It can be very difficult to express your concerns to a friend or loved one about their eating and/or weight, however friends and family often play a huge role in an individual deciding to finally seek treatment. If you are concerned about a friend or loved one who has an eating disorder, or may have an eating disorder, here are 5 ways in which you can help:
- Educate yourself. Many people do not understand the complexities around eating disorders and eating disorder recovery. Learning what you can about eating disorders can be a great first step in being able to understand what your friend may be going through, and how you can best support them. NEDA is an excellent and reliable resource to utilize in learning more about eating disorders.
- Use “I” statements to express your concerns versus “you” statements, which can feel attacking and can cause your friend to become defensive. You can tell your friend or loved one what your concerns are, or what you have noticed/seen, by stating “I am worried about how much you are going to the gym” or “I’ve noticed you’ve stopped eating lunch during the day.” This is a way to communicate your concerns based on your own observations and experience.
- Listen and validate. It is okay if you don’t have the answers for your friend. Often, your friend simply needs you to be present and listen. It is important to validate what they are feeling or going through. You may not completely understand, but there is a low of power in just being a safe person that they can talk to without judgement. Try, “I’m really sorry you’re going through this, it sounds really hard.”
- Don’t oversimplify. Try to avoid giving “simplified advice” such as “just eat more” or “just stop doing that.” Again, eating disorders are complex, and it can be very invalidating to tell someone with an eating disorder to “just stop.”
- Encourage your friend or loved one to seek professional help. Often, individuals who seek treatment were prompted to do so by a friend or family member. There are many trained professionals and treatment centers who work specifically with eating disorders and have been specially trained to understand the complexities of this condition. Working with a trained professional can greatly increase your friend’s chances for recovery from their eating disorder.
If you still have more questions or would like to learn more about warning signs for disordered eating or an eating disorder, we can help.
Chelsea DiCicco is an adult clinician for the South Windsor PHP and IOP programs. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from University of New Haven, and her Master’s degree in Community Psychology with a concentration in clinical services also from the University of New Haven. Prior to working at Walden, Chelsea worked as an in-home therapist with children and adolescents. Chelsea has been with Walden for almost 2 years, and is passionate about working with eating disorders as well as complex trauma.