A few days ago, a close friend called with a dilemma. “I think my friend has an eating disorder, what should I do? What can I say?” For anyone who has witnessed a friend or relative suffer the demands of such a destructive illness, you know how difficult these questions can be. Please know that if you find yourself in such a situation, you are not alone. There are places of support to offer advice, encouragement, and information to guide you. The National Eating Disorders Association has published a fabulous handout “What Should I Say? Tips for Talking to a Friend Who May be Struggling with an Eating Disorder.” Their website is filled with an abundance of resources and information.
Additionally, if you live in Massachusetts, the Multi-Service Eating Disorder Association (MEDA) offers support groups, education materials, and referrals for eating disorder specialists in your area. I am actually attending MEDA’s annual conference this weekend. It has been an uplifting experience to be surrounded by professionals dedicated to the cause of successfully treating individuals and families of individuals struggling with eating disorders.
Please know that eating disorders are a very serious mental illness, not to be taken lightly. Avoid giving simple solutions and comments (i.e. just eat more, you need to gain some weight). This can be harmful and hurtful. But expressions of love and concern may create an environment of trust.
As a nutrition therapist who treats eating disorders, I have seen the miracles of recovery that take place because a brave friend or family member has taken that step and expressed love and concern. My message is one of hope: recovery is possible and you may be the lifeline to someone who desperately needs it.