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My friend is living with my family right now and we are beginning to wonder if she has an eating disorder. I really am not very well educated to even know what would classify as an eating disorder but let me explain to you what I have observed. She lies everyday about eating her lunch at school. She throws it out or hides it instead of eating it. Every time after she eats anything, she goes to the bathroom upstairs even though the bathroom downstairs where everyone is is vacant. She is a vegetarian which probably has nothing to do with eating disorders but I thought I would throw it in. I don’t know if it is anything for us to be concerned about or if we should just let it be. Maybe you have some thoughts? Anything would be appreciated.
First let me say that it definitely sounds like your friend is showing ‘warning signs’ of an E.D. Lying about meals, [potentially] odd trips to the bathroom and, yes, even vegetarianism are all signs that someone [if nothing else] is beginning to develop an unhealthy relationship with food.
First, I want to describe two things to you in regards to ‘bad’ food relationships – there are TWO diagnosis: 1 – Eating Disorder (which I know you are familiar with) and 2 – DISORDERED Eating (which you may not have heard of)
1. Eating Disorders involve unhealthy behaviors related to food and negative body image. NEDA (National Eating Disorder Association) uses this definition:
” Eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder include extreme emotions, attitudes, and behaviors surrounding weight and food issues.”
(I recommend their website as a resource: http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/ )
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2. Disordered Eating is defined by NEDIC (National Eating Disorder Information Centre) as:
“Disordered eating includes a wide range of abnormal eating. This includes the behaviours seen in eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia, chronic restrained eating, compulsive eating and habitual dieting. It includes irregular, chaotic eating patterns. Often physical hunger and satiety (fullness) are ignored. “
(I recommend checking out NEDIC’s definitions page for more information: http://www.nedic.ca/knowthefacts/definitions.shtml )
The reason I am telling you this is so that you have an understanding that even though someone may not show signs of a ‘full-on’ E.D., they may still be harming their body through disordered eating behaviors.
It is impossible for me to ‘diagnose’ your friend as I am not a professional and I am not personally witnessing her behaviors (which I’m sure you already realize) BUT I am more than happy to offer you some advice.
SO here it goes…
First off, I want to talk about Intervention.
I believe that interventions can be powerful tools, HOWEVER, I think they should be done with great caution and should ONLY be used when someone shows signs of being of HIGH threat to themselves and their health/life. You want to be careful to not prematurely corner someone and say ‘You have an Eating Disorder! We are sending you away/making you get help” as you may just damage your relationship with that person, potentially leading them to a life of isolation and secrecy (which you do NOT want).
I can’t speak for when the right or wrong time for intervention is…that is just something you will have to trust your gut on.
The best advice I can give you right now is this: LIVE BY EXAMPLE!
And this is what I mean – live a life that exemplifies what it means to have a healthy relationship with food, body and self. In order to do this, you (and the rest of your family) may need to do some research of your own!
I strongly recommend reading the book “Intuitive Eating” by Evelyn Tribole & Elyse Resch.
Intuitive Eating is all about trusting your own natural ability to understand your hunger and know how to satisfy it.
Through living by example, you will be able to show your friend an alternative way of living – one that does not involve all of the things the media seems to shove in our face a million times a day (e.g. restriction, self-hate, insecurity, pursuit of ‘perfection’ etc…)
I would like to direct you to a couple of videos I’ve done on Helping someone who you think has an Eating Disorder – this is a topic and an issue I get asked about a lot, so I’ve done several videos addressing it.
Here they are:
- “How Can parents protect their children from an E.D. and unhealthy body image?“
- “How Can You Help a Friend with an E.D.?“
- “What Advice would you give someone struggling with an E.D.?“
- “How to Protect Your Daughter from Developing Negative Body Image“
I know those are a lot of videos, but most are less than 5 mins long. You can also see more videos along those lines on my channel’s playlist “Videos on Helping Someone with an E.D.”
I hope that this helps and I hope that your friend is OK.
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