The central tenet families need to understand is that kindness, compassion and patience are necessary to help someone get better from an eating disorder. Firmness, criticism and judgment only harden the illness and isolate the loved one from support.
Understanding why this is so important is linked with familiarity with the thought process of an eating disorder.
The internal world of someone with an eating disorder is harsh, critical and judgmental. The standards are always too high. Any respite feels impossible.
Because reality never matches up with unreachable expectations, the person endures the endless shame of never being good enough.
These thoughts are not always in the forefront of one's mind. Often they run as a loop in the background all day and influence every decision and interaction. It makes for a tortured existence.
The possibility of entering real treatment and recovery means lowering the bar from impossible to reasonable. The steps to get well can be slow and deliberate. Entering back into meaningful family relationships needs to be enveloped in kindness and caring. The key message, above all, is acceptance.
Rather than searching for the best solution, families need to reconsider their efforts. Starting with a thoughtful, compassionate approach to the suffering of a loved one opens up the possibility for conversation and closeness.
There is no immediate concrete plan that will work. Through the door of compassion lies some of the answers to begin steps towards recovery.