What To Do… (if someone you know appears to have an eating disorder) 

  1. Prepare in advance what you’re going to say. Talk to the person when you’re calm and confident. Be honest, direct, and to-the-point.
  2. Mention evidence that suggests the person has an eating disorder (lost weight quickly, isolated self, rushes into bathroom after every meal, yo-yo dieting, etc.)
  3. Try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Visualize what you would like to hear from a friend.
  4. Speak from your own perspective. Use lots of “I” language (i.e., “I feel…” “I noticed that…” “I may be wrong, but I sense that…”
  5. Be gentle and caring, yet don’t treat the person like a fragile flower. The person can handle what you have to say. They may not agree to it, but they are capable of handling their feelings. Come to think of it, so are you.
  6. Pay attention to your hunches about what to say, how to act, when to confront, when to lay off, etc. “Gut” feelings are usually on target.
  7. Accept that the person will not change until he/she is ready. It’s not your job to determine when that time happens.
  8. Suggest professional help. Offer to go with the person if/when they are ready to seek it.
  9. If the person is willing to test the waters with you and talk about how they’re feeling, be the best listener possible. The fewer words spoken from you the better. Just be “in the moment” and provide your best undivided attention.
  10. Speak excitedly about all the advantages of recovery and living a “normal” life.
  11. Ask, “Are you getting what you really want by doing what you’re doing?”
  12. Accept that recovery is the person’s responsibility, not yours.
  13. Invite them to social outings. If they decline over and over, invite them over and over.
  14. Follow up with the person on an occasional basis as to how they’re doing.
  15. Expect the person to sit with the family during meal times, but don’t force them to eat. Instead, ask the person about how their day went. Play a game of “The best part of my day was…” that everyone must contribute to.
  16. Continue offering your support, even when others seemed to have forgotten the other person existed.  Follow the person’s cues. Lay off if you sense a lot of resistance, though some is okay. The person needs to feel the pain of holding onto an eating disorder.
  17. If you feel guilty, accept that you’re feeling as such and do your best to let it go. Be gentle with yourself. Understand that exercising the above methods will do wonders in the long run for your friend, even if it doesn’t seem like it at the moment.
  18. When/if the person gets upset with you for ever bringing up the subject, listen to them and accept their anger. Try your best to not take it personally. It’s normal for someone with an eating disorder to deny they have one. Stay focused. Take a deep breath and realize you didn’t make them feel angry. The anger and insecurity has been there for a long time; you simply opened the cage for it to escape.
  19. Model healthy behavior yourself. Share your feelings and thoughts politely about a struggle you may have.
  20. Show them this website or others with encouraging information on eating disorders.