Last week I had the honor to co-lead a support group at Metro Behavioral Health Associates with Founder Jennie Kramer.
The group was made up of people who were seeking support for food and body image healing.
The group session itself was amazing. The women in the group shared personal stories of wins and struggles for the week. They received feedback and support not only from professionals but from each other.
The most important revelation that happened from the group is that each person felt that they weren’t in this alone. They had support.
So much of the time eating disorders thrive in isolation. Clients usually struggle alone to overcome their eating disorders and alone the eating disorder can thrive and the road to recovery is more of a struggle.
But it doesn’t HAVE to be this way. Everyone deserves, and more importantly, needs support in their journey to eating disorder recovery, to get to the end goal of intuitive eating.
Support is KEY for eating disorder recovery and intuitive eating. Finding a support system is one of the most important aspects of getting help for any eating disorder.
- A support system is usually a full team: a dietitian, therapist, doctor, and any other healthcare professionals a client needs.
- A support system can also be a support group, a spouse/partner, parents, siblings, friends, teachers, coaches, and anyone else who is a major part of a client’s life.
Ideally you have people supporting you from both of these groups. Each person may play a different role in your life and support you in different ways.
Here are 3 ways a support system can help you when you are working on eating disorder recovery:
- Make sure your support team talks to one another. Appointments with your healthcare professionals can prevent mistakes from turning into downward spirals. You might have a nutrition issue and when you are at your therapist appointment – they will catch it and let your dietitian know! Maybe you have a problem with anxiety in school and see your dietitian- they will catch it and let your therapist know! Your support team should work together as a team to support you, even for things arise that aren’t exactly in their scope of practice. Clients see healthcare providers for different reasons but ultimately we all work together on your behalf.
- Get help with meals and snacks. One of my favorite recommendations to make is that clients struggling with eating disorders eat with someone! Sometimes it’s awkward and uncomfortable but it can be so beneficial. I always make sure clients and their support person know what the meal/snack is so there is no “guessing” what’s right, and also make sure there is no talk about food or body during the actual meal or snack. The support person is there to help the client eat the nourishing food.
- Get Support to Build your Coping Skills. I recently had a conversation with a client about “their tool-belt” full of tools and “coping skills” for when issues arise. A client’s support system can absolutely help with coping skills if a client is having a hard time. There are many activities that your support system can encourage: a yoga class, breath work, journaling, connecting with a friend or family member, watching a favorite TV show, listening to music, or a creative art project. The critical thing is to remember to put these coping skills into practice when you need them.
A professional tip for support is to make sure self-care is planned:
Self-care is something too many people do not value. Self-care means putting yourself first. Doing the hard stuff like setting time aside on your calendar for appointments, tough conversations, and working through emotions. Your support system should be there for the celebrations as well as the hard stuff. And they should be there for both. Never skip the celebrations! You work hard to get them, you deserve to celebrate your success no matter how small or large!
A support system is life-changing for someone in eating disorder recovery.
And I want to send a thank you to you, if you are one of the supportive professionals and partners for people who are living with an eating disorder. You do important work and as a provider like you, I am thankful for you!
Jennifer is a Registered Dietitian and the owner of Eat With Knowledge in Nyack, NY. She is on a mission to help people heal from diets, and find peace and balance with their food choices. She leads a team of dietitians who support the philosophy, “Feel Fabulous about Food!”