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Something’s wrong: My friend has lost so much weight

May 15, 2017 | By | 1 Reply Continue Reading
When her friend loses a significant amount of weight, a teen wonders how she can be a good friend to her.

QUESTION

Hi,

I’m 15 years old. I have had a best friend since junior school. When I moved to high school, I moved to a different school but we always stayed in contact. We still saw each other very often because we live close to each other.

In grade 9, something changed and our friendship wasn’t the same. She didn’t laugh as much and we didn’t have as much fun as we used to have together.

In grade 10, girls from her school told me she had been losing a lot of weight, wasn’t eating properly, and was going to the gym a lot. She never spoke to me about these things and I had no direct knowledge of what was going on.

Then when I was at a party, I saw her and said something to her. I told her she was looking very skinny and girls were telling me she wasn’t eating. She took offense and became angry with me.

My other best friend (who is also her best friend) came to talk to me about. She said our friend had just lost her cousin to cancer and previously, she had also lost her stepsister to cancer. As a result, she was very sad and then she also told me that our friend had lost a lot of weight (like 12 kg [26 pounds]) and she didn’t do it in a healthy way.

I tried to talk about it to my best friend but she just shot me down. Things are really awkward between us. I haven’t spoken to her in a very long time or seen her. and I miss her so much and I just wanna reach out and try to help her because I have had an eating disorder and know what it does to your mind. But she won’t talk to me or see me, and I have no clue what to do?

Signed, Chelsea

ANSWER

Dear Chelsea,

Your friend is lucky to have someone like you in her corner. I can understand why you’re concerned. When talking to your friend, stick with what she’s told you and what you’ve observed, because she may be upset to know her friends have been talking behind her back, even though your intentions are to be helpful.

Since you’ve had an eating disorder, you are likely to be on the look out for those symptoms. But loss of appetite and weight loss can also be symptoms of depression.

Remember that your friend needs you as her friend, not her therapist. She’s already indicated that by becoming angry when you brought the topic up at the party. If you keep pushing she might not want to spend time with you. Assume that her parents are aware of and looking out for her health.

Apologize to your friend for overstepping your role and using your own problems to label whatever she’s going through. Tell her it won’t happen again. Keep letting her know you care without pushing.

When she’s ready to spend time with you:

  • Spend time with your friend doing something fun.
  • Listen without judging, diagnosing or making suggestions unless she asks for help.
  • Treat her the way you normally do, not as if she has a problem.
  • Don’t talk about her behind her back or share her confidences.

**Of course, if you think she’s suicidal, express your concern, then offer to help her talk to an adult (her mom, your mom, a counselor).

**If she’s suicidal and won’t tell an adult, inform her you are going to tell an adult, then do it. It’s better to have a friend who is mad than a friend who tries to or commits suicide.

Good luck with your friend.

Best, Amy Feld


*Amy Feld, PhD, MSW has trained and worked as a child psychologist.

Disclaimer: Nothing in this or any other post is intended to substitute for medical, psychiatric or clinical diagnosis/treatment. Rather, all posts are written as the type of advice that one friend might give to another.


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Category: Teen friendships

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  1. Eating Disorder mom says:

    Hi Chelsea, your friend sounds like my daughter, who developed an eating disorder at age 16 and began restricting her diet and doing compulsive exercise, till she finally ended up in the hospital eating disorders unit for a couple weeks (which she needed badly). She too was angry at anyone’s attempts to tell her the truth or interfere–but that is all part and parcel of a serious eating disorder. They do not have a realistic view of the damage they are doing to themselves physically, and it does affect most areas of their lives. Also as parents, we found that talking about it did not really help, expressing our concern and worry was met with a brick wall, and reasoning with her and using logic didn’t work either –that’s because this is a type of mental illness. I very much hope her parents are aware of what is happening (they probably are) and are getting her some help. I also agree with the above advice. It is possible there is depression playing into it, with her losses, but to me the red flag is the compulsive exercise and the resistance to others’ concern for her, which tells me it may be an eating disorder (from whatever cause). My daughter had 3 very, very good friends, and those and other relationships suffered greatly because of her food/exercise issues, because her disorder made her more isolative, less willing to attend restaurants or social/food functions anymore—because thinness and food restriction had become all-important and those events became too anxiety-producing. You sound like a good friend, and so if you are willing to be very patient and forgiving, it is worth it to try and follow the advice above, which I think is good. Going for a walk and talking about school or other things and hanging out at a playground (my kids liked to do that with their friends at times), for instance, would likely be non-threatening to her, or maybe watching Netflix together (with lite popcorn maybe?). My daughter’s friends hung in there, and she still considers them her friends, and she has told us she is thankful they were (and are) still there for her, even tho she realizes she didn’t treat them right. I’m glad you wrote and hope this is of a little help to you.

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