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Helping Your Loved One Readjust After Treatment

Oftentimes family members and support persons "walk on egg shells" when an individual returns home from treatment because they are unsure of what to say or how to help in the recovery process.

It is important to realize that people with eating disorders have heightened sensitivity around food, weight and exercise. Although your loved-one worked on these issues in treatment, no one leaves a treatment program "completely recovered" because recovery is a process. Your patience and understanding is extremely important to the person in recovery.

Below are some tips for family members, peers and support persons to help make the transition back home more comfortable for everyone involved.
Avoid

"You look great."
"You look healthy."
"Now that you gained/lost weight you look much healthier."
"You're eating a lot better now."

Why?

Comments about weight loss may or may not be taken as a compliment; comments about weight gain may be seen as criticism. Focusing on how or what she is eating may make her angry and think that's all you care about.

Instead Try…

"I missed you while you were gone."

"Let me catch you up on some things that happened while you were gone."

"When I used to hug you my heart would break. I'm happy to see you stronger."

Avoid

Giving special attention to your loved- one.

Why?

She wants to feel as "normal" as possible when she comes back.

Instead Try…

"If you want to talk about your experience while you were gone, I'm here for you."

Avoid

"You are so much pushier now."

Why?

A big part of recovery involves learning to assert one's needs. As a result, there may be times when your loved-one asks you not to talk about food, exercise or weight around her; this doesn't mean you have to avoid these topics all the time, but please be considerate and respectful of her requests.

Instead Try…

"Thanks for the feedback. I get confused about what is and isn't okay to talk about. It really helps when you tell me."

"I love talking with you about (a band, TV show, etc.). You seem much more alive and interested in lots of things now."

Avoid

"I hate my body."

"I just ate a huge meal. I need to go exercise it off."

"I used to be a size 6; now I am a size 8. I'm a cow."

Why?

Sometimes people unintentionally encourage behaviors that promote eating disorders by things they say or do. It's important to watch your own behaviors.

Instead Try…

"I'm not feeling great about my body today. Actually now that I think about it, I feel angry about breaking up with my boyfriend and I'm taking it out on my body rather than talking about it."