The "Do"s and "Don't"s of Starting the Conversation About Eating Disorders
if you think someone you know may be struggling with an eating disorder, you should, of course, seek professional help and encourage opening up to someone who can assist them. if you find yourself needing to confront them yourself, here's some tips. (hopefully u know by now I'm not giving medical advice be healthy friends)
- •DO approach carefullyunderstand that this confrontation isn't only difficult for you. it might be embarrassing, angering, saddening, or even relieving or literally anything for the person involved. think long and hard about what to say and do some internet research on the best ways to handle the situation
- •DON'T stay silentunless something ends up going horribly wrong, it's unlikely that the person dealing with the eating disorder will want to seek help on their own. communication is vital- start the conversation
- •DO explain the consequencesthe person struggling may not fully understand the gravity of the damage they are causing to their body. without expressing anger or trying to generate fear, tell them why their behavior is negatively impacting their life. EDs have many negative physical and emotional effects, varying depending on the behavior. ensure they are aware of the problems an ED generates. explain that this is why you are worried about them
- •DON'T mention appearancefor someone who hasn't dealt with an eating disorder, it may seem like the simple solution to tell them "why are you like this? you're so skinny! you're so beautiful and perfect and thin!" 1. this makes no difference to them. eating disorders change the way of thinking. 2. this encourages focus on looks. it solidifies their beliefs that skinny is perfect, and it draws attention to the body.
- •DO tell them that you are intervening because you careyou may be completely rejected and turned away. all you can do is try. (PARTICULARLY WITH YOUNG PEOPLE) try to reason and explain that you aren't trying to get them in trouble or get in a fight. let the person know you have every intention to be there for them regardless of the next steps they choose to take
- •DON'T start the conversation with a question about their eating habitsas in "hey why did you throw away your entire lunch today" or "you spend a long time in the bathroom after lunch." this makes it less of a conversation and more of a lecture. these comments come off as accusing, maybe even angry. try to be more "I would like to talk to you about something because I care about you" and less "we need to talk because you've been engaged in dangerous behavior"
- •and finally DO follow througheven if they react with anger or retaliation, conversations like this usually end up feeling relieving for someone with an ED. they can come to terms with their condition and seek help. because of this, it's an UNBELIEVABLY HUGE letdown if you just talk to them once and then forget about it. they're counting on you to support them. it's a responsibility, but it's worth it to be saving the life of someone important to you.