We live in an incredibly demanding culture where it’s hard to be a teen girl. Photoshopped magazine covers, strict cultural expectations and views of what is “beautiful”, assumptions of how a young woman ought to look and how much she ought to weigh (that do not at all take into consideration the many different shapes and sizes of the body types God designed!), new diet plans and exercise programs, and the often-repeated teaching that “guys are visual” – it’s no wonder that many young women have, currently are, or will, struggle with an eating disorder.
This topic hits close to home for me, because as a young teen a dear friend of mine battled this very thing. And while I am by no means an expert, there are four things I want to encourage you to do if you do think a friend of yours may also be batting an eating disorder.
This is, by far, the very most important thing you can possibly do. Here’s why:
-The Lord knows the truth behind your assumptions. As you are currently just thinking your friend may have an eating disorder, the Lord knows for a fact whether or not she does. He knows in the ins and outs of her heart, her struggles, her fears, and her temptations. He knows how she views herself and the kind of person she wishes she was. If you want the wisdom to know how to move forward, go to Him and ask for the wisdom He promises to provide (see James 1:5).
-The Lord has access to her heart; you don’t to the same extent. The reason why prayer will be so important in this situation, is that it is a difficult position to be in and you won’t see eyes opened and hearts changed apart from the Lord working in your friend’s life. You can tell your friend she is beautiful exactly as she is, you can tell her she doesn’t need to lose weight, you can tell her that she might be harming herself, but none of that is going to get through to her or make one bit of difference unless the Lord works in her heart to open her eyes to the truth. Girls who are stuck in an eating disorder may be incredibly thin, but they are still going to see themselves as being fat. So do not rely on your own nice words to change her perspective; go to the Lord and ask Him to change and free her.
-The Lord will guide and direct you in this challenging situation. It is so easy to unintentionally say the wrong thing in a situation like this. One wrong statement and you could easily drive your friend away for quite some time. So, as you walk this road with your friend, consistently remain steadfast in prayer. The Lord will give you the right words to say.
- Seek counsel.
This one is so important, as well. The first step is definitely to pray and ask God for His wisdom, but it would be smart to also seek the counsel of others, as well. Speaking to your pastor, someone you know who has been through an eating disorder, or a licensed therapist or Christian counselor who deals with those battling various addictions can be of great help to you.
- Make it clear how much you love her and always will.
Make sure she knows that your love, care, concern, and friendship are not conditional. Help her to understand that you’re in it for the long haul, through thick and thin. This will mean so much and will go a long way towards keeping the lines of communication open with her.
- Speak the truth and do the hard thing.
If, after prayer, looking for the warning signs, and seeking counsel, it becomes abundantly clear that your friend does, in fact, have an eating disorder, be willing to do the hard thing on behalf of your friend, and speak the truth to her. Share your concerns with her, the damage this is doing to her body, and what her future could look like if she isn’t willing to seek help.
Depending on the situation and what the Lord and trusted counselors advise you to do, an intervention may even be necessary. Don’t be scared to stage an intervention and thereby upset your friend, either – this is your friend’s life that is at stake here. But proceed with caution and only under the direct guidance of the Lord and the advice of someone who is uniquely equipped to guide you in your dealings with someone battling an eating disorder.
This road is such a hard, painful, and heartbreaking one to travel, but with the Lord and godly counselors on your side, you won’t walk this path alone, and you can be used to free your friend from the bonds of an eating disorder. Keep the faith; God is at work!