Understanding eating disorders: Myths vs. facts

Reading Time: 3 minutes Eating disorders may not be what you think. Here’s what to know and how to help.

How to spot disordered eating habits—and what to do about it

Reading Time: 9 minutes Learn about disordered eating patterns and how to recognize and address symptoms.

What’s Batman got to do with body image and eating disorders?

Reading Time: 3 minutes The unrealistic “Batman body” is the male equivalent of the Barbie doll. Find out what this type of modern imagery means for disordered eating in boys and men.

Could you help a friend with an eating disorder?

Reading Time: < 1 minute

Eating disorders are serious health conditions that require medical attention and personal and professional support. It’s estimated that in the US, 20 million women and 10 million men will have an eating disorder at some point in their life. To increase the chances of recovery, early detection and intervention is key.

Symptoms vary according to the type of eating disorder. The signs can include:

  • Not eating enough
  • Intense fear of weight gain
  • Frequent periods of eating large amounts of food (which may or may not be followed by behaviors to stop weight gain, like induced vomiting)
  • Feelings of shame or guilt around eating

How to help a friend

If you’re worried a friend might have an eating disorder, here’s what you can do to help:

  • Be honest with your friend that you’re concerned. You could say something like, “I’m concerned about you, because you don’t eat breakfast or lunch.”
  • Don’t make promises or threats, e.g., “If you don’t get help, I won’t speak to you again”
  • Use “I” statements instead of “you” statements (which imply blame). E.g., avoid saying “You just need to eat” or “You are acting irresponsibly”.
  • Compliment your friend on their accomplishments and successes.
  • Express your support.  Let your friend know you are there to help/talk.
  • Ask for help! You’re not expected to have all the answers. If you need advice or help, talk to your school’s health or counseling center.

MORE INFO: National Eating Disorders Association