National Eating Disorders Association

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How can I help my best friend?

Hello everyone.

I'm deeply concerned about the current weight loss of my friend. It might be that I'm overreacting since I have a sister who struggled with anorexia so it would be nice if you could a) help me by telling me your own view on the story b) how I could help my best friend c) in case I'm overreacting, please tell me so :D

So here is why I'm concerned:

My best friend used to be a professional athlete, going to a high school for athletes, having to train and because it was a calorie intensive sport he had to eat a a lot. He was happy, living his dream, was proud with his body and everything until he had to quit the sport due to joint and back issues. He struggled with adapting his diet to his much calmer exercise routine and therefore gained a lot of weight. He was clearly ashamed about it since most of his friends were also professional athletes and therefore judged him for his weight gain. Because of that he quit school and had some issues with drugs and got send his grandparents in Georgia (the country, not the state) since he wouldn't be able to get his hands on drugs as his grandparents basically live as nomads.
When he came back last winter he had a normal weight. We started working together as assistants in an office while he finished education and I went to college.
The first time I noticed that he kept losing weight was by the end of February/ the beginning of march. He was still in the normal range at that point but getting quite slim, of cause, since he is tall that kind of puts everything out of proportion. When I made a quick remark to him about that he said that since he got off the drugs he doesn't feel hunger anymore but he already told his doctor and he got an eating plan which he tries to stick to so that he won't keep losing weight. I believed him and didn't care about it anymore.
Until the days got warmer and he was still wearing multiple layers of clothes and always at least one hoodie. Even on super hot days where I felt like melting in a tank top and shorts he kept his hoodie on and when I asked him why, he said that he got a tattoo on his forearm which shouldn't be seen by our boss. Since I'm friends with his tattoo artist I knew that he recently got a new tattoo so I believed him.
Then, a couple of weeks later we went to a party together and he drank a little too much (he is 23 and I'm 22 btw), he could hardly walk and nearly fell in front of a car. When I grabbed his upper arm to pull him back I noticed how thing he has gotten. The next weeks I kept an eye on him, and I noticed just how much his appearance has changed.

He doesn't eat at all at work. Even during 10 hour shifts. Once our boss gave everyone a snack and lter I found his in the bin as I wanted to put my chewing gum in it.

Once we helped my grandma in her garden, he had his sleeves rolled up and I noticed how weak he had gotten, he could barely lift the tomahawk he was working with. I was surprised that he happily took a snack my grandma but later she told me that he "forgot" his snack on the pool table.

The reason why I REALLY started to worry was knowing for a fact that he is currently underwight. No matter how you look at it, no matter whether it's due to his rehab or due to an eating disorder, he is severely underweight for a tall dude like him.

I don't know whether I'm freaking out over nothing since some people are just naturally thin, but I've known him for quite some time and I know his body type so I can't blame it on genetics either.

The thing is, an eating disoerder really doesn't sound like him. He is a little thug, covered in tattoos, self-confident (to the point where it's sometimes even a bit cocky), mischievous and in former days he'd get into fights quite frequently. He is also almost fearless, doesn't mind climbing without safety belts and all of that. When he is your friend, he'd have a fencing duell at dawn to defend your honor, he'd be crazy enough to wrestle bears with his bare hands.

And as someone who was born to a 14 year who got pregnant with him after being raped, having moved to the US and having cared for his depressed mother for his whole life, he surely went through more than people mocking him for his weight.

I just don't now what to do, please help me :D

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Best wishes and please continue posting.

NEDA Moderators

Welcome to the forums!


Welcome to the community, so glad you decided to reach out for advice/support. It sounds like you are very concerned about your friend; everyone deserves friends like you that lookout for their wellbeing.

I can’t tell you whether your friend has an ED but I will say that the observations you have made are cause for concern. I don’t think you are overreacting at all. When you are ready to talk to your friend here are a couple of links that I have found helpful.

There are many preconceptions about what type of people get eating disorders and while your friend’s personality may not fit those preconceptions ED doesn’t discriminate. Most people have an inner life that doesn’t necessarily match the persona they show the world.

I would also caution you not to underestimate the power of bullying. For an athlete that has had a lot value placed on his physical condition losing his ability to compete and then being bullied over the change in appearance could weigh heavily on him. There is no way for me to know that the bullying had any effect in your friend’s case but it is a theme that I see over and over on these forums.

I wish you the best, please continue to post! A support system is critical for ED recovery, your friend is lucky to have a friend like you.

Hello and welcome Genia. Glad

Hello and welcome Genia. Glad to see you're so concerned about your friends. It shows how much you care.
mycatblue said a lot of good stuff.
A lot of what you said about your friend definitely sounds disconcerting. I'm no health professional by any means, but I do think from reading your post that your concerns are well founded.
As a man, I can say that stoicism and solitude are our go toos when it comes to dealing with personal issues. It works sometimes, but a lot of others it can hurt us more. And when it comes to eating disorders, people tend to recovery with more successs and stay recovered for longer when they have a support network of friends and family.
Have you tried talking to your friend about it? It might seem difficult but a lot of the time men appreciate the direct approach.
That being said, as I mentioned before, men do have some difficulty opening up about personal issues.
Alternatively you could also talk to some of his close friends or his romantic partner if he has one.
And if all else fails, there's always the option of an intervention - although I couldn't at all tell you the success rates of those frankly.
It's up to you.

