my friend’s dieting is becoming extreme

dear heather,
I have a friend who is going through a rough time with her weight and body image. I think she looks fine but she thinks she looks disgusting.

She’s been going on extreme diets and she says she gets headaches from not eating but she doesn’t think it’s anything to worry about. I try to help her but she doesn’t listen. What can she or I do?

I understand why you are so concerned about your friend. Extreme diets do more harm than good. Often, girls who severely restrict the food they eat are trying to maintain control over some aspect of her life. However, your friend may be doing the opposite.

According to Dr. Karen Rosewater, extreme dieting can affect a person’s metabolism (metabolism burns the calories we ingest and controls how calories are used in the body). When the body is denied adequate nutrients, it may be confused into thinking that it is being “starved.” In these cases, the body tends to actually hold on to fat and muscle gets burned for energy. If the “starvation” continues long enough, it may even affect the heart and other vital organs.

Please encourage your friend to see a counselor to get to the bottom of why she does this. A school psychologist may help her find the appropriate resources. Many people find that therapy can help them recognize the feelings associated with their extreme eating and change their behaviors in response to those feelings.

If you notice that your friend is becoming very thin or is engaging in other harmful behaviors such as throwing up after meals, then she may have an even more serious problem. If she will not get help, seek the advice or intervention of a trusted adult like a school counselor or speak directly to her parents. Her health may be at stake.

take care,

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