Reflections WashU

Love Your Body and Live Healthy

HOW TO HELP A FRIEND April 21, 2010


Signs of an Eating Disorder:

  • An obsession with weight and food
  • Constantly pointing out the calories and grams of fat in food
  • Feeling a need to exercise constantly in order to effect their weight and figure
  • Avoiding hanging out with friends in situations involving food
  • Wearing baggy clothes to avoid revealing their shape
  • Distorted body image
  • Binge eating
  • Cutting food into tiny pieces and moving it around their plate to avoid eating
  • Bragging about how little they’ve eaten
  • Going to the bathroom frequently after meals
  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Your friend buys laxatives and/or diet pills
  • Gaining weight despite rarely being seen eating

How to Help:

  • Talk to your friend in a private, caring manner to let her know that you are worried about her and are there for her. Be gentle and non-confrontational because they will likely be very defensive.
  • Don’t be surprised if she gets angry or denies your claims, but be persistent. Remember that you may not be able to help her, you can only support her and encourage her to get professional help.
  • If your friend will not accept that they have a problem or that they need help, you may need to speak with an adult. Usually talking to a school councelor, trusted teacher, or even your friend’s parents may be successful ways of getting her the help she needs.
  • NEVER blame yourself. Your friend may be angry with you or feel betrayed, but remember an eating disorder is a disease. In the same way you wouldn’t try and treat your friend for cancer, you do not have the power to treat her on your own. Professional help is what your friend NEEDS and eventually she will be grateful for your efforts.

Creating a Positive Environment:

  • Don’t talk about food and calories or grams of fat
  • Avoid talking about diets, weight, and shape of yourself and other people, including celebrities (watch this video on the effects of airbrushing and the false images the media provides)
  • Try not to be too obvious in watching your friend’s eating and food habits otherwise they may become more secretive
  • Avoid focusing on physical characteristics and instead focus on positive internal characteristics
  • STOP fat talk: don’t say how fat you feel or how good someone looks who has last weight
  • Participate in activities that don’t involve food or shopping
  • Be supportive, let your friend know you believe in them
  • Model healthy food, eating, and exercising behaviors
  • Don’t try to give advice

Watch this video on being Fat Talk Free

WASHU Resources:

  • Make an appointment with the Student Health Services Eating Disorder Treatment Team by calling 314-935-6695
  • The nurse will help you figure out where a good starting point is (dietician, councelor, psychiatrist, physician)
  • Reflections: contact our student group either via this website or by e-mailing us at
  • Uncle Joe’s Peer Counceling and Resource Center
  • McCallum Place: Nearby treatment center for eating disorders, offering both in-patient and out-patient services. 

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