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What can I do for a friend with an unhealthy body image?

Learn about body image. Know that it is OK to have good and bad body image days. Someone can have a day when they feel bad about their body and not have an unhealthy body image.

There is also a difference between an unhealthy body image and eating disorders. They are different problems with very different treatments; one doesn’t necessarily come with the other. Listen to your friend with understanding, respect and sensitivity. Tell your friend you are concerned, that you care and would like to help. Ask your friend if he or she would like to talk to a counselor about his or her body image.

Talk about things other than food, weight and body image. Focus on other aspects of your friend’s personality, complimenting him or her on a good test grade or a smart response in class or what a great friend they are to you. Chances are there is a lot more to your friend than their appearance, and that’s why you like them!

Confront bad body talk in a sensitive yet direct way. If your friend says mean things about his or her body, let your friend know that you don’t like when he or she says hateful things about his or her body.

And it’s important to know the things that don’t really help when you have a friend with an unhealthy body image:

  • Don’t try to solve your friend’s problems for him or her.
  • Don’t blame your friend or say he or she is acting silly.
  • Don’t say things like, “Shut up, I would love to have your body!” This can make your friend feel like his or her feelings aren’t valid.
  • Don’t gossip about your friend.
  • Don’t focus all your attention on looks or weight.
  • Don’t make comments about people’s appearance.
  • Be open. Talk with your friend about what you think and feel.
  • Don’t reject or ignore your friend or the issues.
  • Don’t ignore your friend’s body preoccupation. Let your friend know that you notice how often he or she talks about his or her body image and that it concerns you.
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