How to Help a Friend with Eating and Body Image Issues
"Everybody knows somebody" was the message of the National Eating Disorder Awareness Week a few years ago and the chances are that this is true. Anorexia Nervosa and Related Eating Disorders (ANRED) reports that approximately 8 million, or 3 out of every 100 people, have signs of disordered eating behaviors (2017).
So what can you do if you have a friend or family member who is suffering from an eating or body image issue? Can you help? And if so, how? I want to look at a few strategies to help a friend with an eating of body image issue in this article.
As a friend, you have an important position. Proverbs 17:17 states,
"A friend loves at all times,
and a brother is born for a time of adversity."
You are called to love your friends, particularly during periods of trouble.
If your friend is honest and vulnerable enough to tell you that they have an eating or body image issue, be honest back, caring not judging, and pray together first and foremost.
"Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective." ~ James 5:16
Being present with your friend is significant. Meet with them, be physically present with them. Words may not even be needed because your presence speaks encouragement. Ask your friend if they would like you to drive them to their treatment center, counselor, or if they would just like you to get together with them. Think about Hebrews 10:24-25,
"And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching."
While we shouldn't be judgmental to a friend who has confessed their eating or body image issue, we still have to be firm and truthful.
"Better is open rebuke
than hidden love. Wounds from a friend can be trusted,
but an enemy multiplies kisses." ~ Proverbs 27:5-6
If they do not see the full severity of their disordered behavior, we need to discuss it with them. We need to be open and truthful about the concerns associated with these behaviors.
Be a Good Role Model
We have all heard it before, "actions speak louder than words," and this is so true concerning countering and helping those with body image and eating disorders. Are we a good role model? Are we exhibiting healthy eating habits, healthy exercise habits, and self-love and confidence? Or are we avoiding certain foods that will make us "fat," exercising just to lose weight, and modeling self-loathing?
"As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another." ~ Proverbs 27:17
Are we being a friend that makes our friends better? That models body positive actions?
Be a Spiritual Strengthener
Through Christ Jesus, we can do all things. As followers of Christ, we need to help our friends, particularly when they are suffering, find strength in the LORD.
"And Saul’s son Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God." ~ 1 Samuel 23:16
We need to be a "Jonathan" to a friend who is under the burden of an eating or body image issue.
Remind them of the Amor of God, not only that, help them put on the Amor of God! Speak the Truth to them, tell them they are a wonderful masterpiece of God, and their body is a temple. Refresh their mind of God's faithfulness. Help them find comfort in their salvation and the incredible sacrifice Jesus Christ. Play offense and quote and read Scripture to them. And not only pray for them but pray with them.
This strategy encompasses and is the foundation for all other strategies. We have to love our friends with the unconditional love of Christ continually.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” ~ John 13:34-35
Love not just with words, but with actions.
Ask your friend if you can help them find a treatment option or a counselor. Ask if you can drive them to treatment or assist them at home while they are in treatment.
What are your spiritual gifts, think of these and how you can use these to help your friend as well. God can use you to make a difference in the life of your friend!
Yours Truly, LeNae
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Anorexia Nervosa and Related Eating Disorders (ANRED). 2017. "STATISTICS: HOW MANY PEOPLE HAVE EATING DISORDERS?" Accessed August 3. https://www.anred.com/stats.html.
Rega Photography. 2010. “stop the starvation: eating disorders… why didn’t they stop me?”Digital Image. 3216X4288. Accessed April 29 From Flickr. https://flic.kr/p/boqzPp. Copied with permission from Creative Commons License.
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