Body Image

Friends with Eating Disorders

Eating Disorders - Do's and Don'ts


  • Learn about eating disorders so you will know the signs when you see them.
  • Recognize eating disorders are potentially fatal diseases and treat them accordingly.
  • Listen to your friend with understanding, respect, and sensitivity.
  • Tell the person that you are concerned, you care, and that you would like to help.
  • Suggest the person seek professional help from a physician and/or therapist.
  • Be available when your friend needs someone.
  • Talk about things other than food, weight, counting calories, and exercise. Attempt to discuss feelings instead.
  • Share your own struggles.
  • Don't take any action alone. Get help.
  • Stay calm. These things take time. If frustrated, take a break and plan to resume the discussion at a later time.


  • Don't try to solve the problem for them. They need a qualified professional.
  • Don't blame them for doing something wrong or tell them they are acting silly. 
  • Don't gossip about them.
  • Don't focus on weight, the number of calories being consumed, or particular eating habits.
  • Don't make comments about a person's appearance. Concern about weight loss may be interpreted as a compliment and comments about weight gain may be seen as criticism.
  • Don't be afraid to upset them--talk to them.
  • Don't reject or ignore them--they need you.
  • Don't get involved in a power struggle around eating or other symptoms.

Copyright 2005 National Eating Disorders Association. Permission is granted to copy and reprint materials for education purposes only.

The Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness