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.
- 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.
EATING DISORDER RESOURCES
How Do Eating Disorders Develop
National Eating Disorders Association
National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders
Eating Disorder Screener
Virtual Eating Disorder Group for College Students
Renfrew: College Program