First thing’s first….there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to talk to someone with an eating disorder, different approaches will work for different people, and you know your friend best. Here are some great tips for supporting your friend…
There are some great websites with lots of information to help you to understand eating disorders better and make sense of what is happening to your friend.
On this website we have a page looking at typical myths around eating disorders which you may find it helpful to take a look at.
The BEAT website also contains lots of useful information and support for people affected by eating disorders.
Listen to your friend
Try not to give your friend advice; they have parents and professionals who will be taking care of them and guiding them.
What they will need most from you is to be a friend who is there to listen; you do not need to know the ‘answers’, just being there is important.
You may notice that your friend or sibling has changed, for example they may not want to go out or be involved in things. Despite this, keep inviting them just like before. Your friend or sibling may be feeling very lonely so even if they don’t accept the invite they would still like to be included, this will make them feel valued.
Act normally around food
If you are going out somewhere where there is likely to be food, don’t avoid inviting your friend. If you are asking a group of friends if they want something to eat or sharing food, include your friend, just as you would any other friend. If they say ‘no’, that’s OK.
Don’t talk about appearance
Avoid talking about appearance and weight and shape, or telling your friend that he/she looks well or better. If you want to compliment your friend focus on qualities that aren’t related to their appearance such as their personality.
Sometimes people with an eating disorder may need to spend time having more intensive treatment in hospital. Depending on what your friend wants, how you feel and what the hospital allows, you may want to visit them whilst in hospital. If this isn’t possible, you can always write to them or call/text to let them know you are still there to support them.
Your friend may tell you something that makes you worried about them. If this is the case, encourage them to talk to an adult or let them know that you are worried and need to pass this information on. This may be difficult at the time but is important in making sure your friend gets the support and help that they need.
You’re doing great
Remember: You’re already doing a great job by finding out how to support your friend, it shows that you care! The most important thing is to be there for your friend and remind them that you value their friendship.
If you need more help and support you can access support by visiting BEAT or telephoning the BEAT youth helpline on 0345 634 7650.
Last updated: 7 June, 2018