Eating disorders (in Off-topic)

Flamey July 31 2008 10:22 AM EDT

Note: this is to vent, please don't post if you don't read it all. (Sorry if it's inappropriate)

So, this is going to be worded and constructed poorly. Let's just say out of my 3 closest friends, 2 of them have eating disorders, the female ones. The greater evil of the 2, bulimia. This is probably more of a vent than anything, but it's killing me. To see them, it's screwing with their lives. I'm 16. Friend 1 is almost 15, friend 2 is 16. I'm their outlet, they talk to me about it all.

#1 has told her parents, and she's seeing a psychiatrist, and it's not helping. She's feeling worse now because she's lying to her parents. She just seems generally sad, looking for the happy moments in life. I think recently discovered the "joy" of alcohol. If she's not classified underweight, she sure looks it now.

#2. Only #1 and myself know. Not that they're close of friends, they just know each other. She's kept it a secret, no one suspects it of her. Her weight looks normal, I guess she has a slow metabolism? Naturally I can't say anything to anyone, otherwise I'd completely lose her trust, as you would.

I guess I'm here to ask if anyone's had friends that have experienced it. I don't know what to say to them when they talk about it, I'm usually the go-to guy, make things better, but I can't do anything, I can't even say anything to make it seem better.

You'd imagine it's because they don't do sports and such so they think they have to resort to that to keep off weight, but #1 does reps soccer (soccer), #2 does 3 classes of dance a week. It just sucks to know that so many people around me have been affected by them, some close and some that aren't.

MissingNo July 31 2008 10:40 AM EDT

If they want to lose weight it's their own psychological decision. However, there are much better ways to go about it.

You might try suggesting that lemon water juice diet (I think lemon, water, cayenne pepper, and honey?). I believe that's the diet Jared Leto used to prepare his role in Requiem for a Dream.

Or it's always possible to go the Christian Bale way when he was preparing for The Machinist and eating an apple a day with drinking coffee.

You can't really convince them that they don't need to lose weight. But what you can convince them is that there is plenty of healthier ways to go about that gives your body nutrients.

AdminQBnovice [Cult of the Valaraukar] July 31 2008 10:49 AM EDT

It's not often that I would be 100% in favor of pushing professional help on someone, but the danger associated with eating disorders is large. It's not really about weight at all, it's about having a body image burned into your psyche and not being able to reach it no matter what you do. Constantly beating yourself up because you don't match with what you think you should be. It happens to people of all shapes and sizes really.

Be a friend, try not to alienate them, and be available to talk.
Encourage them to find someone to talk to who has been through it.

QBRanger July 31 2008 10:50 AM EDT

I have a lot of experience with these type of problems.

There is a correlation between eating disorders in young women and a history of sexual abuse.

I am NOT saying your friends are abused, it is something to think about.

These disorders can kill. I have seen it personally.

If out patient therapy does not work, inpatient therapy is needed.

Part of the eating disorder is excessive exercise. Especially in anorexia.

I cannot tell you what to do. But if things are as serious as you think, perhaps their safety is more important that how they "trust" you. This is an extremely serious problem, not just with your 2 friends but with young women in general.

The ideas of a women are projected in pictures, photo ads, movies, etc.. of a thin waif-like women. This is far from healthy but society idolizes these type of ideals.

Sometimes doing what is right does not always feel good, but is good in the long run.

I hope you are able to help your friend out.


QBsutekh137 July 31 2008 11:02 AM EDT

Flamey, I have known several people with eating disorders in life, but usually the adult version.

That's not to say the eating disorder ever goes away. It is a psychological thing, like washing your hands a lot or having high anxiety.

It is also a continuum of sorts... But it gets "bad" and gets a name like "anorexia" or "bulimia" when the symptoms (and results) get dire enough. In a way, I have an eating disorder, it just isn't enough of anything to really be a disorder. I definitely have appetite issues on the other end of the spectrum. I take larger helpings than I need, have seconds when I clearly feel full, and have a "clean the plate" mentality. It is not too bad for me, overall, and I have recognized it and toned it all back for the most part, but it is definitely there. It is just a part of who I am.

My first advice, and probably the toughest (for me as well) is to do your best not to go directly into problem-solving mode. It is not your job, nor probably within you capability, to "fix" this (at least not in the there-you're-better-now sense of fixed). People need to change themselves, primarily, and you should try to have faith they can and will. One of your friends is already trying to get help, and if she keeps it up, there probably WILL be positive results. It is just going to take a while and rely on the ongoing strength and patience of people like her parents and yourself. Just keep listening to her, as unfrustrated as possible, and do your best to tell her she is OK and that she has your unconditional support. You should also know that it is your right to speak up for yourself. If you find yourself tired of her talking about the disorder, it is OK to at least want to talk about something else. Don't let it define your friendship, because then it is controlling you too. Obviously, I am not saying you should tell her to "shut up", but that doesn't mean you can't simply start talking about other things. You have a life, too, and friendship is a two-way street.

Next, as a foundation to these things, is to educate yourself. That can be hard in this day and age of Wikipedia and the Internet -- good information can be hard to find, and information overload is always a possibility. Perhaps someone else here can point you to a more standard, authoritative tome you could read about eating disorders and about the support side of things. Again, the knowledge isn't meant to fix things (no conversation should ever be started with, "well, here's what _I_ read about your problem..."). The knowledge is meant to make conversations less frustrating, more therapeutic, to give you more strength in the ordeal (and pay that strength forward). It can be very hard to "stand by", as you know.

