Ask Aly: Bulimia Help

Hey Aly! I have a question for you, and it's a little personal but I'm not really sure where else to get good information. Recently, someone really close to me confided in me that they have been diagnosed with bulimia nervosa. I want to do my best to help them through their pains and help them stay on the road to recovery, but I'm not sure how to be a support without seeming pushy for their recovery. What do you think would be helpful/constructive behavior?
Hi! Thanks for getting in contact with me, I'm always happy to be a resource to help other people who are going through similar things that I experienced. This is a little bit of a tricky question because everyone experiences their eating disorders differently. When my family first started to notice that I had an eating disorder, they tended to pester me or guilt me out of my behaviors...which only made things worse. They were acting out of love, but I constantly felt like I was being attacked or treated like an infant. I think the best thing that you can do right now is to support this person in whatever way you can--whether it's being a listening ear/ letting them vent to you, offering sympathy and understanding when needed; or just asking them how they're doing that day or at a specific moment. I found that when I had someone that I felt like I could report to, I did better and stayed on track. Don't criticize their eating habits (especially in front of other people) and don't assume that every time they're going to the bathroom is to purge. Be patient and give them space, but don't allow them to be or feel isolated. There's a difference between pestering and letting them know that you're thinking of them and noticing their struggle. Engage in conversation in, during, and after meals. Try to be around this person during meal and snack times as a support system. Try to use body positive phrases and don't criticize your weight or eating habits around them. If you want, you can send this person my way and let them know that I can be a resource for her personally too; It's one thing to have someone sympathize with you and another thing to have someone empathize with you. I know that I personally started to do better when I found other people who had gone through what I was experiencing; I felt validated and hopeful. Although empathy is definitely important, sympathy is equally so. I remember wishing that I had friends who would have taken the time to notice and acknowledge what I was going though. I think knowing that someone is actively caring and worrying about you is incredibly enabling and healing too. As far as medial help goes, if they don't have an eating disorder doctor already, they could start seeing Dr. Michael Spigarelli in Salt Lake City for help; he saved my life and is an eating disorder specialist. Therapists and eating disorder groups can also help too (I'm actually a mentor for a group at my university right now). I hope this wasn't information overload, but let me know if there's anything else I can do, I'm here to help! Thanks again for messaging me, I hope that all goes well for your friend!

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