Tips with Trish: Eating disorders
Tricia Borelli (TheLorian)
Friend’s Eating Disorder
I have a friend with a really negative image of her body. She avoids looking in the mirror and makes negative comments about herself often. I can’t understand it because she is thinner than I am yet makes comments like she is obese. She seems to hate herself and has very low self-esteem. I think she may have an eating disorder. What can I do to help her?
Signed, Worried Friend
February happens to be Eating Disorder awareness month so your question is timely. Your concern for your friend is nice to see, warranted and shows that you are truly a good friend. Eating disorders are common on college campuses across the country, and are quite difficult for both the sufferer and her or his family and friends. For all of us, eating is such a social activity that when someone close over-eats or under-eats, we worry.
Above all, approach your friend from a stance of support, caring and concern, rather than accusation. People react poorly to being told they have a problem. Confrontation can be caring if you come from a place of love and merely point out behaviors you’ve noticed in a non-judgmental way. Be ready for your friend to not admit or acknowledge the problem, you may be wrong or they may not be ready to talk about it.
Know that what you say to your friend will unfortunately not likely change her opinion of herself; there is usually a deeper issue that needs to be dealt with. We like to think that our words mean something when someone gives a compliment regarding appearance. Helping to improve your friend’s self-esteem by noting good things about her can be beneficial but consider focusing on other attributes besides body or eating habits. Consider paying attention to the statements you make about others and yourself when you are around this friend. Making honest yet healthy statements about yourself, as well, and avoiding negative statements is also good role modeling. Again, focusing on other strengths besides appearance helps remind others that beauty is only skin-deep. Our society is much too focused on the way people look as opposed to what is on the inside.
Friends are often the key to encouraging people to seek help for an eating disorder because a person may be ashamed to seek help. Giving the person a safe place to address the problem is the first step. The next step is really, getting them to a professional. If your friend is receptive, suggest she talk to someone in the Health Center (7142) or Counseling Center (7085) here at Loras. Both departments have services that are free and confidential. Providers are caring and non-judgmental and if they cannot assist you, they will direct you to a resource that can. Dr. Elaina Biechler, Professor of Kinesiology is also another great resource on campus who has worked with many athletes and students who struggle with body image and unhealthy eating. We are lucky to have such great resources on campus. Use them!!
Thanks for the question and keep ‘em coming! If you need some feedback regarding a situation, please email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. All of the names of those sending questions will be kept confidential.