How to help your anorexic friend


Eating Disorder Hope is running a thoughtful article, "Anorexia and Friendship: How Do I Help My Friend?."   I'm often asked this question by teens but also by adults including family members.

While I like the content of the article I have to add this missing and what I consider a vital piece of the answer.


An important aspect of being a friend to someone who has anorexia is to be consistent in your own healthy self care. Yes, you support your friend. But you do not support the illness. So you eat nourishing food in adequate amounts on your own and when you are with her.

You don't adjust your eating, sleeping, drinking, exercise or social routines that are healthy in order to make her feel more comfortable. Let her join you in health. Don't join her or cater to her illness.

The best thing you can do is love her, to be sure, while simultaneously being an example of health and healthy living yourself. Leave the therapy to her therapist. Leave her medical issues to her medical doctor. 

Invite your friend to join you in healthy social activities and, if she can't attend because of her illness, you still go. You are showing her that there is a world beyond anorexia and she can be part of it and be with her friend - you - out in that healthy world.

Be an example of self love, self care and vibrant health, and don't compromise that out of some sense of obligation to your friend.

Honor and love her. Do not support or get pulled into the symptoms of her illness. Have the courage and honesty to be and stay healthy yourself. It's a gift to yourself and to her.  After all, what could be better than knowing someone you love is taking good care of herself? Don't we want that for everyone we love?


  •  Have you or do you now love someone with an eating disorder?
  • What are the challenges?
  • How do you support her?
  • How do you be her friend?
  • What kind of help and support do you need when you have a friend with an eating disorder?
  • What advice would you give someone in this situation, based on your experience?




0 # Love this!shh 2015-02-02 02:49

I love this Joanna - it's such sound advice.

I don't think it applies exclusively to anorexia and EDs, I can see it applying to all
kinds of situations. For me it's useful in trying to maintain an amicable relationship with my ex, and for living with my daughter who's hit that teenage hormonal patch where her self-confidence is wavering a bit.

In both situations, continuing to model what is healthy, with no pressure on them to follow suit, I think is the best thing I can do.

0 # power in taking care of yourselfpinkjoanna 2015-02-02 09:40

Dear Shh,

Glad you agree.  Yes, this applies to more than eating disorder situations, but this blog is geared to people with eating disorders so I frame my writing to that subject.  Plus, sometimes it's difficult for people to relate an issue or style of behavior across categories.  That's why we have so many 12-step programs.  People have to be able to identify.

I applaud you for living a healthy lifestyle and letting the people in your life see it. I know I have an amazing impact on a few people in my life when we go out and I do not order alcohol.  I don't talk about it. But one person asks me every time if it makes me ill or if I am allergice or if I gave it up for some reason.  When I say it's just not part of my life and I don't drink because that feels best to me for me I see the amazement on her face.

It used to be like that regarding smoking cigarettes.  But now, thank goodness, most people don't smoke.

Back to eating disorders, living a normal healthy life gives the person with an eating disorder the opportunity to be in a normal world with someone who loves her.  That means you make dinner as you would for yourself with no consideration at all for the rigid requirements of the anorexic person. 

You give her love and let her cope.  Of course, you serve healthy choices, not a buffet of binge foods!

Or if you want to go to a movie and she can't go because she doesn't want to be seen in public or because she is afraid she won't be able to get past the snack bar without a meltdown, you say, I'm sorry you won't be with me. I thought you would enjoy the show.  And you go anyway.

And when she wants to talk about the details of her body shape, weight, size you change the subject. The whole formula is simple - challenging but simple - do not support the eating disorder symptoms.  Support the person.

I'm so glad you are getting that and living it in your life, Shh. Your comment may help other people see how this relates to them in ways other than eating disorders too.




Laura R
0 # how to helpLaura R 2015-02-02 22:40

I too find this advice to be applicable for issues outside of ED as well, especially in some work and family relationships.

I don't have many people close to me that are able to model normal eating. They want to be supportive, and I know they care deeply, but often their behavior around food and exercise is more disordered than mine. I watch them skip meals, worry about their weight, and over exercise. They tell me they don't have to eat regular meals but that I should because I'm different. I think my PhD T is the only person I know who doesn't use a scale or skip meals. 

It's good to have this blog and community to model healthy recovery behaviors.


Laura R
0 # JeffreyLaura R 2015-02-03 12:23
JP - congrats on the new pup. May you bring each other much joy!
0 # Jeffreypinkjoanna 2015-02-03 13:16

Dear Laura,

I'm glad you find this blog and community a model for recovery behaviors.  That was my vision for starting it.

Also, I debated about posting a picture of Jeffrey here.  But since you brought him up, here's the photo from the rescue agency, The Lange Foundation in Los Angeles.

I'll walk him today with my other dogs and bring him home Thursday.  He's named after Jeffrey Sachs, a true hero in the field of global sustainability,advocacy, action and free world wide education.  I name my animals after beings who inspire me.  After all, I say their names many times a day so their names become a powerful mantra/teaching mechanisms that's alive and responsive.  

He's a cutie pie (dog not man. Or maybe they both are!)

Jeffrey on Lange site

You must login to post comments

Who's Online

We have 37 guests and no members online

Copyright © 2022