Helping a Friend

If you think a friend may have a problem, there are things you can do to help.

Focus On The Positive:

  • Learn--read and check out the National Eating Disorder website
  • Express concern--talk about health and happiness rather than eating behaviors.
  • Be patient and be there--listen and care.
  • Encourage your friend to seek professional help--offer to go along.

Avoid The Negative:

  • Don't give advice--or nag, criticize, or treat them like a child.
  • Don't talk about FOOD, BODY SIZE or WEIGHT--avoid commenting on how they look.
  • Don't expect change overnight--it takes time and a commitment to change.


  1. Increase your knowledge about eating disorders (request information packets, read books, attend seminars).
  2. Talk with the person about your concerns in a loving and supportive way. It is important to discuss these issues with honesty and respect.
  3. Talk with the person at an appropriate time and place- in private, free from distractions.
  4. Encourage the person to seek professional help as soon as possible. Suggest that she/he see someone who specializes in eating disorders (a physician, therapist or dietician).
  5. Be prepared that the person may deny that she/he has a problem. If so, and if she/he refuses to get help, it will be important to tell someone else about your concerns. If your friend is under 18, her/his parents need to know immediately.
  6. Listen with a nonjudgmental ear.
  7. Talk about things other than food, weight, and exercise.
  8. Be available when your friend needs someone, but remember, it is okay to set limits on what you can and cannot do.
  9. Hang in there! It won't be easy.


  1. Don't try to solve her/his problems or help with the eating disorder on your own. Get help from others.
  2. Don't confront your friend with a group of people, in front of a group of people.
  3. Don't talk about weight, food, calories, or appearance. Do not make any comments on what she/he looks like.
  4. Don't try to force or encourage your friend to eat. Do not get into power struggles.
  5. Don't gossip about her/him to others.
  6. Don't be scared to talk with her/him.
  7. Don't expect to be the perfect friend - Reach out for support when you need it.
  8. Don't expect your friend to be "cured" after treatment. Recovery can be a long process.
  9. Don't keep this a secret for your friend. Remember, her/his life may be danger.
  10. Don't panic: Look for the help you need.