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Dear Dish-It: My Friend Has An Eating Disorder

Dear Dish-It,


I really need your help. I think my best friend has an eating disorder. I noticed in the past few months she’s lost a ton of weight but I don’t know how she did it. We used to go home to eat lunch every day but now she goes home alone and I eat my lunch at school so I don’t know if she’s eating or not. And she never has snacks or anything. When someone tells her she looks really good she always says she doesn’t and I really think she thinks she’s fat even though she isn’t! I don’t know why her parents haven’t noticed anything and I don’t know what to say or do. Help!


katy_katz


Dear kk,


I’m glad you sent in your question. An eating disorder is a serious problem and any time you think someone you know and love may have one it’s important to ask questions and figure out if you need to step in and offer your help and support. In order for you to be able to do that, you need to know the facts about eating disorders.


Signs Of Eating Disorders

Plenty of kids, teens and adults are very critical of their own bodies. It’s not surprising, considering the images we see every time we go to a movie, turn on the TV, read a magazine or surf the Internet – impossibly perfect and seriously skinny models. While almost all of us know these images have been airbrushed and worked on by graphic artists to hide any flaws and look completely perfect, it can be hard to keep those facts in mind when you look in the mirror and notice your body doesn’t look like those pictures do.


The problem happens when these thoughts cross the line and become unhealthy. An eating disorder can occur when you start to do things that are physically and emotionally dangerous – things that have long-term consequences.


There are different types of eating disorders. Some people go on starvation diets and can become anorexic. Others go on eating binges and then purge their bodies of the food they've just eaten through forced vomiting, compulsive exercise, taking laxatives or a combination of these – this kind of eating disorder is called bulimia.


So how do you know if a friend has an eating disorder? It can be hard to tell – after all, someone who's lost a lot of weight or feels constantly tired may have another type of health condition. But some of the signs that a friend may have an eating disorder include:

  • She has an obsession with weight and food and she talks about food, weight and being thin and nothing else
  • She kows exactly how many calories and fat grams are in everything she eats and is constantly pointing this out
  • She feels the need to exercise all the time, even when she’s feeling sick or tired
  • She avoids hanging out with you and other friends during meals
  • She starts to wear big or baggy clothes to hide her shape
  • She’s on a really dramatic or restrictive diet, cuts food into tiny pieces, moves food around on her plate instead of eating it and is very precise about how food is arranged on her plate
  • She seems to compete with others about how little she eats
  • She goes to the bathroom a lot, especially right after meals, or you've heard her vomiting after eating
  • She talks about how fat she is despite actually being thin or losing a lot of weight
  • She’s really defensive or sensitive about her weight loss or eating habits
  • She buys or takes laxatives or diet pills
  • She faints a lot, bruises easily, is really pale or complains a lot about being cold, which can be a symptom of being underweight

  • What To Do

    If your friend has these symptoms and you're concerned, the first thing to do might be to talk to your friend, privately, about what you've noticed. Tell her that you're worried. Be as gentle as possible, and try to really listen to and be supportive of your friend and what she’s going through. It's normal for people with eating disorders to feel guarded and private about their eating problems. Try not to get angry or frustrated. Remind your friend that you care.


    Sometimes the problem is that people with eating disorders often have trouble admitting, even to themselves, that they have a problem. Trying to help someone who doesn't think she needs help can be hard. If you decide to talk to your friend about this, she may be in denial and tell you nothing is wrong. If you still believe something IS wrong, talk to your parents, the school guidance counselor or nurse or even your friend's parents. This isn't easy to do because it can feel like betraying a friend. But it's often necessary to get a friend the help she needs.


    You can also support your friend by learning as much as you can about eating disorders. Your friend's body image and behavior may be a symptom of something else that's going on. Many organizations, books, websites, hotlines or other resources are devoted to helping people who are battling eating disorders.


    Being a supportive friend also means learning how to behave around someone with an eating disorder. Here are some ways to support a friend who is battling an eating problem:

  • Try your best not to talk about food, weight, diets or body shape (yours, your friend's, or even a popular celebrity's)
  • Try not to be too watchful of your friend's eating habits, food amounts and choices
  • Try not to say things like, “If you'd just eat (or stop working out so much), you'll get better”
  • Focus on your friend's strengths: her great smile, the fact that she’s helpful and friendly, how creative she is, how great she is at math, etc.
  • Don’t focus on how your friend looks

  • Most important, remind your friend that you're there no matter what and you want to help her get healthy again. Sometimes you'd be surprised how asking simple questions such as "what can I do to help?" or "what would make you feel better?" can lead to a great conversation about how you can help your friend heal.


    If you've got a burning question, need some love advice or find yourself thinking about things like sex, depression, self-esteem, boyfriends, girlfriends, best friends, bullying or peer pressure, don't hesitate to Dish-It here. Send your questions to deardish@kidzworld.com. And if you hang out in the chat rooms with other Kidzworld members who know you by your username, just send in your secret question using a different nickname if you want to stay anonymous – we promise that no one will ever know it's you. Remember: Dish-It gets a load of letters every day so it may take a while to reply to yours. Keep checking back for her reply, or watch for answered Dish-It questions that are similar to your own.


    Related Stories:
  • Dying To Be Thin
  • Eating Disorders Awareness Week
  • A Body Image Reality Check
  • Making Sure You’re Healthy
  • 2 Comments

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    Know Someone With an Eating Disorder?

    • Yeah, one of my close friends had an eating disorder.
    • I've personally had an eating disorder.
    • I've heard of people at my school with an eating disorder.
    • No, I've never known someone with an eating disorder.

