How to help someone with an unhealthy relationship with food

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·Lifestyle Reporter
·3-min read
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Having a healthy relationship with food and your body is vital to your health and wellbeing. 

As well as acknowledging the signs of an unhealthy relationship with food, it's important to understand how to help someone, and what advice to give.

Young adult woman measuring herself on a scale put weight. Source: Getty Images
Studies show how young girls are most likely to face an unhealthy relationship with food. Source: Getty Images

With approximately one million Australians living with an eating disorder, and 63 per cent of those being female, studies show that young girls are most likely to face an unhealthy relationship with food.

Stef Jung, a holistic health coach and founder of Discover Food Freedom warns of some of the negative affects of diets for young girls, telling Yahoo Lifestyle that they never work in the long run.

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What advice would you give to young girls in particular?

"Restriction always backfires in the long-run. Dieting also puts you out of touch with your own hunger and fullness cues, making some external authority the expert on your own body," Stef tells us.

"As you become increasingly physically and mentally food-deprived and disconnected to your body, your mind starts to rebel in the form of increased food cravings and increased desire to overeat. For many, they start to binge eat as a result."

Young woman in front of the fridge. Source: Getty Images
Dieting can put you out of touch with your own hunger and fullness cues. Source: Getty Images

How can friends and family help?

Stef notes that encouraging a loved one to seek professional help is incredibly beneficial.

“I would recommend finding someone such as myself that has struggled with this in the past," she says.

"There is such immense power in working with someone who’s walked in the same shoes before and can relate on that deeper level.”

Girl with stomach ache sitting on sofa. Source: Getty Images
Encouraging someone to seek professional help is incredibly beneficial. Source: Getty Images

Stef also stresses the importance of leading by example. 

“Be mindful of how you talk about food and your own body in front of others," Stef adds.

"Do show compassion and care, listening in a non-judgmental way. Don’t try to fix things by providing unsolicited advice, but simply let them know that you are there for them if they need to talk.”

Mum comforting teenager at dinner table. Source: Getty Images
It's important to be mindful of how you talk about food and your own body in front of others. Source: Getty Images

Stef also explains how being patient is key to being supportive. 

"Give them space to talk about how they’re feeling and what’s going on for them as the impact they’re having on others is likely to make them withdraw and feel worse."

"Eating disorders aren’t resolved overnight. People often take a while to change their behaviours. Try not to be upset if a person reverts to their disordered eating. Instead, encourage them to try again and to keep aiming for recovery."

Mother and daughter sitting by a lake. Source: Getty Images
Be supportive and give them space to talk about how they’re feeling. Source: Getty Images

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