It’s easy to notice when your friend dyes her hair blonde “So do blondes really have more fun?” and it’s obvious when your friend adds a new trendy oversized dress to her closet that you “Can’t wait to borrow!”. You can eyeball your friend nervously giving a presentation and you two can share an expression that is code for “You’re doing fine, don’t be so shy!” without exchanging any words. And it’s like a sixth sense you get when your friend mopes at lunch and you just know it’s because of her on and off again boyfriend.
After years of sleepovers full of whispering secrets in the dark at 3 am you can get so comfortable with your best friend that it’s impossible to imagine bits and pieces of her that you don’t recognize. You assume you know her inside and out because she confided in you about how she’s scared her parents are getting divorce and you’re the only one who is allowed to see her cry.
But most of us settle so comfortably in our friendships, we forget that our friends can be evolving, shape shifting people – both internally and externally. Sometimes we forget that our friends aren’t just static features in our own life. Sometimes it can be hard to notice our friends are struggling with details that aren’t always able to be noticed surface level. Sometimes it’s impossible, regardless of your sixth sense or years of practicing speaking with only expression, to notice your friend silently slipping into something much darker than class presentations and bad boyfriends.
It’s not always easy to notice that she dyed her hair blonde because it’s been thinning due to malnutrition. It’s not obvious that your friend treated herself to a new shirt because she’s become so consumed with her size that she only wants to wear clothes that hide her frame under. You can’t eyeball your friend and know that she’s mentally tallying up the calories she has left in the day to eat. And there’s no type of psychic sense that gives an indication she’s moping at lunch because she hates herself for reaching for her sixth ‘low-cal’ granola bar of the day.
Eating disorders can contort a friend into a stranger and by the time you look up one day, blink and realize you don’t recognize her – it’s too late. I have struggled with a past of eating disorders and it lingered in my life for months until my friends finally realized my pants slid off my hips and I had morphed into a moody, dark version of myself that had bloated cheeks from purging when I would secretly binge eat at 3 am. If my friends had known some of the underlying warnings and hadn’t written off my carb free diet and excessive eight mile runs as me working for my “spring break bod”, it could’ve saved both my body and my mind a lot of damage.
So as bikini season approaches, here are some not as well know signs to look out for to make sure your friend isn’t working too hard to squeeze in an itsy bitsy teeny weeny yellow polka dot bikini:
- Not wanting to eat in public
- Obsessively analyzing calories
- Sleep problems: both fatigued and wired (some abuse medication like Adderall or Vyvanse as a weight loss method which can leave you awake for long periods of time)
- Constantly complaining about being cold
- Excessively working out to the point of obsession
- Stomach cramps, lack of menstrual cycle, abdominal pain
- Suddenly forming odd eating patterns or habits
- Wearing oversized clothing or layered clothing
For a more extensive list, check out this site: https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/learn/by-eating-disorder/anorexia/warning-signs-symptoms