Take a nap
  • Remind Yourself “It’ll be Ok”
  • Take a deep breath, count to 10
  • Go to a favorite “safe” location (beach, park, woods, playground, etc.)
  • Think of advice you’d give someone else… and take it!
  • Say something good about yourself
  • Use Self Affirmation tapes and books… and make your own affirmations (use notebooks, index cards, tapes, post-it notes, journal)
  • Meditate, use Relaxation
  • Find an ICQ, AOL or e-mail pal or join a chatroom for support
  • Stay in touch with others through contact – don’t isolate yourself

What You Can (and Can’t) Do For Others:

The first thing to keep in mind is that as an “outsider” (not suffering from an Eating Disorder yourself) there are many things you cannot do to help a family member or friend to get better. You cannot force an anorexic to eat, keep a bulimic from purging, or make a compulsive overeater stop overeating. The first thing to realize once you have come to the awareness that your loved one suffers from an Eating Disorder, is that you must not concentrate immediately on the food. All forms of Eating Disorders are emotionally based and the behaviors are intimately tied to emotional and stress related problems. Disordered eating can often be an attempt to control, hide, stuff, avoid and forget emotional pain, stress and/or self-hate.

If you are the parent of a child under 18 you will have difficult decisions to make regarding their care. Regardless of pleas to “not make me,” and promises that the behavior will stop, you will have to stay very attuned to what is happening with your child and may have to force them to go to doctors and/or the hospital. Keep in mind how serious Eating Disorders are and that, depending on how serious it gets, they can kill.

If your relationship with someone suffering from Anorexia, Bulimia or Compulsive Overeating is anything other than their parent, or if your child is over the age of 18 then you cannot force them to seek help. You can support and encourage your loved one, and gently express concern, and the best thing you can do is to learn to attentively listen.


Because an eating disorder can a profound and negative effect on a person’s physical health, it’s really important to get help… and treatment is definitely possible.  There may be a combination of different health professionals involved in order to help with different aspects of it.

Counselling, either for yourself or with others in your family, can help give people to understand their thoughts and feelings, work through how it’s been affecting their lives.  A doctor, nurse or nutritionist may be help keep tabs on your physical health, as well as help create healthy food plans.  Peer support groups are also available to connect with others who have similar experiences, to share both the struggles and the successes that others have had.

Serious health concerns or very low weight could require hospitalization, so checking in with a health professional to make sure can be very helpful.