Thin is in, how to help your friend with an eating disorder

When you have a friend with an eating disorder, there are some things that you can do to help:

  • Learn as much as you can about eating disorders. Read books, articles, and brochures. If you have knowledge and understanding about their situation you will be a much bigger asset and much more helpful than someone who knows little. Instead of looking like someone trying to stick their nose in someone else’s business you look like a knowledgeable, caring, friend.
  • Know the differences between facts and myths about weight, nutrition, and exercise. This is so very important because knowing the facts will help you reason against any inaccurate ideas that your friend may be using as excuses to maintain their disordered eating patterns. You should compile information and have sources on hand to show healthy eating patterns, and information about weight, nutrition and exercise.
  • Be honest with your friend. In order to help your friend you need to be able to talk openly and honestly about your concerns with the person who is struggling with eating or body image problems. Avoiding it or ignoring it won’t help, so talk about it! Sometimes just seeing how much someone else cares and worries about them can help them take the steps to overcoming the disorder.
  • Be caring, but be firm. Caring about your friend does not mean being manipulated by them, or letting them do things because they want to. Your friend must be responsible for their actions and the consequences of those actions, so you need to be sure to avoid making rules, promises, or expectations that you cannot or will not uphold. What does this mean exactly? It means do not do things like promise not to tell anyone, or tell them that you will never talk to them again if they don’t stop. Truth is important, so only say and do things you really mean.
  • Compliment your friend’s wonderful personality, successes, or accomplishments. Most eating disorders start with an insecurity about worth and value, and become more as their self image, and therefore image image starts to come into question. So, be sure to remind your friend how great they are.
  • Be a good role model in regard to sensible eating, exercise, and self-acceptance. Do not talk bad about yourself or your body in front of them as it gives them an excuse to think poorly about their own. Do not binge or eat poorly when they are around. Example is key!
  • Tell someone. It may seem difficult to know when, if at all, to tell someone else about your concerns. However, eating disorders are serious problems and you can’t help your friend if you do not address their body image or eating problems in the beginning stages. If you can get them help early, this gives 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.
  • Be supportive and understanding, but not accepting of the disorder. As soon as you begin to rationalize or allow them to have the disorder, your value for helping them diminishes. Your friend needs as much support and understanding as possible, but they also need to know how much you hate that they suffer with the problem.

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