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How to Help

Tips for Talking to a Friend Who May Be Struggling with an Eating Disorder 

If you are worried about your friend's eating behaviors or attitudes, then it is appropriate for you to express your concerns to her in a loving and supportive way. It is important to handle these issues with honesty and respect. It is also important to discuss your worries early on, rather than waiting until your friend has endured many of the damaging physical and emotional effects of eating disorders.

In a private and relaxed setting, talk to your friend in a calm and caring way about the specific things you have seen or felt that have made you worry.
  • Share your memories of two or three specific times when you felt concerned, afraid, or uneasy because of your friend's eating rituals.
  • Talk about the feelings you experienced as a result of these events. Try to do this in a very supportive, non-confrontational way. Here are three suggestions:
    • Use "I" statements. For example: "I'm concerned about you because you refuse to eat breakfast or lunch." or "It makes me afraid to hear you vomiting."
    • Avoid accusational "You" statements. For example: "You have to eat something!" "You must be crazy!" or "You're out of control!"
    • Avoid giving simple solutions. For example: "If you'd stop, everything would be fine!"
If your friend has become obsessed with eating, exercising, or dieting, your friend probably needs professional help. Your friend may be angry that you are questioning her attitudes and behaviors. Your friend may deny that there is a problem. If your friend won't listen to your concerns, you may need to tell someone else - - someone who can help. Consider talking to your friend's parents, a teacher, a doctor, a counselor, a nutritionist, or any trusted adult. Your friend needs as much 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 an eating disorder do need professional help. There is help available, and there is hope!