HOW TO HELP A FRIEND WITH AN EATING DISORDER

  • Choose one person the individual trusts and respects—not a group.
  • Find a quiet and private place to talk.
  • Have the conversation when you are feeling calm; make sure you are not angry or frustrated with something else he or she may have done or said.
  • Think through your thoughts ahead of time; write down the reasons you are worried, including specific behaviors you have observed.
  • Be direct and honest. If you have heard the person throwing up, say so, rather than making vague statements such as, “You seem to be in the bathroom a long time.”
  • Stick with the subject at hand. If the person strays from talking about the eating problem, offer to speak about the subject later but stay focused on your original topic.
  • State clearly that you are not trying to control the person’s eating and that you respect one’s right to make decisions.
  • Use “I” language that reflects your feelings. Example: “I’ve noticed that you’ve lost a lot of weight. I care about you, and I am worried that you have an eating disorder. I hope that we can talk about it and that I can help you find a way to feel better.”
  • Focus on realistic goals such as getting them professional help and minimizing the influence the eating disorder has on your friendship.

DO NOT…

  • Expect to “solve” your friend’s eating disorder.
  • Monitor or check up on how much or how little your friend is eating or exercising. This usually makes the person with an eating disorder resentful and more secretive.
  • Use your friend’s problem as a topic of gossip with other friends.

For more information on this topic

National Eating Disorders Association
About-Face