3 ways to build supportive relationships with your loved ones during bulimia recovery

Catherine Liberty's picture

At times do your friends and loved ones seem unsupportive of your recovery?

Perhaps they act like they have forgotten you even have an eating disorder? Or worse still, maybe they engage in really triggering conversations or behaviours right in front of you?

Information and articles aimed at helping people to understand what it’s like to suffer with bulimia are quite easily accessible, but what about a little help when it comes to understanding the behaviours of our own loved ones?

Dealing with unsupportive loved ones (non-bulimics)

Often as a result of their own conflicting emotions, your loved ones can behave in ways that don’t really support your recovery, and as hurtful as this can be, I do think it is important to take a big step back and try to uncover what is really going on.  

Honestly, from the vast amount of discussions I’ve had with my friends and family over the course of my own recovery, it seems the answers can actually be quite straightforward.  

Here are some reasons why your loved ones can act in unsupportive ways:

  • Your loved ones probably don’t always know what to say (who does!), or they may stress out about saying the right thing for so long that it comes out completely wrong.   
  • Your loved ones and other non-bulimics don’t think of recovery 24/7 like you undoubtedly do - but this doesn’t mean that they don’t care about your recovery. 
  • Non-bulimics find it hard to understand what it even means to be triggered – again, this doesn’t mean that they can’t be taught to deal with potential triggers more sensitively. 
  • They may think they know what’s best for you, and may find it difficult to challenge their own preconceived ideas about eating disorders and recovery – Remember, breaking away from preconceived ideas is never easy, but it is possible. 
  • Everyone has their own pain, suffering, insecurities and doubts. Your loved ones may feel like they are somehow to blame for your eating disorder or may be in denial of the severity of bulimia.

You have the power to help your loved ones become more supportive

Despite the overwhelming amount of responsibilities you have to deal with right now as a recovering bulimic, accepting responsibility for leading some much needed change in your relationships really can have an overwhelmingly positive impact on your entire recovery – after all, who is more informed when it comes to letting your loved ones know how to support you than YOU?

3 ways to build supportive relationships

1. Keep your “bulimic logic” in check

The interplaying effects of bulimia, low self-esteem and additional issues like anxiety and depression can all encourage you to misinterpret and manipulate the words and actions of others. Just like we have to drum it into our subconscious that a relapse is not failure, it’s important to keep challenging your bulimic-logic when it comes to your relationships. If  someone says or does something triggering, it doesn’t mean they don’t care about you and love you. 

2. Try to be as open and honest as possible

Allow your loved ones to continue to ask questions, and remember to ask your loved ones how they are feeling too. This can feel super awkward at first, but it really should help you to develop a much closer and supportive bond with them. A great tip is to set aside some time each night to discuss your recovery that day.

3. Accept that change will be gradual

Continue to offer information to your loved one,  suggest some reading material like this free Bulimia Help guide “What to do when someone tells you they have bulimia” and trust that with enough patience and time they will be able to become a lot more supportive of your recovery. 

Despite your best efforts, some people may always be insensitive of your needs...

In this case you need to remind yourself that you are only responsible for your own thoughts, feelings and actions, not other people’s. You are in no way responsible for their lack of understanding or support. You can (and should) continue to form other supportive bonds regardless.



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