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13 Ways to Help a Friend With an Eating Disorder

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An eating disorder is a serious condition that often requires professional help, but always requires care and understanding from those who love the person with the eating disorder. It can be a difficult situation to navigate, but there are many things you can do to help yourself speak supportively to a person with an eating disorder.

We asked our Project HEAL community to share what they find the most helpful.

Here’s what they said:

1. “Tough love is necessary sometimes, but it isn’t the only solution. Empathy, understanding and support will go a long way.”– Clare C.

2. “Don’t assume that because I am not underweight that I don’t struggle. Every day is a battle.”Lacey W.

3. “Understanding my struggles in a nonjudgmental way”Ashley C.

4. “A random text of encouragement goes a long way.” Kristina Z.

5. “Treat me like the person I was before the eating disorder. Text me, talk to me, ask me to hang out. I am still the person I was before the eating disorder. Even if you’re there and supporting but you don’t do anything, it doesn’t help because it feels like you’re not there even if you are.” Brooke B.

6. “Remember that I am not my eating disorder, there is so much more to me. Remind of that!”  — Jay Jay

7. “Even if they do not understand how an eating disorder works or how to help, having someone just listen to you and understand that it is real and that it is hard means the world.“– Cambrilee C.

8. “Honestly, the biggest thing is just to be there and listen. Not listen to reply, but listen to understand.”Kylee

9. “Leading by example. Talking positively about their own body and life, and encouraging me to see that life is a happy thing.”Sophie

10. “Don’t look at me through a microscope trying to figure me out. I’m doing that on my own, I don’t need go be studied. I need to feel safe while I’m going through this time.”Joelle M.

11. “Ask me to get Frozen Yogurt. Include me in activities. Don’t cater to my sickness. Help me enjoy life.” — Hannah C

12. “Be there no matter how irrational I am. Comfort me when I cry and vent. And please don’t talk about diets and losing weight”– Caroline L.

13. “Steer clear of talking about bodies, weight, food and exercise. Listen. Ask questions. Be patient. Encourage me to continue on the journey.”Caitlin

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

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Originally published: March 13, 2017
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