What To Do When You Are Worried About Someone

Disclaimer: I am not a professional. I am just sharing my personal experiences and opinions on this topic.

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It is so so hard when someone you love is struggling with an eating disorder or with their relationship with food, exercise, and/or their body. Of course you want to help them, but how? There is a lot of fear and understandably so since this topic is so stigmatized, sensitive, and unknown. I want to share some tips I have learned and possible steps you can take. I’ve been on both the receiving end and the giving end of this so I hope my experiences resonate with you.

This is one of the first questions to ask yourself: Are they suicidal? If the answer is yes, that changes things. Tell someone who can step in as a professional. That could be a help line at your school or a parent etc. Tell a professional and/or someone who can help point you in the direction of urgent care for your friend.

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If the answer is no, the situation can be dealt with a little differently. When I was deep in my struggle with food/body image/anorexia, this is what was helpful for me. {I recognize everyone is different, though.}

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  1. Talk to them. I know it will probably be terrifying, but know that you are doing a helpful and supportive thing. By ignoring their struggle, you are not doing them any good. It may be uncomfortable and it may even make things awkward between you both, but it is worth it. Obviously, you want to be careful in the way that you do this. Don’t just waltz up to them and be like, “Girl, what is WRONG with you??”. No no no. When I was on the receiving end of this, I found it really helpful when I could tell the person was really invested in me and wanted to meet up with me. At first, the person just talked about life and various things like you normally would. Then, she said, “Hey, so I just wanted to talk to you about something and, please know that this comes from nothing but love. I really do love you. Please know that. I am worried about you. I’ve noticed you’ve (fill in the blank here with what you’ve noticed/it could be loosing weight, exercising a lot, throwing up, saying very negative comments, isolating etc.). I just wanted to check in with you and see if there was anything that I could do to help or support you. How are you? I love you and I want to be here for you.”

  2. Support them. While you are not their caretaker or their professional caretaker, you can support them by directing them to professional help. This could look like saying “I really want to help you. I think it would be so helpful if you got help from a professional since I would love to help you but I am not a professional myself. I want to help in any way I can. Can I sit with you as you call this therapist or as you google therapist or dietitians or doctors in the area or as you apply to residential or higher level of care treatment?”

    Eating Disorders are sneaky and dishonest so it probably won’t be pretty. You might feel like your loved one hates you or is really mad at you, but know that it isn’t you. The eating disorder is threatened. You are seeking to take away the control and that is petrifying to someone struggling with an eating disorder and food/body image.

    But here’s the reality: it’s going to be messy and gross before it gets better.

  3. Keep them accountable. Point them to higher care professionals or parents if necessary. Don’t be afraid to get others involved. This is someone’s life. The “tattle tale” rule doesn’t apply here. If the people that reached out to me, supported me, called me out, and kept me accountable had not done that I don’t know if I would be here today. I truly believe that God uses people to bring people to healing. So, please don’t be afraid to talk to your loved ones about your concerns. Take it from me, one day they will thank you.

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