Finally (or at least a last point I can think of at the moment) is to remember the strength in numbers. The more secretive friend is a difficult scenario. I'm not saying to "out" her or anything of that nature -- I honestly don't know the best way to proceed. Does she have a sibling or closer family friend you could talk with and see if they know? The more people know and understand, the better (in my opinion, anyway). Also, if there is anyone you can speak to in confidence (school health staff, perhaps? A clinician at a local public health clinic? Even an online, trusted forum on the subject?), that can help.

These are some ideas, anyway. I am not a counselor, therapist, parent, psychologist, or nutritionist. I'm just a little older and have had some experiences with these types of friends and personalities. And I've certainly never "fixed" anyone. So, I hope you can at least glean some support from my ideas and feel better about your place in all of this.

BluBBen July 31 2008 11:25 AM EDT

"I don't know what to say to them when they talk about it, I'm usually the go-to guy, make things better, but I can't do anything, I can't even say anything to make it seem better."

I got three girls that are "doing the same" to me.... I don't know what to do either.

Flamey July 31 2008 5:37 PM EDT

Thank you, and to those who CMed me. What determines how serious it is? #2 does it fairly often, but her weight is normal, is that still dangerous? She also feels it isn't a problem at all anymore, so that's frustrating.

Hopefully #1 will get through it, like you guys said, I've been there for her.

Flamey July 31 2008 5:39 PM EDT

I'll respond again, more in depth, later. I don't have time in the morning to write up a big post.

QBRanger July 31 2008 6:56 PM EDT

"#2 does it fairly often, but her weight is normal, is that still dangerous?"

Extremely dangerous.

The bulimia can cause electrolyte imbalances which can cause cardiac (heart) problems.

It is a very serious problem which can be life threatening.

TheHatchetman July 31 2008 7:18 PM EDT


NOT EDUCATED ON THE SUBJECT (though well oriented with the human mind).

Now that my notes are out of the way, I offer my perspective on the matter. Tough love... Eating disorders are (or can become) mental addictions, which means the only way to really beat it is for the afflicted person to beat it. If you can't, by the power of your own influence cause them to stop what they're doing (which, let's face it, with most people, ya can't... =/), then it's time to turn to somebody that can. Interventions can work short-term from time to time, but more often than not, they just serve as an excuse for a bunch of lowlifes to feel better about themselves by getting into a room and explaining to that person why they are sooooo much better and don't have too much effect in the long run (kinda like the WWJD bracelets...).

In the end, you're left with 3 options;

1) Try to find a way to make them stop what they're doing. whether it takes persuasion, bullying, or (my personal favorite) getting into their head and moving things around until they can actually see what exactly is going on.

2) Try to find someone that can, or

3) Separate yourself from the matter. Seems a harsh thing to say, but in the end, if you can't help, you can't help, and it is a waste of your time and sanity (I swear dude, you're only given so much sanity in a lifetime... After that, you're on your own) to watch somebody you care about go into a tailspin and not even reach for the parachutes that have been offered time and time again.

And again, for the record;


NOT EDUCATED ON THE SUBJECT (though well oriented with the human mind).

QBsutekh137 July 31 2008 7:27 PM EDT

Bulimia, if you can perhaps appeal to more of a "body part" nature in #2, also is going to cause her to eat through her own asophagus and ruin her teeth (at the very, very, very smallest end of the spectrum.

As Ranger points out, the underlying imbalances the disorder can impart are far more serious. But on a day to day basis, her stomach acid is is eating herself up, even through the hardest surface on her body, her tooth enamel.

Sometimes the day to day stuff hits home harder, sometimes it is even easier to dismiss. It all gets back to the mental aspect of the issue.

QBRanger July 31 2008 9:46 PM EDT

Basically, as a doctor.

The most successful way to "cure" eating disorders is through therapy. One has to get to the underlying reason why this is occurring.

Unless you can get and help at that level, anything else are just patches, covering the problem. And as others pointed out, correctly so, damage occurs to many organ systems.

And I use "cure" as such, since, like other psychological types of disorders, one is never full cured. It is a chronic disease. But one that can be under control.

Deciding what to do is very difficult. Especially someone as young as yourself.

Good Luck with your friends.

Mikel July 31 2008 11:27 PM EDT

Good Luck Flamey.

I have no advice to offer on this matter. It's all about your personal choice, and there is not much you can do if they don't want help, other than tell there parents.

Flamey August 1 2008 9:01 AM EDT

Sut, she knows about all that stuff, in fact, that's how I learnt about it. She told me she used to it, and so I ended up telling her about friend #1 so she could give me insight. She was explaining what was happening, she full well knows about the teeth breakdown thing. She'd stop for 2 months or so, but started up again recently, conversations with her last night were scaring me. She was saying things about how it's not bad, and how she likes it and it makes her feel s good afterwards. It's not a problem to her.

Thanks again to all of you, I'll try to talk to them about how it's harming them. #2 was saying she saw no harm in doing it every now and then, I had no response to that. Every now and then seems to be once a week, as far as I can gather.
This thread is closed to new posts. However, you are welcome to reference it from a new thread; link this with the html <a href="/bboard/q-and-a-fetch-msg.tcl?msg_id=002VQj">Eating disorders</a>