National Eating Disorders Association

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Being a big sister in recovery

So I’m in recovery from anorexia. I have two little sisters who don’t live with me, but whom I’m very close to. This summer we spent a lot of time together when my ED was in full swing. They saw it progressively get worse and worse and they also saw the beginning days of my recovery. Even in my ED, I tried to talk positively about food, but I know actions speak louder than words. I feel really bad because I never want them to do this to themselves.
They are also going through some tough stuff. One of them eats like a normal kid but has major self esteem issues (I see so much of myself in her it’s scary) and the other way really healthy and is constantly praised for it. Neither of them have given me cause to think they have a food problem.
I know because of recovery I’m super vigilant about food, diet culture, eating, body talk, etc.
I guess my point is: for you guys who are siblings of people with EDs, what are some things that would have helped you? What can I be doing to be a better older sister and example? I can’t turn off my discomfort and attitude towards food and every day is a battle but I love them and I want that love to be stronger than my eating disorder.


Hi. I am sorry you are dealing with an eating disorder. I think it is so caring that you are reaching out for help to know how to help your younger siblings. When I was young I never thought about how my illness would affect my sisters but it did. I almost dies in front of my then thirteen year old sister, I was sixteen. Since then my sisters have stayed their distance from me as I have been dealing with disordered eating for so long. They blamed me for being sick and don't understand that a lot of the way they have coped with life has in some ways been just as unhealthy but since I was in the hospital so many times I am blamed for not getting over it.

As far as how you can help your siblings, I guess just having an open dialogue with them. Let them know-if you are comfortable with this idea-that if they have any questions or concerns that they can talk with you about them. Also, being available to them if they are struggling with anything to know that they can come and talk to you about what is bothering them. We can't go back and change what we've been through or are currently going through. But if you let them know that you are working on changing your relationship with food, maybe that will be enough.

I don't really know what to say other than that. If you see signs of an eating disorder developing in your siblings, I maybe you could let someone know? Let them know there are no good or bad foods. I would try to be open and as honest with them as you feel would be good for them and for you. Unfortunately this country is obsessed with thinness and perfection. Let us be the ones to change that. How I do not know. By sharing our stories maybe. Letting people know that having struggles with eating disorders is not a shameful thing but that we all deal with something and therefore we should not have to feel guilty for dealing with an eating disorder. I say that to you. There is no shame. Your love is stronger than an eating disorder that you struggle with. It is not you. You are you. Your love is you. The inner you. Your love is real and will prove to be the stronger of the two. Hope this helps.