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University Counseling Center

Behaviors of and Confronting a Person with an Eating Disorder

Behaviors that May Signal an Eating Disorder

These signs may have other origins or causes, especially if only one or two are present.

  • trying to secretly dispose of food hoarding food
  • talk about food constantly
  • frequent weighing or mirror gazing
  • fatigue or irritability
  • exercise abuse
  • statements about feeling fat or particular parts of the body being fat
  • complaints regarding gastrointestinal problems or menstrual problems
  • purchasing smaller clothing or layering clothes
  • mixing foods that seem to be unpalatable combinations
  • decrease in number of activities they express an interest in or social isolation

Confronting a Person with Anorexia or Bulimia

A caring attitude and genuine concern to help the eating disturbed person are the most essential things to have. The first thing to do is to read information on eating disturbances and disorders. Realize that just because the person behaves in ways that are unhealthy or unappealing, this does not make them a bad person. Separate the person from the behaviors. When confronting a person with an eating disorder, a plan is important. The following scheme may be helpful to use when doing a confrontation:

Concern: The reason you are doing the confronting. You care about the mental, physical and nutritional needs of the person.

Organize: Decide Who is involved, Where to confront, Why-concern, How to talk, When-a convenient time.

Needs: What will she/he need after the confrontation. Professional help and/or support groups need to be available.

Face: The actual confrontation. Be empathetic, but direct. Do not back down if he/she initially denies the problem.

Respond: By listening carefully.

Offer: Help and suggestions. You may want to encourage him/her to contact you when he/she needs to talk.

Negotiate: Another time to talk and a time span to seek professional help.

Time: Remember to stress that recovery takes time and patience. However, he/she has a lot to gain by that process and also, a lot to lose if he/she chooses to remain with these behaviors.