For the first time, your friend just started counting their calories. No big deal right? Maybe they’re just trying to be healthier. But then, you notice that their personality and daily behavior begins to change more dramatically. They might be obsessed with looking at their body in mirrors, pinch their skin, or even put your body down/praise you for looking better than they do. You notice they stop eating lunch and seem to have lost a substantial amount of weight. Though you can’t be sure without an official diagnosis, your friend might be in the early stages of anorexia.
What is anorexia? Anorexia is an eating disorder that is different from bulimia. Anorexia is when an individual drastically cuts the number of calories they normally consume in an unhealthy manner. This could lead to dizziness, nausea, weakness, and much more. Teenagers and young adults are most at risk for this particular eating disorder. Anorexia could be accredited to a number of sources, including toxic societal expectations. Though it’s one thing to experience it for yourself, it’s also quite scary to experience it as an outsider. There are plenty of helpful things you can do to help someone you know that is dealing with it. However, there are a few things that you should definitely avoid as well. That being said, it’s important to remember that each individual and their situation is unique. Some methods may work for some people but not for others.
1.) Don’t make accusations.
If you decide to talk to your friend, make sure to keep it casual. Don’t begin with accusing them of having a disorder. If you witness them eating less or not eating at all, don’t confront them in an aggressive manner. Approach them calmly and when you have some alone time.
2.) Don’t compare bodies.
When talking to your friend, don’t compare your body to theirs. Putting down your body just to make them feel better is an inefficient method that won’t help them in the long run. Similarly, it isn’t beneficial to your mental health if you try to appease your friend by berating yourself.
3.) Don’t threaten them.
If you decide to talk to them about what you’ve been witnessing, they might not be responsive. They may not want to answer your questions. If so, don’t threaten to tell their guardian. Threatening them will not scare them into stopping their behavior. It will only make them better at hiding it.
4.) Don’t comment on their weight.
If you notice that they’ve lost or gained weight, do not mention it. It could make them even more self-conscious and could lead to more detrimental behaviors. Even if they are recovering, it’s best to avoid any discussion about weight without confirmation that they have returned to a healthy state of mind and are open to your feedback. It’s best to avoid any discussion about food or calories as well for the same reason.
We know that eating disorders can be scary. If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, reach out to a trusted adult or call the National Eating Disorder Helpline at (800) 931-2237.