Health and Disability

Topics in this section

Weight / Exercise / Body Image / Diet Issues

Unhappiness with body weight (too much, too little or in the wrong places) is very common in adolescence (and beyond). This results in many discussions about diets (fad or otherwise), exercise programs, medications etc. It is worthwhile highlighting that changes in body weight are slow and that there are no magic cures. Also, weight issues are rarely due to glands or hormones. Take into account that body weight can reflect past psychological issues and be a factor in self-esteem issues.

If a friend or colleague wants to discuss their weight, exercise and/or dietary problems, listen carefully, but be careful not to offer advice other than it will be a slow process to lose weight and reducing intake and increasing exercise is the best advice. If you have a similar problem then a mutually supportive effort is likely to be more successful. If a friend has a major weight problem then helping them seek professional advice from a dietician or general practitioner can be a good idea. Continue to support them by listening and supporting the professional’s advice.

Sometimes someone you know will have distress which is related to their body image that is out of proportion to the apparent “problem”. When the “problem” is affecting them physically and mentally then it is time your friend got some help.

When you have a friend that is concerned about their weight, even though they are obviously thin, specialist help is required. Some of the signs of having an eating disorder include:

  • Fear of gaining weight
  • Deny they are losing weight
  • Periods may stop for females
  • They avoid eating in public
  • Eat small or excessively (bulimia)
  • Exercise a lot, excessively
  • Vomiting (Bulimia)

When you think your friend has an eating disorder, or their distress about their body image is out of proportion, then you should let your friend know that you are concerned about them and discuss your concern. It is best that they get some specialist help as there are serious risks to their health if they don’t. However, getting such people to specialist help can be problematic and you may need to enlist their family and other friends.