At any rate a few additional links to some more NEDA resources I think you might find useful: (maybe you could get him to take this if he insists he's fine)

You can actually call the NEDA helpline to talk to a trained volunteer. They might very well be able to give you some good ideas on how to broach the topic as well as be able to point you in the direction of more resources. Their number is 1-800-931-2237 and they're available 9am-9pm EST M-Thu and 9am-5pm Fridays.

I hope that helps a bit

Thank you all for your advice

Thank you all for your advice.

I wasn't thinking about losing time so I met up with him and told him about my concerns like it was suggested by you two.
He was very cool about it, to my surprise. He told me that he is just super stressed out at the moment and that food just isn't his number one concern at the moment so he keeps forgetting to eat because he got his mind somewhere else. He said it's also because he has a crush on a married coworker which he constantly thinks about so eating just slips his mind from time to time.
To proof the he is telling the truth he suggested ordering a meal and watch a series on netflix. So we did that and watched Greys Anatomy since it's our favorite. He ate very slowly though and when I went to the "bathroom" I spied on him and saw that he was putting some of his food on my plate. When I confronted him about it he said he just put olives on my plate because he doesn't like them. He definitely put more than olives on my plate. I wasn't going to bring it up again but later, when he thought I was focusing on the TV, he pretended to accidentally drop his plate on the floor. I offered him some of my food which he accepted but he kept eating very slowly and after a few bites he said he got sick from Grey Anatomy and can't eat anymore.
So I'm not sure whether I can believe him. He usually is a super honest guy who is never ashamed of telling the truth about himself and simply doesn't care what others think. And he is super convincing.
The thing is, our job is manipulation people into trusting us and buying our products so I know that he can be super manipulative and he is perfect at getting people to trust him, which is possibly dangerous for himself.

Oh and by the way, despite my female sounding name I'm a man too. It's just a russian name for both males and females.

Hi Genia!

I'm glad to hear that you talked to your friend about this. Now he knows that if he ever needs someone to talk to, he can come to you. Maybe follow up with mycatblue's suggestion and have him take the NEDA Screening? Available here: Or at least let him know it's available for him if he ever needs it. Another resource you can provide for him is the NEDA Helpline at 1-800-931-2237, available M-Th 9-9EST and F 9-5 EST. This is a great way for him to locate resource in his area and get some advice on wat to do.

One thing that you can always do for him is make sure that he knows that you're there for him if he ever needs someone. Keep us updated!

Thank you all for your help

Thank you all for your help but I guess I need some more.
I know that quite some time has passed but now I know for sure that he indeed suffers from an eating disorder.
Once a month we have a team evening at work and this month we decided to play laser tag. My friend would ususally make excuses to not go but this time he went due to peer pressure. From the moment where I noticed how out of breath he was from getting onto the coach I knew it was a bad idea. He sat next to me, looking very worried but talked about normal stuff like we always do.
When we were playing he was falling behind and ended up just hiding. Since everyone was having fun I was the only one who noticed he was missing and went looking for him. When I found him he was close to collapsing and he was breathing super fast and shaking and could hardly sit up. I helped him get to the restroom and he was crying and said I was right and asked me not to tell anyone from work since he doesn't want to lose his job.
I offered to help him but he said it's his life and he can do what he wants. I asked him if he wants to live and he said he doesn't know since he never gets rid of addictions, they just shift. First his sport addiction, then his drug addiction and now that and he feels like he wont ever enjoy his life anyway. He also said that the bullying from his schoolmates wasn't what triggered his anorexia but his grandparents not recognizing him due to the weight gain and the villagers in Georgia (he is related to most of them) calling him a "fat american spy". He also confessed that he did engage in self harm too.
I don't know what to do, it's something I'd expect from a anxious teen during their emo phase but not a tough gangstarap loving slav who is covered in tattoos and everything... it just doesn't fit?
And I want to keep him, he is like a brother to me, a piece of home in a foreign country and want him to know that it might be his life but he has influenced a lot of people but he doesn't see it.


Hi Genia!

Thank you so much for posting here and sharing with us. I'm so sorry to hear that your friend is in such a rough place and you are struggling to figure out the best way to support him. That is totally normal. I know that my friends were very unsure how to help me in the most dark days of my eating disorder, so a good majority of them just did not say anything or withdrew from the friendship. I commend you for your deep care and concern for your friend, and can tell you that what I appreciated the most was the few friends who stuck by me. Who came to me and expressed their worry but from a place of love and understanding, and not any sort of pressure or condemnation for what I was engaging in/doing or not doing about it at that current moment. It was also helpful when friends made a point to understand the complexity of eating disorders, and did not come to me simply telling me to just eat or assume that my goal was weight loss or to reach a certain level of thinness, which never was (I struggled with orthorexia nervosa, the fixation on pure eating). It was important for them to not make assumptions about what I was going through, but just be there to listen and remain loyal during the whole process.

Would he be open to receiving some kind of therapy? Does he have any other support from other family/friends as well? I can imagine it is very difficult for you to be carrying all of this alone, especially if you are the only one to know about his eating disorder. Unfortunately, he has to be the one who wants to recover for himself, and it does not sound like he is there yet. I can definitely understand the hopelessness involved in simply switching addictions. This is very common and was certainly a similar pattern for me. He seems like he feels stuck and even though it seems like he will never be able to escape the chains of some addiction or another I want to assure that recovery IS possible and there is hope: try to continue encouraging him in this truth the best you can.

I know it is also confusing how he does not appear to be someone who would be struggling with this problem, but truly anyone can have eating disorders- every gender, race, age. There is no one look. They impact so many people in all walks of life.

Thank you so much for reaching out here & please keep us posted! I will be praying for both you and your friend. Know that you always have support in this community. We are here for you :)