What should I say?
How should I approach a friend who I suspect has 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 in a loving and supportive way. It is important to handle these issues with honesty and respect. It is also important to discuss your concerns early on.
Increase your knowledge about eating disorders (visit Websites, read books or pamphlets, attend seminars, etc.).
Don’t be scared to talk with her or him.
Prepare yourself. Write down specific behaviors you have witnessed that concern you ahead of time.
Pick a time and place that is quiet, private and comfortable. Be sure you’re calm and not stressed. Don’t confront your friend with a group of people or in front of others.
Explain your concerns. Use specific “I” messages, using examples of behaviors you have seen or changes in your relationship. Avoid any mention of weight or appearance! For instance, try saying, “I feel angry and hurt when I hear you say terrible things about your body. Yesterday you called your thighs obnoxious.” Or, “It makes me afraid to hear you vomiting-can I make an appointment for you at the Health Center? I can come with you.”
Avoid accusational “You” statements like, “You have to eat something!” or “You’re out of control!”
Don’t focus on the perils of an eating disorder. Your friend is probably painfully aware of the damage being done, and this can cause you to forget about their underlying feelings.
Remember your motivation-to ensure your friend’s health and happiness, not to accuse, blame, or shame. Listen with a nonjudgmental ear.
Encourage the person to seek professional help soon. If possible, have a few local names and numbers to share or call together right then.
Expectations and needs:
*Expect a guarded or angry response. Your friend is doing their best not to feel, so as a friend YOU are going to feel their fear, anger, and their “out of controllness.”
*Don’t expect a “thank you.”
*If your friend rejects help and you believe she or he is in immediate danger, seek professional assistance after first notifying him or her of your intent.
*Don’t try to solve her or his problems or help with the eating disorder on your own. Get help from others.
*Don’t expect to be the perfect friend – get support when you need it. This is not only healthy for you, but provides a helpful model for your friend.
Future Times Together
*Don’t talk about weight, food, calories, or appearance. Do not make any comments on what she or he looks like.
*Don’t get into power struggles or try to force your friend to eat.
*Don’t allow her or his peculiarities to dominate or manipulate you.
*Don’t expect your friend to be “cured” after treatment. Recovery can be a long process.
*Recognize that the eating disorder is only one aspect of your friend. Get to know the inner part of your friend by getting to know what he or she thinks and feels.
*Stop “bad body talk” with all your friends.
*Be available when your friend needs someone, but it’s okay to set limits on what you can and cannot do.
*Hang in there! Don’t keep your concerns a secret from your friend!