Helping Your Student

Please note: For ease in reading, we have used “she” and “her” in the description below even though eating disorders exist in men, women, girls, and boys. This advice is suitable for a child of either gender.

Approaching a student with an eating disorder can be tricky. If you are a coach, your student might be dieting, binge eating, or purging to sustain your approval or to be part of her team’s effort to win. As a teacher or coach, you can help by trying to get your student to see that she needs help.

It is important to remember that her eating disorder is her desperate way of trying to cope with underlying problems, and even though you can see how unhealthy and unproductive it is, for her it may feel like a lifeline. That is why it is common for students with eating disorders to be upset or mad if you try to help them. They may fear that you are going to take away their only coping mechanisms. A student may deny the problem, be furious that you discovered her secret, and feel threatened by your caring. Athletes in particular may feel frightened that their participation in sports will be threatened by your concern. Give them time and breathing space once you have raised your concerns.

Prepare yourself for your talk. Gather general information before you talk to the student. Find out about the resources for help in your school and community without revealing the identity of the student.

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