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dear gefilte

Dear Gefilte: I’m Worried My Friend Has an Eating Disorder–What Do I Do?

eating disorder

Dear Gefilte,

I’m worried about my friend. She’s always been skinny, but lately she looks really frail. I also never see her eat—I’ve invited her out for meals but she makes tons of excuses. I know how this goes. I had an eating disorder in college. How do I tell her to stop before it’s too late? 

Sincerely,

Concerned

READ: Overcoming My Eating Disorder & Raising a Healthy Daughter


Dear Concerned,

Her name was Holly, and I was going to save her.

Forget that. Let’s be honest here. I was jealous and hungry and I hated that skinny bitch.

In my defense, here are a few things I didn’t do:

1. Snip off her perky blond ponytail during savasana
2. Try to seduce her astoundingly handsome husband
3. Bite her

I was 30 years old and fresh out of rehab for anorexia and cutting—two activities I’d never been great at to begin with. I’d just spent six months making collages about body acceptance and learning how to eat peanut butter. The psychiatrists asked me every day why I wanted to be so small.

Duh. Because life is so uncontrollably painful and if I could hurt myself, then nobody else could hurt me more.

Meeting Holly happened after I was supposed to be cured. Except eating disorders don’t click on and off with a bowl of peanut butter. At least not for me. I was in the “honeymoon phase” of now-that-I’m-fat-enough-to-make-bail-please-don’t-leave-me-alone-with-the-angry-voices-in-my-head. I took a part-time job at a yoga studio in midtown Manhattan. I worked the desk, took attendance, watered the plants. It wasn’t for money, but I got classes for free. Holly was a regular.

READ: Howie Mandel, It’s Not OK to Make Jokes About Bulimia

She came in her size zero Lululemon bodysuits and matching headbands, saluting the sun with her twiggy arms and then flipping over into a handstand. It was obvious (to me) that Holly was the perfect anorexic. Her ribs jutted out through her spandex. Her shoulders looked like fence posts. She got narrower and perkier each week. It wasn’t fair that she made starving look so easy and cute. And no one was making her talk to doctors or draw crayon pictures of her demons.

dear gefilte

I decided to write her a note and stick it in her mat bag.

Hey Holly!

You may not know me, but I see you in Autumn’s 10 a.m. class a lot. I’m worried about your weight. I hope you’re being good to your body. Are you eating enough? If you want to talk, I’ve been there. You can ask at the front desk and they’ll put you in touch with me.

Xo, Sam

My name is not Sam. Sam was my clever gender-neutral pseudonym that I thought could keep everything open-ended and not make anyone feel self-conscious. It was also a cowardly way for me to step forward and made Holly incredibly scared and furious. She told the studio manager there was a potential stalker and that nobody had the right to tell her what was going on with her body. Both valid points.

An email went out to the studio staff.

If anyone knows about a note being put in Holly P’s mat bag, please contact us immediately. We strive to create a safe, open environment and want to make sure that everyone feels respected. Peace to all beings!

READ: How to Do Yom Kippur Without Fasting

Concerned, I’m sharing this story with you because I think your heart is in the right place, but you don’t “know how this goes.” This is your friend’s life. Your friend’s body.

She could have any number of reasons for being extra skinny. And it may just be your perspective that’s making her look frail.

The only thing you can do to help is to tell her your truth first.

I love this quote from the dulcet “Nine to Five” crooner and poet, Dolly Parton:

“Find out who you are and do it on purpose.”

So Concerned, before you invite your friend out for another bite to eat, think about who you are trying to feed and why.

Here is the note I would write to Holly if I saw her today. Or better yet, I’d say it to her face.

Dear Holly,

It’s great to see you. Your down dog rocks.

For what it’s worth, I spent way too many years abusing and starving myself, hoping it would stop time. It didn’t. The good news is, I survived.

The not-as-good news is, it’s still a challenge to feed and respect my body.

Holly, I’m sorry if I’ve been staring at you during yoga class. Totally un-Zen of me. To quote my last ex, “It’s not you. It’s me.”

READ: My Eating Disorder Brain vs. My Pregnant Body

Or if it is you, too, just know I’m cheering you on.

And you know what makes the work all worthwhile? Eating French fries with my 6-year-old daughter while she does somersaults in a bikini, loving every inch of her life.

With love and schmaltz,

Gefilte

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