Only 1 in 10 men and women with eating disorders receive treatment. That means that 90 percent of those suffering are doing so without any professional help. Today, there is more specialized help available than ever before; yet, the vast majority of people are not getting help and statistics say that eating disorders are on the rise, especially among young girls and female athletes.
With statistics like these, it is likely we all know someone who is affected by an eating disorder. Below are some tips from an organization called Eating Disorder Hope on how to support a friend or family member you are concerned about, without being accusatory or critical:
• Focus on feelings and relationships, not on weight and food.We would add that, when sharing your concern, it is important to stick with the facts and focus on what you have seen, i.e. "I noticed that you haven't been eating at meal time." Voicing these types of observations can start a dialogue that could save someone's life. Don't worry if your initial comments are met with a defensive response. The important thing is to let someone know that you have noticed and that you care.
• Tell them you are concerned about their health, but respect their privacy. Eating disorders are often a cry for help, and the individual will appreciate knowing that you are concerned.
• Do not comment on how they look because they are already hyper aware of their body. Even if you are trying to compliment them, comments about weight or appearance only reinforce their obsession with body image and weight.
• Make sure you do not convey any fat prejudice, or reinforce their desire to be thin.
• Avoid power struggles about eating. Do not demand that they change. Do not criticize their eating habits. People with eating disorders are trying to be in control. They don't feel in control of their life.
• Avoid placing shame, blame or guilt on the person regarding their actions or attitudes. Do not use accusatory "you" statements like, "You just need to eat." Or, "You are acting irresponsibly."
• Avoid giving simple solutions. For example, "If you'd just stop, then everything would be fine!"
Disordered eating can be very isolating. Break the isolation. Break the silence. Don't be a bystander; be a sister.
For more information, please visit the National Eating Disorder Association (of America) or the National Eating Disorder Information Centre (of Canada). If you want to talk to someone, please call a toll free helpline at 1-800-931-2237 (America) or 1-866-633-4220 (Canada).
Check out this video to "Shhhhut Down Fat Talk!"