    Dear Dish-It In The Forums

    Wonderfulcalico
    My parents have always been aggressive and abusive and I only just noticed it a couple months ago. Over time they've gotten worse (specifically my mother). Whenever she gets mad she'll yell at us and if she gets mad enough she'll hit and push us around. Whoever we get into arguments it's always one- sided and she always wins, even if she knows she is wrong. An argument we had not to long ago was about me not taking care of myself. She looked at my hair and started to touch it and told me "Your hair isn't soft why is it so dry, it's probably because you aren't taking care of your hair." Then she goes on to tell me that she's going to cut it and all of this other stuff when she knows I'm conscious about me looking like a boy ( Used to get called a boy for having short hair). As the argument goes on, I start to tell her things that she knows she is wrong about. She proceeds to yell at me then grabs me by the face and say "If you don't lower your tone and listen to what I'm saying I'm going to knock you in the head." Then she goes on to tell me she remembers nothing I was saying and that it's a lie. She also hit me when I didn't clean the laundry room correctly and whenever she gets fed up. I'm constantly having to watch what I say and do, because I'm scared that I'm going to end up hurt. She also likes to degrade me and tell how bad I'm doing. She's said plenty of thing like when I didn't have my bed covers tucked in she yelled at me and hit me and I said "Do you expect me to just stand here and take this", and she replied saying "That's what you are supposed to do you are the child and I am the adult, you take whatever I do until I'm done." Another time is when I had my band concert and I had to pick out the right attire. When we went shopping to get the clothing I chose slacks when she liked a skirt better, we went on to fight in the store and she bought the slacks. When we got home she said to me that real girls wear skirts and dresses and boys wear slacks and pants. This hurt me because she knows I have a past with people telling me I look like a boy etc. Another time I started to sleep on the floor, because I was practicing a minimalist life. When I left my pillows on the floor she found it and questioned me on why they were there. I told her it fell of my bed when really I left it there. Later when I told my dad, he told her and she got mad because I was getting cat hair on my pillows. She then proceeded to ask why I lied and I told her sometimes lying is better then the truth (I knew she would get mad that I was sleeping on the floor so I lied) then she told me that I was never going to have a relationship, a job, or friends ( This hurt me because I don't have friends now). She's also said that I don't take care of my body because I ate two sweets in one day which lead her to banning me from Doritos and now I have to ask to get chips and any other snack. She's told me I don't take care of my teeth because I have yellow spots from using whitening toothpaste with braces on. She's told me I don't take care of my hair so I can't wash it or do any hair style or then a bun. She had lead me to starving myself (Unless she makes me eat) and cutting myself. I've just stopped caring, because what ever I do is always wrong. I never get a choice in my activities, she controls my life in fact she me just in a different body. But what is even worse is that she's turning my dad into her. Now I have a scheduled time to eat breakfast and lunch, and to go onto my electronics. I feel like I'm in a prison with my parents constantly watching over me, in fact yesterday when I was pouring my milk my mom got out a measuring cup and poured my milk into the measuring cup and said "Why isn't this a full cup" and I replied saying "Because I don't measure my milk." Then she got angry at me. There's so much I could say about her, but I'll stop. Anyways my father is always sarcastic and he doesn't realize how much it hurts me. Today I was cleaning out my bag for next school year and my dad came in and said, "Wow, you aren't even dress yet and I had to come up here to tell you how sad." Just little things like that hurt me. My little sister got mad at me last week for sitting in a certain area and she said " Why are you sitting there," and I didn't reply because I didn't want to speak to her and she then said, "Probably because you are too stupid to answer." I wanted to break down crying then and there, but I kept it in. I've limited my talking to her, because all she does is break me down. Like when there was a Proactive commercial and she said, "Ha, you need that." That hurt me because just the other my mom was telling me how I don't take care of my face and that's why I have acne. My older sister and I barely talk, because whenever I try to talk to her she's mad for what ever reason and when my parents were talking about hitting my sister she was in the corner laughing. My cat Preston is very young and I got hi,abo a year ago. I get very sad and often cry, because I've seen him turn out scared and aggressive just like me because he's been through what I have. One time he pooped in a clothes basket (It's right next to his litter box) my mom grabbed him by the neck and hit him while she smothered his face in his poop, all while yelling at him. I was going to call the Animal Protective Services, but I got too scared and I realized how lonely I would be. Please help me I'm not sure what to do anymore. Also sorry for the very long post!
    reply 1 day
    Error101
    Error101 posted in Family Issues:
    Dear Kkmr324, I hope you get to feeling better as time goes on.  It does get better but like you said you can't actually get over it.  Losing someone to cancer is awful and I have never lost a friend and I hope I never will and I am so sorry that you did, but I have lost family to cancer and it is horrible.  I hope your okay. :(
    reply 3 days
    Kkrmr324
    Kkrmr324 posted in Family Issues:
    A few months ago,my friend Kendall died of cancer. It was really hard to "get over it"; because really you dont just get over it. One thing i did was find a bunch of pictures of me and Kendall and remembered all the fun we had together. And it helped! I still miss her, but good friends and family helped with that.
    reply 5 days
    Kkrmr324
    Kkrmr324 posted in Family Issues:
    A few months ago,my friend Kendall died of cancer. It was really hard to "get over it"; because really you dont just get over it. One thing i did was find a bunch of pictures of me and Kendall and remembered all the fun we had together. And it helped! I still miss her, but good friends and family helped with that.
    reply 5 days
    Tennis123
    why are you allowing that to control your happiness? why can't you have true happiness instead of chasing some dream for momentary satisfaction? You're 12. This is when your core beliefs, values, and outlooks on life start. Don't mess it up choosing to be sad over something like that.
    reply 6 days