Guide to Being Kind to Those With Eating Disorders

I recognize that eating disorders are an issue not limited to women, yet they are prevalent among women which necessitates that I address them.

In a society which stresses and obsesses on self “improvement,” frequently touting exercise as improvement and other ways as “weakness” (untrue!), women are affected powerfully. Magazines pretend to advise us. Tabloids demand to throttle our self-esteem, denoting certain bodies as ‘good’ and others as ‘bad’. Diets and surgeries plague advertising, even in supposed medical offices. What can we do about all this? We can avoid indulging in it, we can avoid buying into it. Personally, I cannot stop it entirely, but buying power says a lot. For every dollar lost, for every letter an editor receives asking that ‘bathing suit’ and ‘improve your body’ articles be left out of their magazine, for every few dollars which are spent on purchasing healthy food rather than ‘diets’, for every smile at yourself in the mirror, you are changing a piece of this country’s way. You are saying ‘No, you may not undermine my worth.’

I was born small and thin, and my whole life I’ve dealt with ‘do you eat?’ and related comments. Rather than build me up, those comments feel accusatory and harmful. (I’m just fine, by the way. I love myself and I am healthy. I have luckily never been anorexic.)

I searched online for a guide for those who may have a close friend with an eating disorder. Rest assured, if a person is not your close friend, you have No Business confronting them, kindly or not, about their eating disorder. If you think it is necessary, talk to a counselor at high school or college, or call NEDA’s hotline for guidance on what you can do: 800.931.2237

The following is pasted from NEDA’s website:

Anorexia, Bulimia, & Binge Eating Disorder: What is an Eating Disorder?
Eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder include extreme emotions, attitudes, and behaviors surrounding weight and food issues.

What Should I Say? Tips for Talking to a Friend Who May Be Struggling with an Eating Disorder
If you are worried about your friend’s eating behaviors or attitudes, it is important to express your concerns in a loving and supportive way. It is also necessary to discuss your worries early on, rather than waiting until your friend has endured many of the damaging physical and emotional effects of eating disorders.

What Can You Do to Help Prevent Eating Disorders?
Be a model of healthy self-esteem and body image. Recognize that others pay attention and learn from the way you talk about yourself and your body. Choose to talk about yourself with respect and appreciation.

An article on Body image: read ‘what can I do to improve my body image’! There is a lot of good in it.

And this is pasted from

If someone you know is showing signs of anorexia, you may be able to help.

  1. Set a time to talk. Set aside a time to talk privately with your friend. Make sure you talk in a quiet place where you won’t be distracted.
  2. Tell your friend about your concerns. Be honest. Tell your friend about your worries about her/his not eating or over exercising. Tell your friend you are concerned and that you think these things may be a sign of a problem that needs professional help.
  3. Ask your friend to talk to a professional. Your friend can talk to a counselor or doctor who knows about eating issues. Offer to help your friend find a counselor or doctor and make an appointment, and offer to go with her or him to the appointment.
  4. Avoid conflicts. If your friend won’t admit that she or he has a problem, don’t push. Be sure to tell your friend you are always there to listen if she or he wants to talk.
  5. Don’t place shame, blame, or guilt on your friend.  Don’t say, “You just need to eat.” Instead, say things like, “I’m concerned about you because you won’t eat breakfast or lunch.” Or, “It makes me afraid to hear you throwing up.”
  6. Don’t give simple solutions. Don’t say, “If you’d just stop, then things would be fine!”
  7. Let your friend know that you will always be there no matter what.
Notice how none of these methods involve talking to a person because they are slender or because they are curvy. Reasons for talking to someone include (a) They are not eating,  (b) They are over-exercising,  (c) Their behaviors and attitudes toward food are emotional and extreme.
The intention is to have a healthy body. No matter what body shape you are born with, you are worthy of loving and accepting yourself.
 I’m feeling good about being kind to people with eating disorders.

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