In honor of NEDA Week…

In honor of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, I wanted to take a few minutes and share a little bit of my heart for anyone who is struggling or knows someone struggling with disordered eating. If you don’t know my past, I shared my story in depth a few months ago, so I hope it encourages you if you’ve not already read it. If you find yourself struggling with body image or disordered eating, let me encourage you that there IS hope for recovery from this addiction. You can find my recovery story HERE.

When someone struggles with an eating disorder, EVERYONE around that person is affected – friends, siblings, parents, co-workers – so, today, I want to take a different perspective. Today, I want to share a few things that friends and family can do to help and support someone who may be engaging in these unhealthy behaviors. Often times, it is very confusing and frustrating to know what to do or what to say when you see someone walking a dangerous path like anorexia or bulimia. I am hoping that I can help you navigate those waters if you are concerned for a friend or family member today. To make it easier to navigate, I’m going to give you a few DOS and DON’TS.

(DISCLAIMER: I am not a doctor, nor am I a medical professional. I am simply sharing my own experiences in the hopes that it might help someone break free from the cycle of disordered eating.)

First and foremost, know that this disease is NOT about food. People used to tell me all the time when I was struggling to “just eat a cheeseburger already!” OH, if only it was that simple! The eating (or lack thereof) is a symptom of a problem that is MUCH deeper than food. These diseases are incredibly complex, and while developing a healthy relationship with food is a necessary part of recovery, leave that part to the professionals. Cheeseburgers (while tasty) are not the solution.

When someone is struggling with an eating disorder, it is a very isolating experience. The disease tends to take over so much of his or her time and focus that relationships often suffer because of it. Friends do not really know what to say to the person or how to handle their new behaviors. The best thing you can do is simply be there for her. Talk with the person about school, family, relationships, sports, or, heck, reality television if that’s what they’re into. It doesn’t matter how you support her. The bottom line – try to be a friend. He or she needs one now more than ever.
 Do not google, Wikipedia, or WebMD treatment options for a friend. There is a reason that this disease requires treatment from medically-trained professionals. Anorexia, bulimia, and binge-eating disorder are DOOZIES…do not offer your own personal treatment plan. Leave it to the people who understand what they’re doing. 
Let your friend know that you are there to listen if she needs to talk…but leave the initiation of the conversation up to her. If there is one thing I know for sure, it’s that recovery is not possible until the struggling person is ready to ask for help. I spent many years fighting off people who thought they could “cure” my eating disorder. It wasn’t until I made the decision and committed myself to treatment that things began to turn around.
Nothing feeds the demon more than a comment on someone’s changing body size. I completely understand that it can tend to be an “elephant in the room” – but trust me when I tell you that a comment on her changing weight, baggy clothes, or protruding cheekbones can drive a friend to engage with the disease even deeper. Nothing encouraged me further in my quest for perfection than someone telling me that I looked “sickly” or “bony” or that my pants were about fall off me. However, if you do feel the need to express concern…

If you truly feel that your friend’s life or health is in serious danger, and you feel the need to express concern, use “I” statements. Start a conversation by stating, “I am worried about you.” Use factual statements such as, “I have seen you avoiding lunch lately.” Or simply say, “I miss you. I would love to talk about what’s been going on in your life lately.” Accusations, threats, and blaming do not help the situation.

And last, but not least, if you are a spiritual person, pray for your friend. Encourage her to attend church and social events with you. Keep including her, even if it gets hard because she seems a million miles away. Keep in mind that this disease, while frightening and deadly, CAN be treated. It may take some time and hard work, but you WILL (God-willing) get your friend back one day, and you will regret the loss of that friendship if you abandon her now.

Eating disorders are HARD…but it IS POSSIBLE to overcome them with the proper treatment, a support system, and a little hope.

For more information on eating disorders, visit:    

5 thoughts on “In honor of NEDA Week…

  1. Allison, the first word that comes to my mind is WOW! First, I had no idea you had a blog, and now I have to restrain myself from reading through every single post on here. But more importantly, I just went back to read your \”story of hope,\” and I was moved beyond belief. It is so well-written, and I never knew the extent of your struggles until now. Sharing stories like you have done goes so far in helping those who are struggling or those who love those who are struggling, and I thank you for having the courage to share!! We grew up in a wonderful place, and had wonderful experiences, but it certainly wasn't without its flaws, huh? I love your suggestions here, as well. Thank you for the read!


  2. Thank you, Megan! 🙂 This is a new thing for me – it's mostly just a light-hearted blog of my ramblings, but every now and then, I like to throw out something and hope that it's helpful. You have actually inspired me in the last six months to start running again, so for that, I thank YOU! 🙂 What a sanity-saver it is! Hope all is well!


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