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How To Help A Friend With An Eating Disorder

Updated on July 3, 2012
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I'm a dad, husband, and Christian first. The rest are just life's add-ons: an educator, administrator, learner, & development professional.

Having an eating disorder is no easy burden. In fact, many fail to recognize the problem. Others simply do not admit to having one. This becomes a huge predicament for the family and friends. But you don’t have to sit idly and watch your friend or loved one go through a terrible ordeal.

The impact of eating disorders may not be immediate. But this does not mean you should start when the problem has already compounded. In fact, tackling the problem early on has greater chances of success than simply waiting when the condition is dire. So take the time to learn what you can contribute and start doing your part.

Dine with your friend

Any person with an eating disorder needs someone to guide them. Where else should you start but eating with the person? More than just nourishment, eating is a social activity. Take this opportunity to be with your friend and offer your assistance. It is imperative that you help create a positive atmosphere while eating. Moreover, eating should be associated with positive feelings. Of course, the level of difficulty will depend on your friend’s severity of condition. Regardless of the challenge, never lose hope and patience. They need you to get back on the right path.

Some suggestions:

  • It does not matter if it’s a meal a snack or just some finger foods while talking, get your friend to eat healthy while conversing
  • Take turns with other friends to sit and dine. This makes the experience fresh and more enjoyable.
  • Eat out as a group. Choose some of the favorite spots of your friend.
  • Cook for your friend. You can even ask the person with the disorder to help you out.
  • Create a celebration for almost anything. Just have a reason to eat with your friend.


Be an example

It’s one thing to dine with your friend with an eating disorder. But it’s another to actually foster healthy habits. As such, be an example of healthy eating. Many erroneously think that people with eating disorders simply want to starve themselves. But eating disorders include eating excessively and eating unhealthily. SO when you get the chance to eat with your friend, make sure you eat healthy.

Some suggestions:

  • Check healthy recipes and try cooking it with your friend
  • Look for healthy ingredient substitutes to favorite dishes
  • Try out new healthy restaurants and snack bars
  • Go on a healthy food hunt

It’s more than just eating right

More than craving for food or the lack of it, eating disorders is a psychological hurdle that needs to be overcome. The emotional component of the disorder makes it truly difficult to address. Constant emotional support and care is required. A person going through this requires every bit of help.

Some suggestions:

  • Be available to listen. Be an emotional outlet for your friend
  • Offer your honest insights especially when asked
  • Constantly tell your friend tat you care – this will mean a lot
  • Apart from telling you care, show your friend that you do by being there
  • Always have a positive attitude when around your friend. She needs to draw strength from you.
  • Genuinely offer your help to the family ad of course to your friend.


Help to inform

The right information can help give new perspective. So whenever possible, update yourself with the latest research and data about your friend’s condition. It may seem like an additional burden, but helping out someone requires that you know how to do it properly. Moreover, the right information can guide you to do what is appropriate.

Some suggestions:

  • Search online. Check out professional and medical sites that will give you up to date and authentic information.
  • Talk to doctors and compare notes
  • Read books on how you can help. Researches and journals are great sources of current information.
  • Talk to other people with the same condition. You may want to talk with their families as well.
  • Check out support groups and the resources available from them.

Go to a doctor together

Seeking professional help is very important. However, it may take some nerves to actually take a step towards this direction. So take the initiative to accompany your friend to a doctor or any other professional. This is a great way to encourage your friend to take the needed steps to recovery.

Some suggestions:

  • Offer different rosters of professionals
  • Take a tour of support groups along the way
  • Ask your friend’s feedback regarding the doctor or professional. This way you have a set of parameters to consider.
  • Stop by at interesting healthy food stops along the way


Do you know anyone with an eating disorder?

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Talk to the family

It’s nice that you are taking the initiative. But it is likewise important to know what the family is doing. This way, you can augment what they are already doing. Moreover, it is important that all activities are consistent so success can be guaranteed. A consolidated effort is essential so that any program or intervention will prove fruitful.

