What Should I Say?

If you are worried about your friend’s eating behaviors or attitudes, it is important to express your concerns in a loving and supportive way.

It is also necessary to discuss your worries early on, rather than waiting until your friend has endured many of the damaging physical and emotional effects of eating disorders. In a private and relaxed setting, talk to your friend in a calm and caring way about the specific things you have seen or felt that have caused you worry.

What to Say – Step by Step

Set a time to talk. Set aside a time for a private, respectful meeting with your friend to discuss your concerns openly and honestly in a caring, supportive way. Make sure you will be some place away from other distractions.

Communicate your concerns. Share your memories of specific times when you felt concerned about your friend’s eating or exercise behaviors. Explain that you think these things may indicate that there could be a problem that needs professional attention.

Ask your friend to explore these concerns with a counselor at the Health Center. If you feel comfortable doing so, offer to help your friend make an appointment or accompany your friend on their first visit to the Health Center.

Avoid conflicts or battle of the wills with your friend. If your friend refuses to acknowledge that there is a problem, or any reason for you to be concerned, restate your feelings and the reasons for them and leave yourself available as a supportive listener.

Avoid placing shame, blame or guilt on your friend regarding their actions or attitudes. Do not use accusatory “you” statements like, “You just need to eat.” Instead use I statements. For example: “I’m concerned about you because you refuse to eat breakfast or lunch.” Or, “It makes me afraid to hear you vomiting.”

Avoid giving simple solutions. For example, “If you’d just stop, then everything would be fine!”

Express your continued support. Remind your friend that you care and want your friend to be healthy and happy.

If your friend is refusing help, and you are worried about her/his safety, talk with someone at the Bates Health Center. You make speak with an RN 24 hours a day or call the 207-786-6199 to make an appointment with Chris Tisdale.

1. Portions of this handout were reprinted with permission from National Eating Disorders Association “Treatment of Eating Disorders”. www.NationalEatingDisorders.org Information and Referral Helpline: 800-931-2237