National Eating Disorders Association

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Manipulation (lying about food)

I have been living with my current roommate since we began college three years ago and I have watched her slow descent into anorexia. She lost weight by maintaining a healthy diet our sophomore year but when she came back for our junior year she had gone through a shocking transformation. At first I did not think that she was starving herself because she would talk about how much she ate. She would claim that she had gone to the dinning commons and stuffed herself but I never really saw her eat. One day I saw her in a bathing suit and was so shocked that I said "wow you are way too thin" with out even thinking about it. The entire next week she began to talk about food constantly and about how much she was eating. One night I came home and she said "oh my god I just ate so much ice cream" when she left the room I checked in the freezer and all of the ice cream was still in there. When I confronted her about her eating habits she told me that she had not realized how little she was eating and that she had just gotten in the habit of it. Things seemed to get a little better but I still watched out for dangerous signs. After a couple of weeks I noticed that she started to talk about food a lot again so I became even more vigilant. I noticed that she would use a large bowl and put tiny amounts of food in it to hide how little she was eating. I also noticed that if we went to the dinning commons she would pick up a desert, but just push it around her plate to make it seem like she ate some. One night her boyfriend brought her food but she told him that she had already eaten, I knew that she had not. We are student athletes so I told our trainer that I thought she had an eating disorder but nothing ever came of it, and I suspect it is because she talked her way out of it. So many people around us ask me about her weight and her eating, she is one of those people that you can look at know she starves herself. However, the people closest to her do not think that she has an eating disorder. When my other roommate brought it up to her boyfriend he had not even considered the fact that she had an eating disorder. Her mother is a nurse yet she defends her daughters weight loss to any one who questions it. I believe that my roommate is very good at manipulating people into thinking that she just eats really healthy. Her manipulation is so powerful that it has made me and our other roommates question our own eating habits and develop problems with food where there have never been any. I know that she does not want to cause us pain and that it is her eating disorder that is doing this, but it is making it so difficult for me to take steps to help her. Her parents are not doing anything, my athletic trainer didn't do anything and she will not admit that she has a problem. I have no idea what I can do to help her and I am so frustrated. I was wondering if anyone else might be in a similar situation who can offer some advise and support.

Hi luvhill

Hey! Thanks for trusting the forums with your situation. I must say first that you are a wonderful roommate to be concerned about your friend in this way. Trust me, there are few people who are brave enough to care as much as you do.

I cannot confirm that your roommate has anorexia, but I can say that I once shared a lot of the same patterns. Please remember this though,it is not your roommate that is manipulative and deceptive, but rather the eating disorder!!! The eating disorder will do everything it can to continue itself.

That said, I am very frustrated, as are you, at your trainer for not approaching the situation well. Can you talk to the coach? Or the main athletic coordinator at your college? They hopefully might be able to help. It is certainly very important. I was hospitalized for my eating disorder and even was close to cardiac arrest if I had not gone to the hospital. If she is willing, take your friend to the ER as soon as she is agreeable to it. The eating disorder will not be grateful but she and her family will one day be very grateful!

But, that said, I know also how you feel watching all of this and feeling pulled to help. We are not "therapists" to our friends and I feel that most of your frustration is because you are supporting your friend as a therapist should. Now, certainly, this is exhausting on our parts and can be damaging. The important thing to remember is that the best support your friend needs right now is a friend. And you are such a great friend, I can tell!! Maybe try reminding your friend about the times you remember her before all of the food issues came about?

Have you ever heard of the DEARMAN script? It is a way to express your concern to your friend in a way that may help her see how the eating disorder has taken control. Here is a link that describes this technique.

For instance, you could say "I am really scared and worried about your health. Can we maybe go to the ER just to make sure your heart is ok and that your electrolytes are well balanced?" If she agrees, you could then be more direct with the hospital staff and ask for them to evaluate her for an eating disorder. If she does not agree there is always the option to involve the legal system. It is a tough process and an emotional challenging one, but I will not share how to approach this unless it is the last ditch effort to make sure your friend will be able to continue living...

I hope this helped!! Is there any other way I can help you? How are you feeling? I can hear in your post how upset you are... Is there anything I can do to help?

keep going

Hi luvhill,
Thanks so much for opening up about your situation with your roommate. It sounds like you are put into a difficult position but it is admirable that you want to help! I agree with all of michael26's suggestions, especially about using "I" statements of telling her how you feel - rather than saying she "should" or "shouldn't" be doing things. Expressing how you feel (worried, scared, concerned, etc.) places you in an honest and open position, which may help her feel less attacked/defensive.

Here are some more tips on communicating that may help:
What should I say:
Eating/body image:
General ED info:
Coach/trainer toolkit:

The NEDA Helpline is also a great place to start for more advice!

All the best,

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