As college students, it is not unusual to notice people develop poor eating habits and make questionable food choices. Whether it’s excessive consumption of fast/junk food or binge-eating at the mess if you’re concerned for them, here’s a few things you can do to help.

Understand their eating behavior.
People with eating disorders usually use it as a coping mechanism and become anxious at the prospect of change. This makes communication around the issue very stressful. Observe their eating habits and learn about them, to decide what kind of help they might need. The more you know, the better equipped you will be to help them.

Initiate the conversation.
Pick a good time and explain your concerns. Be mindful of potential triggers to their eating disorder. Try to avoid any discussions about food, body and weight as this trivializes the issue and often ends up in an argument or power struggle. Instead, try explaining your concerns about their health and your desire to help.

Listen well. Be prepared for denial.
Listen without judgment. Try not to criticize or argue. Even if it’s difficult to understand or relate, it’s essential to validate their feelings. However, there’s a good chance they might deny it, or become angry and offended. Try to remain calm and respectful throughout the conversation.

Be patient.
Remember that recovery is a journey. Break the process of change down to manageable steps for them. They often see asking for help as shameful admission of inadequacy and entering treatment as a loss of control. Show compassion and care throughout their journey of recovery.

Encourage getting professional help.
Aside from offering support, it is imperative to encourage treatment. The longer an eating disorder remains undiagnosed and untreated, the more consequences arise, sometimes even fatal. Treatment for an eating disorder must address both the physical and psychological aspects of it. While consulting a nutritionist is imperative, it is just as important to see a therapist to help develop better coping mechanisms.

While it is important to watch out for your loved ones, don’t let your desire to help pressurize or control them. Don’t become a food monitor and set unrealistic goals. It will only make them withdraw and create distance and resentment in your relationship. Each person’s experience of an eating disorder is unique, but with time, appropriate support, and help, people recover from them.

Content Writer: Rtr Sahana Venkatesh