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How to Help a Friend

Eating and Body Image Issues
If you are reading this handout, then chances are you are concerned about the eating habits, weight, or body image of someone you care about. We understand that this can be a very difficult and scary time for you. Let us assure you that you are doing a great thing by looking for more information! This list may not tell you everything you need to know about what to do in your specific situation, but it will give you some helpful general ideas on what to do to help your friend.

  • Learn as much as you can about eating disorders. Read books, articles, and brochures.
    o Know the differences between facts and myths about weight, nutrition, and exercise. Knowing the facts will help you reason against any inaccurate ideas that your friend may be using as excuses to maintain eating patterns.
  • Be caring, but be firm. Caring about your friend does not mean being manipulated by her. Your friend must be responsible for her actions and their consequences. Avoid making "rules," promises, or expectations that you cannot or will not uphold (For example, "I promise not to tell anyone." or, "If you do this one more time I'll never talk to you again.")
  • Tell someone.  It may seem difficult to know when, if at all, to tell someone else about your concerns. Addressing body image or eating problems in their beginning stages probably offers your friend the best chance for working through these issues and becoming healthy again. Don't wait until the situation is so severe that your friend's life is in danger. If you have already spoken with your friend and still feel like more steps need to be taken to address these issues, consider telling her parents, a teacher, a doctor, a counselor, a nutritionist, or any trusted adult. She needs as mush support and understanding as possible from the people in her life.


Remember: You cannot force someone to seek help, change their habits, or adjust their attitudes. You will make important progress in honestly sharing your concerns, providing support, and knowing where to go for more information! People struggling with anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating disorder do need professional help. There is help available, and there is hope! 

© Children's Hospital & Medical Center | In Affiliation with University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Medicine