Some suggestions:

  • Remember that you’re a friend not a family member. So do not invade the family’s privacy.
  • Offer your assistance and whatever information you can provide.
  • Even the family can feel the stress so offer emotional support to them as well
  • Be available to pitch in when needed

Living through an eating disorder is not easy. Both the family and the person can feel the strain. As a friend, offer every bit of help to the family and of course your friend. The little that we can do will definitely go a long way.


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    • jpcmc profile image

      JP Carlos 5 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

      Thanks for the kind words That Grrl. I have a few friends with eating disorders and it pains e to see them suffering. I hope you help me increase the awareness of the people about eating disorders. We can change lives even with little steps.

    • That Grrl profile image

      Laura Brown 5 years ago from Barrie, Ontario, Canada

      A smart post. I'm adding this to my feed for BBW women on

    • jpcmc profile image

      JP Carlos 5 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

      Nice to see you again munchwaffle,

      I'm glad this can be useful to you and your officemate. I just hope he is open to receive help. I appreciate the vote up n and useful ratings.

    • munchwaffle profile image

      munchwaffle 5 years ago from Philippines

      thanks for the advice jpcmc - i actually have an officemate who has an eating disorder. will share this with him :D voted up & useful

    • jpcmc profile image

      JP Carlos 5 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

      Hello Angel198625,

      Eating disorders are very real. Many in fact don't even recognize that they have one. But should you encounter a friend with an eating disorder, do take the time to support him/her and the family.

    • Angel198625 profile image

      Amber Lynn 5 years ago

      Eating disorders can affect anyone, and I completely agree that support is very important. This hub was very well written, and informative. I don't even know anyone with an eating disorder, but reading this touched me :)

    • jpcmc profile image

      JP Carlos 5 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

      Hello Vrijdag Pages,

      A little TLC will always go along the way. Family and friend support is an important part of a recovery program.

    • jpcmc profile image

      JP Carlos 5 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

      Hi melfina,

      Thank for the additional tip. I'm glad you have family and friends to support you. many individuals face this problem alone. The more we get friends and family involved the better. Have a great day.

    • jpcmc profile image

      JP Carlos 5 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

      Hello Lady_E,

      Eating disorder does affect many people. it's nice of you to share info about it. I appreciate the kind gesture of sharing this hub. I hope it helps.

    • profile image

      Vrijdag Pages 5 years ago

      Nice hub. Eating disorders are really, but I never thought that they could be treated by basic TLC.

      Nice work, keep it up.

    • melfina profile image

      melfina 5 years ago from WI, USA

      Nice hub. I've had an eating disorder for many years, and I am finally getting help through support from my family and friends. Recovery is so much harder alone.

      Dining with a close loved one can help, but it is really important to make sure there is NO attention on the actual food! It is much easier to eat a meal with my family and friends if we are talking about other things and I am not thinking about what is on my plate :)

    • Lady_E profile image

      Elena 5 years ago from London, UK

      Aawwh. (Big Hug) for writing this. It's a big issue that affects both male and female. I have been running an account on Twitter: Care4Anorexics which tweets lots of info, to help support people with Anorexia and I will be Tweeting this a few times - starting from today. Thanks.

    • jpcmc profile image

      JP Carlos 5 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

      Hi there KrystalD,

      The more support the person gets the better. As a friend we should do our share and help out. Thanks for the positive votes.

    • KrystalD profile image

      KrystalD 5 years ago from Los Angeles

      Eating disorders are very serious and like other mental illnesses, it takesthe support of others to help the person. It is amazing how mental illness is often coupled with denial. Great hub. I am definately voting up and useful :)

    • jpcmc profile image

      JP Carlos 5 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

      Hello anusujith,

      It's important that you get as much support as possible. It's always best to have someone beside you through every step. Moreover, know that family and friends are behind you.

    • anusujith profile image

      Anoop Aravind A 5 years ago from Nilambur, Kerala, India

      I'm having a disorder. It happened almost two years back... Doctor told me that came from irregular timing of food... Thanks for this information...