If Someone You Know Has an Eating

If Someone You Know Has an Eating

Secrecy and denial are two hallmarks of eating disorders, so it can be hard to know if someone has anorexia or bulimia. Signs that someone may have anorexia include sudden weight loss, excessive dieting or exercise, guilt or preoccupation with food or eating, frequent weighing, fear of becoming fat despite being thin, and baggy or layered clothes to conceal weight loss. Signs that someone may have bulimia include excessive eating without weight gain, secretiveness about food (stealing, hiding, or hoarding food); self-induced vomiting (bathroom visits during or after a meal); swollen glands or puffy face; erosion of tooth enamel; and use of laxatives, diuretics, or diet pills to control weight.

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If you decide to approach a friend with your concerns, here are some tips to follow:

• Find out about treatment resources in your community (see the “For Further Exploration” section for suggestions). You may want to consult a professional at your school clinic or counseling center about the best way to approach the situation.

• Arrange to speak with your friend in a private place, and allow enough time to talk.

• Express your concerns, with specific observations of your friend’s behavior. Expect him or her to deny or minimize the problem and possibly to become angry with you. Stay calm and nonjudgmental, and continue to express your concern.

• Avoid giving simplistic advice about eating habits. Listen if your friend wants to talk, and offer your support and understanding. Give your friend the information you found about where he or she can get help, and offer to go along.

• If the situation is an emergency if your friend has fainted, for example, or attempted suicide call 911 for help immediately.

• If you are upset about the situation, consider talking to someone yourself. The professionals at the clinic or counseling center are there to help you. Remember, you are not to blame for another person’s eating disorder.

People with binge-eating disorder mistakenly see rigid dieting as the only solution to their problem, but this usually causes feelings of deprivation and a return to overeating.

Compulsive overeaters rarely eat because of hunger. Instead, they use food to cope with stress, conflict, and other difficult emotions or to provide solace or entertainment. Binge eaters are almost always obese, so they face all the health risks associated with obesity. In addition, binge eaters may have higher-than-average rates of depression and anxiety.

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