What would you do if you were me? One of my good friends, Molly, is 16 and really, REALLY skinny! She wasn’t like this last year and it makes me wonder if she’s anorexic.
Molly’s never happy with the way she looks. She weighs herself twice a day (that I know of) and doesn’t eat certain foods. And the things she does eat (like lettuce) she only takes a couple of bites of. Then she gets super mad when I ask her if she’s going to eat more.
She always talks about how fat she is and others too, like it’s a broken record with her. But she spent the night with me last week and I was stunned by how thin she is; you could see her RIBS! I hadn’t noticed before because she always wears big, baggy stuff.
I know Molly’s home life is kind of rough. I think her parents fight a lot, mostly about money and that worries her. But now I’m worried about my friend. I don’t want to lose her but I’m not sure what to do.
Can you help me, Rene?
Barb in Mississippi
You’re a good friend for being concerned and taking the time to write in. But this is a BIG issue, and as much as you want to do something about it, you’re gonna have to turn this over to the professionals. Though I don’t have a lot of experience in this area, my common sense advice is this:
TALK TO YOUR PARENTS: I know you are worried about your friend and that really speaks volumes about the kind of young woman you are. But you need to share this with your parents. I’ll let you in on a secret; I know they can be unhip and uncool, mine were when I was growing up, but they also know a heck of a lot. They’ve been around the block a time or two and have developed great perspective for dealing with all sorts of things. I know you want to help your friend but you’re a teen; I’m sure there’s a lot going on in your own life. Do yourself a favor and lean on your folks.
TALK TO THE SCHOOL NURSE OR OTHER HEALTH PROFESSIONAL: I can’t make the determination as to whether Molly is anorexic, that needs to come from a healthcare professional. But it does sound to me like she’s developing some unhealthy eating habits and that’s not good. At this age, young people need good food and in the proper amounts in order to be healthy. If she’s not getting that now, she could be setting herself up for an unhealthy future. But this isn’t just physical; there’s a psychological component to anorexia that needs to be addressed too. If you talk to the school nurse, she can reach out to Molly’s parents and together they can come up with a plan to help your friend.
TALK TO MOLLY: But be careful! I don’t think you should talk so much about her being skinny or what she eats as much as you need to underscore how much she means to you. If you think you can slip in there that you are worried about her without her freaking out, then do that too. I would really tread carefully though as Molly’s fragile right now. What she really needs is to have her friends rally around her and, without judgment, let her know they are there to help.
Barb, I wish you the best with Molly but please understand, as concerned as you are about her, there’s only so much you can do. Ultimately you’re going to have to let the people who have experience in this matter handle it and Molly herself will have to work hard to get healthy.
Good luck to you!
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